New Energy Performance Bill (UK)

A new private members’ bill is starting in the House of Lords on 21st July. The bill is titled ‘Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill’. The Bill document is here.

In its policy statements, the Government has said –

• Homes should be Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2035 where practicable, cost-effective and affordable

• All Private Rented Sector (PRS) homes should be EPC band C by 2028

• Mortgage lenders should ensure an EPC band C average for their portfolios by 2030

• The Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to assist owner occupiers to achieve EPC band C

• Non-domestic commercial lettings are to achieve EPC band B by 2030

The Bill aims to set these into law.

For a Private Members’ Bill to become law, the government has to support it (in effect take it over).

I will post again if this happens.

A Private Members’ Bill of similar title is also started in the House of Commons (text not available).

Environment Bill (announced additions) (UK)

The long awaited and highly significant Environment Bill is revived in the current Parliament session. I Blog posted earlier that it would be.

The UK government has made 3 announcements in May –

(1) new legal duties on water companies and the government will be inserted to reduce sewage discharged into waterways – announcement is here

(2) a new additional legally binding target for species abundance for 2030 will be inserted – George Eustice Speech is here

Environmental targets in the Bill are summarised in the October 2020 updated August 2020 policy paper – here.

(3) a new power will be taken to refocus the Habitats Regulations – see George Eustice Speech

[The George Eustice Speech also makes further announcements on consultation and strategy publication in the areas of Nature, Peat and Trees.]

The Bill, as we see it now, was originally revived from the previous May Government after the 2019 general election.

In 2020, the majority of the 2019-2020 Bill provisions were substantially the same as its predecessor, although a number of minor technical changes had been made to the drafting. The substantive additions to the Bill (at the start of 2020) were :

• a requirement on Ministers to make a statement to Parliament setting out the effect of new primary environmental legislation on existing levels of environmental protection (Clause 19); and

• a requirement on the Secretary of State to conduct a two-yearly review of the significant developments in international legislation on the environment, and to publish a report on their findings every two years (Clause 20).

The Commons Library analysed the Environment Bill in March 2020 – here.

Most of the Bill extends to England and Wales and applies in England. There are some parts that extend to the whole of the UK or apply to specific UK nations. For example, there are specific provisions on environmental governance, managing waste and water quality that extend and apply to Northern Ireland only. Provisions on waste including producer responsibility, resource efficiency and exporting waste extend and apply to the whole of the UK, as do the provisions on environmental recall of motor vehicles, and the provisions on the regulation of chemicals.

Note – DEFRA has current consultations relating to the Environment Bill –

(1) Consultation on the Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles – here.

(2) Consultation on Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (a Deposit Return Scheme is already legislated for in Scotland) – here.

Queen’s Speech 2021 (UK)

The State Opening of Parliament is scheduled to take place on 11 May 2021. Parliament was prorogued on Thursday 29 April 2021, bringing the 2019-21 Session to an end.

The House of Commons Library has a Research Briefing that identifies issues and bills that may appear in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May or that may require legislation in the forthcoming parliamentary session. This Briefing is here.

A number of items to note :

(1) some bills have been subject to carry-over motions, notably –

* the Environment Bill (again)

On 26 January 2021, special arrangements were made to carry-over the Environment Bill 2019-21. Normally bills that are carried over must complete their passage through both Houses in 12 months. The Environment Bill 2019-21 was re-introduced on 30 January 2020 (as a reinstatement of the previous administration’s Environment Bill with some additions, and some deletions). The motion to carry-over the January 2020 bill allowed two years instead of the one year provided for in Standing Orders for the completion of the passage of the Bill. The motion was agreed without a division.

Progress of the Environment Bill can be seen here.

* the Finance (formerly Finance No. 2)) Bill (this contains the landfill tax rates from 1st April 2021 – England and Northern Ireland, the CCL uprating from 1st April 2022, abolition of the carbon emissions tax provision, and provision for the packaging tax from 1st April 2022)

* the Draft Building Safety Bill (published in the 2019-2021 session)

(2) a number of issues are identified as potential subjects for legislation, notably –

* Planning reform in England

The August 2020 White Paper said that the proposed changes would require primary and secondary legislation, as well as updating the National Planning Policy Framework. In response to a parliamentary question in September 2020, the Government said it would “set out any decisions and any associated proposed implementation” in “due course.” A newsletter from MHCLG’s chief planner in December 2020 said that the Government would “publish a response in the Spring setting out its decisions on the proposed way forward including preparing for legislation, should the government so decide, in the Autumn.”

