IPBES Report on Biodiversity Loss (International)

A new global report by the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published yesterday, finds that 1 million species are at risk of extinction — more than ever before in human history.

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, prepared by 145 leading experts from 50 countries, examines the causes of biodiversity and ecosystem change, the implications for people, as well as policy options and likely future pathways over the next three decades. It provides an integrated overview of where the world stands in relation to key international goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change. In addition to including more than 15,000 scientific and government sources, the report also cites indigenous and local knowledge.

Beginning with the UN Secretary General’s Summit in September and running through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2020, governments are now asked to present commitments.

The media release is here.

The Convention timeline to 2020 is here.

A major UK contribution is the UK Government Commission of Prof Dasgupta, University of Cambridge, to lead a UK government review of the economics of biodiversity. I Blog posted before about this announcement, made recently by the Chancellor.

Information about this Commission is here.

Carbon Pricing Consultation (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019

UPDATE : persons are invited to attend one of consultation workshops:

• London, 22 May 2019: book on Eventbrite

• Northern Ireland, Belfast, 30 May 2019*

• North Wales, Llandudno Junction, 3 June 2019

• South Wales, Swansea, 5 June 2019

• Scotland, Glasgow, 12 June 2019*

All the workshops will be available on Eventbrite. * events do not cover aviation

———-

The UK government and the devolved administrations are now seeking views (by way of consultation) on their proposals for carbon pricing after Exit. The consultation ends 12 July 2019, and the documents are here

The consultation focuses on four aspects :

(1) the design of a UK Emissions Trading System (ETS) (I posted a few days ago, that a UK ETS is a prospect)

(2) the operation of a UK ETS

(3) aviation

(4) continued UK membership of the EU ETS for Phase IV (2021-2030).

[Note: I don’t cover aviation in detail in this Blog]

A UK ETS that is linked to the EU ETS is the UK Government’s and the Devolved Administrations’ preferred carbon pricing option. This is envisaged in the Political Declaration that accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement (that is not ratified by the UK Parliament).

The view is a linked ETS would create a larger carbon market that would deliver more cost-effective emission reduction opportunities for UK businesses.

The consultation document sets out alternatives, including:

* a standalone domestic emissions trading system;

* a tax on carbon, similar to the policy described in the HMRC technical note “Carbon Emissions Tax” (and provided for in Legislation, not yet commenced – I Blog posted about this); or

* participating in Phase IV of the EU ETS.

Note : the consultation does not seek detail re a tax on carbon. But, the summary states – if necessary, responses to this consultation may be used to develop work on such an alternative.

Questions relevant to a standalone UK ETS or a tax on carbon are included. The proposals in Chapters 1-3 would be applicable for either a linked or standalone UK ETS unless clearly stated otherwise.

Chapter 1 focuses on proposals for the design of a linked or standalone UK ETS which covers: the scope in terms of gases and sectors; the cap and trajectory; the distribution of allowances; free allocation; supply flexibility; phases and reviews; the small emitter opt-out; and the ultra-small emitter exemption; and a UK industrial decarbonisation fund.

• To ensure that any UK ETS is linkable to the EU ETS, the proposal is to match the scope of a UK ETS with the scope of the EU ETS both in respect of sectors and greenhouse gases covered. Views are, in addition, sought on the potential to expand scope in later years of UK ETS operation.

• For the free allocation of allowances, the proposal is to follow broadly the free allocation methodology used in the EU ETS to provide a smooth transition for the relevant sectors and to support the potential for linking a UK ETS with the EU ETS.

• The proposals for a Small Emitter and Hospitals Opt-out Scheme and an Ultra- Small Emitter Exemption also align with the EU ETS, including setting a threshold of 25,000t CO2eq/35MW and 2,500t CO2eq respectively.

• In addition, views are sought on the possibility of monetising allowances from within the UK ETS to fund UK industrial decarbonisation.

Chapter 2 seeks views on the operation of a UK ETS.

Chapter 4 covers the scenario whereby the UK remains part of Phase IV of the EU ETS past 2020. Note: while the UK is still within the EU or within the Transition/Implementation Period, the UK has an obligation to transpose the Phase IV revisions to the EU ETS Directive into UK law before 9 October 2019.

The chapter also includes proposed Phase IV implementation features which may be incorporated within a UK ETS.

Chapter 4 seeks views on:

• The timing and method of this transposition (and further transposition arising as a result of tertiary legislation not yet agreed at EU level);

• Elements of Phase IV where the UK has discretion over whether and how to implement – most notably the opt out schemes for small emitters, which the proposal is to implement anyway as part of a linked or standalone UK ETS.

