Natural Capital Protocol

The Natural Capital Protocol is a standardized framework that helps companies identify, measure and value their impacts and dependencies on natural capital. It was launched in July 2016.

The Council of the European Union, gathered on 17 October 2016 in Luxembourg under the Slovak Presidency, officially recognised the Natural Capital Protocol in the Outcome of the Council meeting. In its conclusions, the Council “considers that mainstreaming biodiversity provides new opportunities for all economic sectors, including the private sector (…); and calls on the business sector to increase its involvement in and contribution to achieving both the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the biodiversity-related Sustainable Development Goals, and to analyse and invest in improvements and report on their impacts, actions and investments related to biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides, sharing experiences and best practices, e.g. in the framework of Business and Biodiversity Platforms as well as other initiatives, such as the Natural Capital Protocol”. 

The Natural Capital Protocol is here.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets are here.

COP21: Paris Agreement is Adopted

Today, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention adopted the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement is found here, at the Annex at the base of the document (the first part is the Proposal). The Agreement commits ratifying countries to a range of actions to combat climate change. I will post further in January.

Article 2

1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate- resilient development.

Article 21

1. This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

2. Solely for the limited purpose of paragraph 1 of this Article, “total global greenhouse gas emissions” means the most up-to-date amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Agreement by the Parties to the Convention.

*** HAPPY CHRISTMAS ***

MARPOL Annex VI: Fuel Oil Sulphur

From 1st January 2015, the sulphur content in ships’ fuel must be below 0.1 % in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA).

Background

International regulations for pollution from ships are contained in the IMO “International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships”, known as MARPOL 73/78. On 27 September 1997, the MARPOL Convention was amended by the “1997 Protocol” which includes Annex VI titled “Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships”. In particular, Annex VI regulates emission of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter. Annex VI entered into force on 19th May 2005 and in October 2008 the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted a set of amendments to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention.

The set of amendments to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention introduces new standards for emission from ships of sulphur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The most stringent changes relate to SOx emission.

Reduction of SOx and particulate matter emission is achieved by limiting the maximum sulphur content of the fuel oils used onboard.

Two sets of emission and fuel quality requirements are defined by Annex VI: (1) global requirements, and (2) more stringent requirements applicable to ships in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA).

On the global level, the sulphur cap is reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1st January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1st January 2020 (or in 2025 at the latest), subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

For SECA, the requirements are – from 1st July 2010, the maximum sulphur limit is reduced to 1.00%, (from 1.50%), while from 1st January 2015, sulphur content in ships’ fuel must be below 0.1 %.

Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA)

Currently, four regions are identified as Sulphur Emission Control Areas. NB: an Emission Control Area can be designated not only for SOx and particulate matter (PM) emission but also for NOx emission, or all three types of emissions from ships. These SECA are:

1. Baltic Sea area – as defined in Annex I of MARPOL (SOx only);

2. North Sea area – as defined in Annex V of MARPOL (SOx only);

3. North American area – as defined in Appendix VII of Annex VI of MARPOL (SOx, NOx and PM); and

4. United States Caribbean Sea area – as defined in Appendix VII of Annex VI of MARPOL (SOx, NOx and PM).

EHS in International Trade Agreements

Law suits to find actionable EHS rights in international trade law may be looking to:

– The North American Free Trade Agreement (NFTA).

Lone Pine Resources Inc v the Government of Canada is an example.

This claim uses NAFTA Chapter 11 to sue Canada for losses alleged to arise for Lone Pine due to “Quebec’s arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation” of the company’s “valuable right to mine for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River.” Chapter 11 of NAFTA allows private companies to sue governments (party to the agreement) when laws (later enacted) hurt their expected profits (investor protection).

– The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP is not yet agreed, the status of negotiations from the EU perspective is here.

These actions may be additional to those brought to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) under the World Bank ICSID Convention – information about the work of the ICSID is here.

More Stringent Environmental Laws (China)

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress has approved the first revision to China’s Environmental Protection Law 1989 (EPL), paving the way for higher fines to deter polluters.

According to Xinhua, the revisions call for improved monitoring of both the environment and health; improved survey and risk assessment mechanisms; and more severe punishments for polluting. The revised EPL will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

In addition, The Shanghai Daily reports the Shanghai legislative body plans to produce a new, detailed environmental protection law this year aimed primarily at curbing PM2.5 pollution, which is tiny airborne particles that can pose particularly dangerous health risks.

This Air Pollution law will include exhaust discharge standards for vehicles and local factories as well as measures to control flying dust at construction sites.

A more-stringent Air Quality Index also took effect in November (Shanghai) and in another measure to be launched soon, about a third of local government vehicles will be taken off the road in Shanghai when the air is heavily polluted. Some factories and construction sites will be idled. Some outdoor activities also will be canceled when the index exceeds 300.

UNEP Minamata Convention

New UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Convention on Mercury – the Minamata Convention on Mercury – a global, legally binding treaty which opened for signature today – was agreed to by governments in January and formally adopted as international law today.

The new treaty is the first new global convention on environment and health for close to a decade. Coming at a time when some multilateral negotiations have faced challenges, its successful negotiation, after a four-year process, provides a new momentum to intergovernmental cooperation on the environment.

See here for the UNEP press release.

The European Union has signed the new Minamata Convention – here is the EU Memo – Questions and Answers on EU Mercury Policy.

Here is the UNEP Mercury Convention website.

Aviation Environmental Protection Update

The UN Assembly responsible for International Civil Aviation (ICAO) decided today on a global mechanism to tackle emissions from aviation. The Assembly has agreed to develop by 2016 a global market based mechanism (MBM) to tackle emissions, which can come into force in 2020. The market based mechanism will be accompanied by a series of technical and operational measures to reduce emissions. With this deal, the aviation industry becomes the first international transport sector to apply a global market-based mechanism to reduce their emissions.

Here is the ICAO Press Release.

In the light of this agreement, the European Commission, in coordination with the European Parliament and the EU Member States, will now assess the decision taken today at ICAO in more detail before deciding on the next steps with respect to the EU ETS.

Here is the European Commission Press Release.

Here is the European Commission’s web page on aviation and the EU ETS.