No further detail has been announced.

Changes to Energy Labels and Ecodesign (UK)

UK guidance changed to confirm that (effective 1st March) EU type re-scaled energy labels would apply throughout the UK, not only in Northern Ireland (via the IRL/NI Protocol). This was in yesterday’s monthly email alert.

The law has still to catch up, but today the BBC confirms (1 March) EU repairability and spare parts obligations will be applied in Britain. They anyway applied in Northern Ireland (Protocol).

The specific product EU Law in this area is in the form of EU Regulations directly applicable in member states (and Northern Ireland via the Protocol).

The BBC link is here.

A consultation was held (closing date November 2020) – here.

Energy labels apply to a list of mainly white household goods, but also computer screens. Ecodesign stipulations apply to a wider list of electric and electronic products.

Plastic Packaging Tax 2021 (UK)

A new tax will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. Plastic packaging is packaging that is predominantly plastic by weight.

It will not apply to any plastic packaging which contains at least 30% recycled plastic, or any packaging which is not predominantly plastic by weight.

Imported plastic packaging will be liable to the tax, whether the packaging is unfilled or filled.

Manufacturers and importers of less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year will be exempt.

The tax will take effect on 1 April 2022.

Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2021 to establish the Plastic Packaging Tax.

The key features of the tax, will include:

• £200 per tonne tax rate for packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic

• a registration threshold of 10 tonnes of plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK per annum

• the scope of the tax by definition of the type of taxable product and recycled content

• the exemption for manufacturers and importers of small quantities of plastic packaging

• who will be liable to pay the tax and need to register with HMRC

• how the tax will be collected, recovered and enforced

• how the tax will be relieved on exports

The relevant extracts of the Finance Bill 2021 when enacted, will be added to EHS Legislation Registers and Checklists.

The policy paper is here.

European Union (Future Relationship) Act (UK)

This 31 Dec 2020 dated Act (a Brexit Law) implements the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA – a free trade deal) that was agreed with the European Union (EU) in the closing days of 2020. Here

I wrote blog posts earlier on the content of the TCA. The primary purpose of the TCA is to reduce tariffs and to deal with Customs and VAT in relation to GB-EU trade from 1st Jan 2021.

The Future Relationship Act 2020 also implements the Agreement on Nuclear Cooperation and the Agreement on Security Procedures for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information, as agreed between the UK and the EU.

S.29 gives the general implementation –

Existing domestic law has effect on and after the relevant day with such modifications as are required for the purposes of implementing in that law the Trade and Cooperation Agreement or the Security of Classified Information Agreement so far as the agreement concerned is not otherwise so implemented and so far as such implementation is necessary for the purposes of complying with the international obligations of the United Kingdom under the agreement.

S.31 gives the implementing power –

(1) A relevant national authority may by regulations make such provision as the relevant national authority considers appropriate—

(a) to implement the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the Security of Classified Information Agreement or any relevant agreement, or

(b) otherwise for the purposes of dealing with matters arising out of, or related to, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the Security of Classified Information Agreement or any relevant agreement.

(2) Regulations under this section may make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament (including modifying this Act).

(3) Regulations under this section may (among other things and whether with the same or a different effect) re-implement any aspect of—

(a) the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,

(b) the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,

(c) the Security of Classified Information Agreement, or

(d) any relevant agreement,

which has already been implemented (whether by virtue of this Act or otherwise).

(4) But regulations under this section may not—

(a) impose or increase taxation or fees,

(b) make retrospective provision,

(c) create a relevant criminal offence,

(d) amend, repeal or revoke the Human Rights Act 1998 or any subordinate legislation made under it, or

(e) amend or repeal the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 2006 or the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (unless the regulations are made by virtue of paragraph 27(b) of Schedule 5 to this Act or are amending or repealing any provision of those Acts which modifies another enactment).