The above sets out some salient features, the reader is asked to scan the entire consultation.

[the Exit Day could change, please continue to follow this Blog]

Climate Change and EUETS (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019

Climate Change

Today (2 May 2019) sees the publication, by the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), of (277 pages of) advice in response to the request of the governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff, sent in October 2018.

The CCC advice is for the UK Government to legislate for and reach a net-zero emissions goal by 2050, so as to end its contribution to global warming within thirty years. This net-zero target should cover all greenhouse gases and should include international aviation and shipping, but exclude the use of emissions credits.

Carbon Brief has summarised in a useful Q&A – here – extracts are below –

In 2015, almost every country of the world promised to reach net-zero emissions later this century as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The deal set a limit to global warming of “well-below” 2C above pre-industrial temperatures and said countries will “pursue efforts” to keep warming to 1.5C.

In contrast, the UK’s existing climate targets were set in the context of a 2C warming limit. Its overall goal, first set in 2008, has been to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

In the wake of the raised ambition of the Paris deal, the government asked its official climate advisers, the CCC, what this should mean for the UK.

In two separate pieces of advice in 2016, the CCC said that the UK would ultimately have to raise its ambition for 2050, to match the Paris goals, but that it was not the time for doing so.

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK has legally binding five-yearly carbon budgets, which mark staging posts on the way towards the “80% by 2050” goal. So far, the first five carbon budgets have been set down in legislation, covering 2008-2032.

On 8 October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report on 1.5C that clearly set out the risks of allowing warming to exceed this level. This report also summarised the latest scientific evidence on what would be needed to stay below 1.5C.

Following this report, on 15 October 2018, the governments in Westminster, Cardiff and Edinburgh asked collectively the CCC for advice on when the UK should cut its emissions to net-zero.

Their letter asked whether the UK should set separate targets for CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). It asked “whether now is the right time for the UK to set such a target” in legislation. And it asked how the UK would reach net-zero, as well as the costs and benefits of doing so.

Today’s advice from the CCC is its response to this formal request. It comprises 277 pages of advice to the three governments, covering each of the questions posed by their October letter.

This advice is backed by another 300-odd pages setting out the significant changes in scientific knowledge and international policy that have taken place since the UK’s existing 2050 target was set. Behind the scenes are numerous research projects, technical annexes and advisory groups.

The UK Government response is to welcome the advice, to not accept its recommendations immediately, and to respond in due course. The response is here.

Re Scotland, the CCC advice is for Scotland to reach net-zero by 2045 (5 years earlier). The Scottish Government will now legislate to achieve this, and on Sunday its First Minister declared a “Climate Emergency”. A 2018 bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament aims to increase the current 2009 Climate Change (Scotland) Act target to 90% (emissions reduction by 2050 against a 1990 benchmark). It will now be amended so MSPs can vote on the new target of net-zero by 2045.

The current Scotland bill is here.

Re Wales, the CCC advice is the 2050 goal should be for a 95% reduction on 1990 levels. This is due to its relatively lower potential for CO2 storage and relatively high agricultural emissions. The Welsh government has also declared a “Climate Emergency” – here. And in March 2019, the Welsh government published its Plan to set out how Wales aims to meet the first carbon budget (2016-2020) and consequently the 2020 interim target through 100 policies and proposals across Ministerial portfolios.

I will update this post online, with the Welsh government response to the CCC advice.

EUETS

The EU emissions trading system (EUETS) requires heavy industry and power producers to obtain and surrender allowances equal to their level of carbon emissions on an annual basis. Companies that are the most exposed to international competition are allocated a proportion of free ETS allowances annually. For years, many companies have used these free allowances to comply with their obligations for the previous year.

Just over four months ago, in December 2018, the European Commission suspended the UK’s ability to auction ETS allowances until the withdrawal agreement was ratified. This was decided in order to maintain the integrity of the European carbon market in the event that the UK left the EU without a deal on 29 March this year. This position means that free allowances for 2019 are not issued. I posted about this decision before Christmas.

The withdrawal agreement negotiated with the European Union (but not ratified by the UK Parliament) allows for full and continuing membership of the EU ETS until the end of December 2020.

If it had been ratified when planned, the UK would have had the full legal basis immediately to issue free 2019 allowances. However, the decision of the UK Parliament was not to vote in favour of the withdrawal agreement. This has meant that UK businesses have, since December, been left without access to 2019 free allowances.

