Events today 13th March (UK Brexit, Chancellor’s Statement)

Today a number of key events occurred as follows :

(1) (time limited, no deal) UK customs tariffs were published – a Commons Research Paper gives further details – here. [NB : this Blog does not focus on customs tariffs]

(2) time limited (no deal) special arrangements for the international border on the island of Ireland were publishedhere.

* The UK government would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods at the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, including no customs requirements for nearly all goods.

* The UK temporary import tariff announced today would therefore not apply to goods crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland.

* The UK government would only apply a small number of measures strictly necessary to comply with international legal obligations, protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, or to avoid the highest risks to Northern Ireland businesses – but these measures would not require checks at the border.

(3) the UK Chancellor announced :

* Consultation on a new business energy efficiency scheme for SMEshere.

* A review of the Aggregates Levy (put in place in 2002) – here.

* A call for evidence on the strengthening of the UK’s offshore oil and gas decommissioning industryhere.

Offshore oil and gas decommissioning industry – A call for evidence, as announced at Budget 2018, seeking to identify what more should be done to strengthen Scotland and the rest of the UK’s position as a global hub for safe, environmentally-friendly decommissioning that meets the Oil and Gas Authority’s ambitious cost reduction targets.

* A Review on the Economics of Biodiversity – A new global review, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, to assess the economic value of biodiversity and to identify actions that will simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity. The review will report in 2020, ahead of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Beijing in October that year.

* Re Biodiversity and conservation in Overseas Territories – A call for evidence inviting creative ideas from stakeholders on how the government can safeguard the biodiversity found in the Overseas Territories.

* Red Diesel: Response to Call for Evidence – A summary of responses to the May 2018 call for evidence on red diesel and air quality.

* In the Environment Bill (so far we have only seen part of the Environment Bill) – mandate net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity.

(4) the Government’s motion to rule out leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement and associated Political Declaration was amended to make it apply universally, and then agreed.

Tomorrow, a Government motion to seek consensus on a delay in the exit date to 30 June 2019 will be debated in Parliament. Note : any delay will require EU approval.

I will issue a new Blog post on the matter of the exit day, tomorrow.

Remember : in international and domestic law the exit day is 29th March 2019.

CITES protected species (UK Brexit)

Instructions were issued recently on how trade in endangered species protected by international CITES convention will operate to and from the UK. CITES applies to listed endangered plants and animals. The instructions are here.

CITES-listed species are listed in Annexes A to D of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

Species in Annex A have the highest level of protection. The instructions state a UK based organisation would still need to apply for a certificate to use an Annex A specimen commercially.

Annex B, C and D species can currently be freely traded in the EU.

The main change will be that a UK based organisation will need CITES permits to move CITES goods between the UK and the EU for species listed in Annexes B to D.

Further information is set out in the instructions.

Note : as with all these current Brexit instructions, a deal (or deals) reached with the EU may change aspects of the instructions. Please keep following this Blog.

New National Planning Policy Framework (England)

The long anticipated revision to the National Planning Policy Framework applicable in England has today (24th July) been published, here.

This replaces the 2012 Framework. The planning practice guidance to support the framework is also published online (here).

The Press Release is here.

The viability guidance is also updated – here.

25-yr Environment Plan (UK)

The UK issued a few moments ago, its long awaited 25-yr Environment Plan. The Plan is here.

I will update this post on the Blog here with the Plan key commitments, targets and schedules. Please note, the updates will not be sent as emails to your inbox (the original post is emailed). So make a note, to check back on the Blog post itself.

UPDATE

Pledges :

(1) eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042,

(2) remove exceptions in England plastic bag regulations [the latest amendment to the EU Packaging and Packing Waste Directive stipulates measures on plastic bags by end 2018, plus the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy is announced next week – I will write a separate Blog post about it],

(2)(a) consultation in a charge for single-use plastic containers,

(3) protect ancient woodland and plant more trees, a new Tree Champion to be appointed after the National Planning Policy Framework is updated,

(4) retain strong targets for wildlife, water and air,

(5) “polluter pays” and “public money for public goods” as guiding principles for future farming policy (plus subsidy reform from 2024 (2022-2024 consultation) – this may be set out in the forthcoming Brexit Agriculture Bill),