(5) Subsection (4)(b) does not apply in relation to any regulations under this section which are for the purposes of replacing or otherwise modifying, or of otherwise making provision in connection with, the provision made by section 37(4) and (5).

Schedule 5 sets out the rules for regulations made under this Act (including specifics about the procedure to be followed).

Additionally, there are –

(1) powers re information exchange on non-food Product Safety

As part of the TCA, the UK and the EU agreed a Chapter on Technical Barriers to Trade (‘TBT’) and related annexes, including on medicinal products; motor vehicles, equipment and parts; and chemicals, as well as for organic products and wine.

The TBT chapter applies to the preparation, adoption and application of technical regulations, standards, conformity assessment procedures, and market surveillance, while the annexes make provisions for more detailed arrangements in the relevant sectors. The TBT chapter and annexes include, amongst other things, provision relating to international standards and provision for the UK and EU to share information on non-food product safety.

The Act creates two gateways: one for the UK to share this data with the EU, and another to share information received from the EU in the UK.

The Act permits the sharing of non-food Product Safety information that is not in the public domain, for a permitted purpose, such as traceability information about businesses in the supply chain. A permitted purpose is where the sharing of the information is to ensure the protection of consumers, health, safety, or the environment.

(2) powers re international standards

The TBT Chapter covers international standards. For the purposes of the TBT Chapter (and the World Trade Organization (‘WTO’) TBT Agreement), standards are documents approved by bodies recognised for standardisation, which provide rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes, with which compliance is voluntary. International standards are approved by international standardising bodies.

On 31st Dec 2020, most areas of UK product legislation are retained EU law (subject to Brexit amendments – we term this ‘Brexitised’). Retained EU law enables the Secretary of State to designate certain standards in respect of Britain (Northern Ireland continues to follow EU Law) so that they give rise to the rebuttable presumption of conformity with requirements set regulations.

Article TBT .4(3) of the TCA requires the UK and the EU to use international standards as the basis for their technical regulations, except where these would be ineffective or inappropriate to meet the legitimate objectives pursued. A similar requirement applies in the WTO Agreement on TBT. Article TBT.4(4)-(5) defines relevant international standards for the purposes of the TBT Chapter of the TCA.

The Act amends retained EU law to enable this commitment to be met, by providing extra clarity that international standards can be used among the standards which the Secretary of State may designate for the presumption of conformity with manufactured goods regulation in Great Britain.

The Act enables UK Ministers to designate an international standard directly where that is in the UK’s interests.

[the result of this is to add the Future Partnership Act to the list of instruments amending domestic law and retained EU Law – please consult the Cardinal Environment Brexit Consolidated Law list for progress – this is in subscribers’ EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists]

(3) powers re control of goods movement

Customs authorities control the movement of goods across borders for purposes other than tax, including the protection of public health and safety, national security and the protection of the environment, including plant and animal health. Standards in the area of safety and security can be set both domestically and at international level. This is reflected in the objectives of the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter of the TCA, which commit the parties to cooperate to achieve public policy objectives, and commit the UK and the EU to maintain consistency with international instruments and standards applicable in the area of customs and trade.

The Act gives HMRC the power to amend retained EU law in the area of safety and security, to ensure the UK can keep pace with international standards governing the movement of goods and meet TCA commitments.

Trade Bill (UK)

This is a Brexit bill (a bill that results from the UK’s departure from the EU). The bill describes itself as an instrument – to make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements; to make provision establishing the Trade Remedies Authority and conferring functions on it; and to make provision about the collection and disclosure of information relating to trade.

The bill is nearing Royal Assent (passage into law as an Act). As an Act, it will –

(1) give Ministers the power to ensure that the UK can implement procurement obligations that will arise from the UK acceding to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). The GPA is a plurilateral agreement within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.

This power will allow the Government and the devolved authorities to use the negative resolution procedure (a procedure that allows a Minister to sign an instrument into law immediately without debate) to implement changes to domestic law to meet and enforce obligations arising from its independent membership of the GPA.