Despite the situation, all UK installations had met their 2018 obligations in full (allowances are available in other markets) – before the 30th April compliance deadline. The UK government (BEIS department) had reminded all participants that they still had a legal duty to meet their obligations for 2018 and that the UK is committed to upholding its environmental standards and continuing to comply fully with European law while its remains a member of the EU. I posted before about this deadline and the delay in the no-Deal replacement carbon tax.

Re British Steel (special case) – the UK Government has entered into a short-term bridge facility, valued at about £120 million, under section 7 of the Industrial Development Act 1982, at an interest rate of LIBOR plus 7%. The effect of this agreement is that the Government has, in the last week, purchased the necessary emissions allowances on behalf of British Steel, to enable British Steel to meet its EUETS obligations.

Per the BEIS Minister statement to Parliament yesterday – In return, under a deed of forfeiture, ownership of the company’s 2019 allowances will now be transferred to the Government once they are released. Through the subsequent sale of these 2019 allowances, the UK Government expect the taxpayer to be repaid in full. The 2019 allowances are more than are needed to fulfil the 2018 obligations, and all of them will come to the Government.

The terms of the deal ensure that if the price of allowances were to rise, the taxpayer would receive half of any financial upside once the allowances are sold back into the market. To ensure the taxpayer is protected in the event that allowances were to fall, under the terms of the deal, British Steel has been required to underwrite any shortfall and is covering the cost of arranging the facility. The price of carbon allowances has been rising over the past two years, and the Exchequer received £1.4 billion from auctioning allowances in 2018, up from £533 million in 2017.

The UK Government is engaging with the Commission about the implications for the UK continued participation in the EU ETS.

In the event that an agreement is not reached (and the Withdrawal Agreement stays unratified) – the UKGovernment will put in place a domestic scheme that provides security against the loss of EU-derived allowances. I will post again about this, when further information is public.

[the Exit day may change, please continue to follow this Blog]

UK Chemicals Regulation (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019

I posted before on UK Chemicals Regulation after UK Exit. This is a reminder post.

On the 25th March, HSE (the UK REACH chemicals regulator) published further instructions on access to UK REACH – here.

[the UK documents endlessly refer to a “Deal” – this is the Withdrawal Agreement, and for our purposes merely provides a new Exit day of 31st December 2020, not new trade arrangements with the EU]

These HSE instructions make it clear the online service ‘Comply with UK REACH’ will replace ECHA’s REACH-IT platform for UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), from Exit day.

Live on Exit day, the new online system will allow:

* Businesses that have existing UK-held REACH registrations to validate their registrations (‘grandfathering’)

* Businesses that import chemicals from the EEA to submit downstream user import notifications

* Business to register new substance registrations or PPORD notifications (Product and Process Orientated Research and Development)

In order to minimise disruption to in the event of a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently hold a REACH registration are encouraged to access their ECHA REACH-IT account and ensure that all the information relating to their business is downloaded. Information required to comply with UK REACH includes registration confirmation documents and ECHA decisions.

Under the new requirements, from Exit day –

* UK businesses that manufacture a chemical (those currently registered to EU REACH) will need to validate their existing registration with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) within 120 days of the UK leaving the EU.

* UK businesses that import a chemical substance from the EU will need to notify HSE within 180 days of the UK leaving the EU.

* UK businesses that export chemicals to the EU will need to have an EU REACH registration in place once the UK leaves the EU.

In addition, more technical information will need to be submitted by businesses to HSE within two years of EU Exit.

Current HSE instructions are here.

[the Exit day may change, please continue to follow this Blog]

Single-Use Plastics Ban (EU)

In legal text (a Directive) adopted 27th March 2019, the European Parliament decided to address the matter of single-use plastics as follows :

(1) Single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers to be banned by 2021

(2) 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029

(3) More stringent application of the “polluter pays” principle

Specifically the following Products will be banned in the EU by 2021 :

* Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)

* Single-use plastic plates

* Plastic straws

* Cotton bud sticks made of plastic

* Plastic balloon sticks

* Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups

Member states will have to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

The Directive will also strengthen the application of the polluter pays principle, in particular for tobacco, by introducing extended responsibility for producers. This new regime will also apply to fishing gear, to ensure that manufacturers, and not fishermen, bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.

In addition, the legal text agreed stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of throwing cigarettes with plastic filters in the street should be mandatory, as well as for other products such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.

The Directive now needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers before it enters EU law later this year. Member States will have two years to transfer the legislation into national law.

The Press Release (European Commission) is here.

I will load the Directive (once in law) into subscribers’ Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists.

Glyphosate (UK)

In 2017, the EU decided to renew (for a further five years) the licence that permits the herbicide Glyphosate to be marketed and used in the EU28. I have posted before about this (but it was a while back).

Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical company Monsanto.

One UN study called the chemical “probably carcinogenic”, but other scientists said it was safe to use.

The UK was among the EU member states in favour of glyphosate renewal. Germany and Poland were also among them – though they had previously abstained.

France and Belgium were among the states that voted against. Portugal abstained. President Macron said after the decision that France would ban Glyphosate as soon as alternatives are found, and within three years at the latest.

The EU Commission said the current proposal on the weedkiller “enjoys the broadest possible support by the member states while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment”.

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Some countries and regions have banned glyphosate use in public parks and gardens. Its effect on plants is non-selective, meaning it will kill most of them when applied.

The European Commission says that besides EFSA, the European Chemicals Agency and other scientific bodies found no link to cancer in humans.

The Soil Association says glyphosate traces are regularly found in bread.

Since the EU decision, a US court has ordered Monsanto to pay one user a substantive sum in damages after he developed cancer, a second case in a different US court also ordered a substantive sum in damages, and further cases are before the US courts in different places.

As a result, Councils across the UK are examining whether to take action. This Guardian article summarises – here.

The current Government guidance is under review.

HSE is the UK regulator responsible for plant protection products (pesticides and herbicides) following Brexit – their online information is here.

Water Abstraction Plan (UK)

UPDATE : the DEFRA Report to Parliament (see timeline below) is here

The UK Government has a Water Abstraction Plan. This was updated on 11th April 2019 – here.

I posted before about this.

Most businesses taking more than 20,000 litres of water a day directly from rivers or groundwater require an abstraction licence.

The Plan states that the current approach to managing abstraction has three main issues:

* some older licences allow abstraction that can damage the environment

[and indeed the decision in what became the Catfield Fen test case established this – see this useful Blog account of the issues and what happened – here]

* the current approach is not flexible enough to cope with the pressures of increasing demand for water and climate change in the long term, or to allow abstractors access to additional water when it is available

* the abstraction service is outdated and paper-based

The Plan document states – The Government published a range of approaches to address these issues in January 2016 following formal consultation. This plan explains how these will be implemented over the coming years. Our approach to addressing these issues has three main elements:

(1) making full use of existing regulatory powers and approaches to address unsustainable abstraction and move around 90% of surface water bodies and 77% of groundwater bodies to the required standards by 2021

(2) developing a stronger catchment focus – bringing together the Environment Agency, abstractors and catchment groups to develop local solutions to existing pressures and to prepare for the future. These local solutions will:

* protect the environment by changing licences to better reflect water availability in catchments and reduce the impact of abstraction

* improve access to water by introducing more flexible conditions that support water storage, water trading and efficient use

(3) supporting these reforms by modernising the abstraction service, making sure all significant abstraction is regulated and bringing regulations in line with other environmental permitting regimes

The Plan document states – We will report to parliament by May 2019 on progress made on abstraction reform.

The Plan document states – the Environment Agency will publish updated abstraction licensing strategies for 10 catchments by 2021.

The Plan document states – We are planning to move abstraction and impoundment regulations into the environmental permitting regulations. The move will provide a more modern and consistent legal framework for the day to day management of abstraction. We expect to consult on the detail of the move in early 2020.

The Plan document key milestones :

• January 2018 – start testing digital abstraction licences

• January 2018 to 31 December 2019 – application process for previously exempt abstractors open

• April 2018 – Environment Agency begins work in 4 priority catchments to test the approaches to improve access to water and begin to address local pressures

• By end of 2018 – Environment Agency to have revoked around 600 unused abstraction licences

• During 2019 – Defra reports to parliament demonstrating progress on abstraction reform

• By end 2019 – majority of licences available digitally and approach to submitting records online is improved

• Early 2020 – consult on moving water resources licensing to Environmental Permitting Regulations

• 2020 – Environment Agency publish 4 updated abstraction licensing strategies from initial catchments

• March 2020 – Environment Agency completes restoring sustainable abstraction programme

• 2021 – Environment Agency publish an additional 6 updated abstraction licensing strategies

• 2021 – 2,300 time limited licences reviewed by 2021

• 2021 – Environment Agency will report on progress against environmental targets

• 2021 – abstraction licences become environmental permits (subject to consultation)

• 31 December 2022 – all previously exempt abstractions will be permitted

• By 2027 – Environment Agency will have updated all abstraction licensing strategies

Following Catfield, and in accordance with this Plan, the Environment Agency has begun reviewing and withdrawing time limited abstraction licences in the Fens.