(6) sustainable drainage to make cities safer from floods – new planning guidelines,

(7) healthcare that takes advantage of green prescriptions – preventative care that can make the most of “natural health service”,

(8) nature integrated in urban communities – net nature gain in new developments (possibly via the revamp of the National Planning Policy Framework,

(9) a new Watchdog to hold government to account – a new environment body to replace the activities of the EU’s Commission and Courts (this was an earlier DEFRA announcement – see recent Blog posts – the next step is consultation),

(10) nature targets (little detail),

(11) “leave the environment in a better state than they found it”, “the goals of our 25 year environment plan are simple: clean air, clean and plentiful water, plants and animals which are thriving, and a cleaner, greener country for us all. A better world for each of us to live in and a better future for the next generation.”,

(12) a miscellany of other pledges with little attached detail.

Note : the objectives in the plan itself add relatively little to the European and international commitments the UK is already signed up to.

But : the UK is meant to achieve good ecological status for all water bodies by the mid 2020s under the EU Water Framework Directive. The commitment in this 25-yr plan to achieve good water quality “as soon as practicable” is a lesser target.

Also : there is no mention of implementation of the forthcoming EU Circular Economy amendments to six existing Waste Directives.

Plus : there is no mention of the EU “precautionary principle’, particularly relevant to chemicals.

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.

EU Birds and Habitats Directives (EU)

As part of its Smart Regulation policy, the European Commission initiated a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). This is a continuous process, affecting the whole policy cycle – from the design of a piece of legislation to implementation, enforcement, evaluation and, where justified, revision.

Under the first stages of this programme, the Commission reviewed the entire stock of EU legislation and decided on follow-up actions, one of which is a ‘Fitness Check’ involving a comprehensive policy evaluation aimed at assessing whether the regulatory framework for a particular policy sector is ‘fit for purpose’. Fitness Checks are described to provide an evidence-based critical analysis of whether EU actions are proportionate to their objectives and delivering as expected. They are stated to cover environmental, economic and social aspects, and concern all EU policy areas.

In the environment policy field, the Commission already completed Fitness Checks of EU freshwater and waste related legislation, and has now begun a Fitness Check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

The Fitness Check Mandate for Nature legislation is here.

Phase 1 (January-April 2015) was evidence-gathering in which all Member States and selected key stakeholder groups were consulted.

At national level, one representative from each of the following stakeholder groups were consulted in each of the 28 EU Member States:
1) Competent authority for nature
2) Other public sector body
3) Private sector
4) Non-governmental organisation involved in nature conservation.

Between April and the end of June 2015, meetings are held in ten Member States in order to gather and examine evidence in more detail, in particular evidence related to costs and excessive or unnecessary administrative burden linked to the Directives and the reasons behind them, as well as implementation challenges and successes. The ten Member States were the Netherlands (16-17 April), Germany (20-21 April), Poland (23-24 April), Spain (5-6 May), Malta (12-13 May), France (19-20 May), and the United Kingdom (1-2 June) Sweden (8-9 June), Slovakia (23-24 June), and Estonia (29-30 June, tbc).

Phase 2 (30 April- 24 July 2015): the Commission launched a 12-week public Internet consultation, open to all and available in 23 official languages of the EU. The questionnaire is in two parts with an initial set of general questions followed by a more detailed set of questions that explore different aspects of the Fitness check. Respondents have the option of only responding to the general questions or, if they wish, addressing the more detailed ones too. The results of the public consultation will be published in the autumn.

The List of documents compiled to assist the process is found here.

Liz Truss continues as UK DEFRA Secretary

Welcoming the continuation of Rt Hon Liz Truss MP as Secretary of State for UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

DEFRA is a large UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues, covering:

* the natural environment, biodiversity, plants and animals 

* sustainable development and the green economy 

* food, farming and fisheries 

* animal health and welfare 

* environmental protection and pollution control 

* rural communities and issues 

DEFRA only works directly in England, by concordat works closely with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and generally leads on negotiations in the EU and internationally.

DEFRA’s work and priorities are delivered by 35 separate agencies and public bodies, listed here.