(2) give Ministers the power to implement continuity UK trade agreements with partner countries with which the EU has existing trade agreements as at 31 January 2020.

This power will allow the Government and devolved authorities to use the affirmative resolution procedure (a procedure that allows a Minister to sign an instrument into law after a short debate that cannot amend the instrument) to implement the changes to domestic law which will be necessary for the UK to meet obligations flowing from these agreements.

The power cannot be used to implement a free trade agreement with the USA or China.

The current state of agreed UK continuity trade agreements is here.

[in addition, the UK has agreed a Free Trade Deal with the EU, given effect by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 – implementing instruments also flow from it – as they do from the pre-existing Withdrawal Acts 2018 and 2020 – we term this Brexit law]

(3) establish the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), a new organisation to be set up to deliver a UK trade remedies framework, and to enable the TRA to provide advice, support and assistance to the Secretary of State in connection with the conduct of international disputes, other functions of the Secretary of State relating to trade and functions of the TRA.

The TRA may also provide advice, support and assistance in relation to international trade and trade remedies to others as it considers appropriate.

(4) give a power to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to enable HMRC to collect information on behalf of the Government to confirm the number of exporters of goods and services there are in the UK, and to enable the Government to identify those exporters for trade promotion purposes.

(5) create a power to establish a data sharing gateway between HMRC and other public and private bodies, so that those bodies, including the Department for International Trade, can discharge their public functions and access relevant data for research, monitoring and evaluation.

Energy White Paper (UK)

I Blog posted this morning re the UK ETS. Publication of the UK ETS (which was already provided for in Law) is contained in the Energy White Paper (published today).

The Energy White Paper (CP 337) “Powering our Net Zero Future” is here.

It is a long document (170 pages) with many promises for consultations and targets.

A few I have singled out –

(1) significant strengthening of the Energy Performance Certificates system with an EPC target of C for domestic buildings by 2035 (and B for rented non-domestic buildings by 2030). Since most domestic properties are D or below, this is huge and will necessitate new law. Involvement of mortgage lenders is also being consulted on.

(2) re the UK ETS no further detail is given (other than is set out in my blog post this morning)

(3) an Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy to be published in Spring 2021

(4) targeting 40GW offshore wind by 2030, including 1GW floating wind, plus growing the installation of electric heat pumps from 30,000 per year to 600,000 per year by 2028

(5) commitment to make the UK continental shelf a net zero basin by 2050. This will necessitate a new legal approach

(6) commitment to join the UK to the World Bank’s ‘Zero Routine Flaring by 2030’

(7) a new strategy for the Oil & Gas Authority by end of 2020

(8) review of the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning

UK Internal Market Bill (UK)

A highly complex bill was introduced yesterday at First Reading. This bill is here.

Explanatory Notes for the bill are here.

The Institute for Government has a useful explainer here.

I Blog posted about the possibility of an Internal Market Bill earlier this year. In the meantime, the UK Government published a policy paper and conducted a short consultation.

From 1 Jan 2021, the UK government and the devolved administrations will no longer be collectively bound by EU law. As powers over key policy areas return to the UK government and the devolved administrations, there is a possibility that different parts of the UK may in future make different rules. This could create barriers to trade between constituent parts of the UK.

The UK Internal Market (UKIM) Bill would rely on the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to ensure there are no new barriers for businesses trading across the UK.

The UK government argues that this bill will be necessary to underpin the functioning of the UK internal market after the end of the transition period – but the Scottish and Welsh governments are opposed to this approach. Instead, they would prefer to manage any possible new barriers to trade through mutually-agreed common frameworks in specific policy areas.

The government is also using this bill to give ministers powers to amend how the UK could implement the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – if it can’t reach key decisions with the EU. The government has said that it will use the forthcoming Finance Bill (not yet published) to give ministers further powers with relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Clauses set out new monitoring responsibilities of the internal market for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will be exercised through an Office for the Internal Market (OIM).

The CMA will have powers to monitor and report on the effectiveness of the internal market, under its own initiative or at the request of the UK or devolved governments. Although its remit will be limited to regulations which fall within the scope of the earlier parts of the bill (and will exclude anything giving effect to the Northern Ireland protocol).

The government plans to pass the UK Internal Market Bill before the UK leaves the transition period at 11pm on 31 December – this means there will be limited time for parliament to scrutinise this constitutionally significant piece of legislation.

It will need to pass both the Commons and the Lords before it can become law, and both Houses will be able to table amendments.

The Future of Carbon Pricing (UK)

UK CRC (carbon trading based on electricity through half hourly meters) is closed. The final compliance year for participants in CRC was 2018 to 2019. A participant’s CRC registry account must be maintained until 31 March 2022 and evidence packs until 31 March 2025. The CRC regulators will continue to do compliance audits and take enforcement action where necessary until 31 March 2025.

From 1 April 2019 SECR requires many companies formerly within the scope of the CRC to report energy consumption and energy efficiency actions. They must do this as part of their annual director’s report. Subscribers with Law Checklists have a line entry for SECR, which I have asked on a number of occasions should be completed, as evidence you are on top of this requirement.

The UK Government and Devolved Administrations consulted on the future of carbon pricing in the UK after EU Exit, receiving over 130 responses from a range of stakeholders, with the majority supporting most of the proposals on the design of a UK ETS.

As a result, the UK intends to establish a UK Emissions Trading System with Phase I running from 2021- 2030, which could operate as either a linked or standalone system.

As stated in ‘The UK’s Approach to Negotiations’ the UK would be open to considering a link between any future UK Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the EU ETS (as Switzerland has done with its ETS), if it suited both sides’ interests.

As announced at Budget 2020, the UK Government will publish a consultation later this year on the design of a Carbon Emission Tax as an alternative to a UK ETS, to ensure a carbon price remains in place in all scenarios. I blog posted some time ago, that provision for a Carbon Emissions Tax is already on the statute books in a UK Finance Act.

The UK ETS will apply to energy intensive industries (EIIs), the power generation sector and aviation – covering activities involving combustion of fuels in installations with a total rated thermal input exceeding 20MW (except in installations for the incineration of hazardous or municipal waste) and sectors like refining, heavy industry and manufacturing. The proposed aviation routes include UK domestic flights, flights between the UK and Gibraltar, flights from the UK to EEA states, and flights from the UK to Switzerland once an agreement is reached.

In light of the UK’s commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK ETS will show greater climate ambition from the start. As such, the cap will initially be set 5% below the UK’s notional share of the EU ETS cap for Phase IV of the EU ETS.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will advise later this year on a cost-effective pathway to net-zero, as part of their advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget. The state will consult again on what an appropriate trajectory for the UK ETS cap is for the remainder of the first phase within nine months of this advice being published.

The aim is that any changes to the policy to appropriately align the cap with a net zero trajectory will be implemented by 2023 if possible and no later than January 2024, although the aim is also to give industry at least one year’s notice to provide the market with appropriate forewarning.

Auctioning will continue to be the primary means of introducing allowances into the market. To safeguard competitiveness in the UK ETS and reduce the risk of carbon leakage, a proportion of allowances will be allocated for free. Some free allowances will also be made available for new stationary entrants to the UK ETS as well as existing operators who increase their activity – these allowances will be accessible through the New Entrants Reserve. The initial UK ETS free allocation approach will be similar to that of Phase IV in order to ensure a smooth transition for participants for the 2021 launch.

In a standalone UK ETS the state will introduce a transitional Auction Reserve Price (ARP) of £15 (nominal) to ensure a minimum level of ambition and price continuity during the initial years.

A Small Emitter and Hospital Opt-Out will be implemented for installations with emissions lower than 25,000t CO2e per annum and a net-rated thermal capacity below 35MW. An Ultra-Small Emitter Exemption will be implemented for installations with emissions lower than 2,500t CO2e per annum.

International credits will not be permitted in a UK ETS at this time. This is without prejudice to ongoing reviews on how best to implement the UN global offsetting scheme, CORSIA, alongside a UK ETS.

The sections above re the UK ETS are abridged (with highlights) from the summary in the Responses Document – the document itself is here.