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.

Plastic Bag Charge in law (England)

The legislation increasing the plastic bag charge in England was enacted yesterday 20 May, and comes into force today 21 May – this legislation is here. [I blog posted about this before]

It will be added to those Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists that monitor the Plastic Bag Charges. It amends the existing 2015 Order (the Carrier Bags Order).

[Separate legislation in Scotland, already added, has already increased the charge in Scotland.]

Article 3 amends the Carrier Bags Order by omitting the expiry date of 5th October 2022 in article 1(d), by which that Order would have ceased to have effect. Articles 6, 7, 10 and 11 make amendments to the Carrier Bags Order consequential on the omission of the expiry date.

Articles 4 and 8 amend the Carrier Bags Order in order to substitute a new definition of “seller”. This brings all sellers of goods under the obligation to charge in article 3 of the Carrier Bags Order and restricts the obligation relating to records in article 4 of, and Schedule 3 to, that Order to sellers within the meaning given in Schedule 1.

Article 5 amends the Carrier Bags Order in order to increase the minimum charge for each single use carrier bag (SUCB) supplied in a reporting year from 5 pence to 10 pence.

Article 9 amends the definition of SUCB in Schedule 2 to the Carrier Bags Order by amending the list of “excluded bags” in the table.

The effect of this is –

(1) The single-use carrier bag charge is increased to 10 pence and extended to all retailers in England from today (21 May). This includes small, medium and micro retailers (including airport retailers).

(2) An extra 10 pence is not chargeable if a charge of 10 pence or more is already charged for bags.

(3) Biodegradable bags are not exempt from the charge.

(4) Carrier bag use records or reports do not need to be made if the company employs fewer than 250 staff.

Plastic Bag Charge (England)

The UK government has just announced that the single-use carrier bag charge will be increased from 5p to 10p and extended to all businesses in England from 21 May.

The announcement is here. The guidance was updated on 30 April here – note the exceptions.

Scotland already raised the plastic bag charge, effective from 1st April 2021. This was reported in our March Email Alert. Note, plastic bag charges are temporarily suspended (Scotland) for certain types of delivery until 31 May.

COVID-19 EA Regulatory Position Statements (England)

I posted before about the Environment Agency’s Regulatory Position Statements (RPS), and the fact that the Agency is publishing RPS for the COVID-19 crisis.

Yesterday 21st April, the EA has issued further COVID-19 RPS. Here

You will note there are now quite a few of them.

COVID-19 Waste Management Practices (EU)

On the 14th April, the European Commission issued a document to guide EU member states in their management of waste during the COVID-19 crisis. Here

This document reiterates advice from EU-OSHA (separate blog post) on workplace management of COVID-19.

The EU waste management document spells out instructions applying in households, healthcare situations, and in waste management companies.

COVID-19 Environment Agency (England)

The Environment Agency (EA) issues Regulatory Position Statements (RPSs). These explain the situations and conditions when an environmental permit is not required.

The EA issued temporary RPSs last year in the run up to the Brexit Exit days.

The EA has now issued 3 temporary RPSs to deal with COVID-19 – here.

Two address waste issues, and one deals with water sampling.

The exceeding waste storage limits RPS is similar to the temporary Brexit RPS that was issued last year.

The full list of EA Regulatory Position Statements is – here.

COVID-19 Waste Shipment (EU)

On 16 March 2020, the Commission adopted Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services.

On this basis, on 23 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on the implementation of the Green Lanes under the Guidelines with specific recommendations designed to preserve the EU-wide operation of supply chains and ensure the functioning of the Single Market for goods, wherever internal border controls exist or have been introduced.

I blog posted about this at the time.

The European Commission issued (30th March) a Communication explicitly clarifying that the principles relating to transport of goods apply mutatis mutandis to shipments of waste.

This document is here.

Environment Bill (England & UK Brexit)

The Environment Bill returns to the Commons for Second Reading today. It is a slightly different Bill to 2019. Please reprise the posts I wrote in 2019, I summarise the changes (from those posts) below – I had got as far as Water – please find those posts in the Environment Bill category on this blog.

Targets (unchanged from 2019 Bill) – reprising because I didn’t set these out before – England only (targets are within the competencies of devolved legislatures)

– allow government to set long-term targets (of at least 15 years duration) in relation to the natural environment and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment via statutory instrument;

– require government to meet long-term targets, and to prepare remedial plans where long-term targets are not met;

– require government to set, by October 2022, at least one long-term target in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction;

– require government to set and meet an air quality target for fine particulate matter in ambient air (PM2.5);

– require government to periodically review all environmental targets to assess whether meeting them would significantly improve the natural environment in England.

Note Clause 20 – Clause 20: Reports on international environmental protection legislation (this is unchanged from 2019 Bill, but I did not spell it out before) – this clause places an obligation on the Secretary of State to produce a report on significant developments in international environmental protection legislation, every two years, and lay it before Parliament. England only (competencies are within the competencies of devolved legislatures).

The scope and content of the report will be determined by the Secretary of State – see subsection (5). However, in a given reporting period it could cover: significant developments in the legislation of other countries that are mainly concerned with seeking to protect the natural environment from the effects of human activity or protecting people from the effects of human activity on the environment; legislation on the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment; or legislative provisions around monitoring, assessing, considering and reporting and monitoring on these matters. The report will not extend to reviewing or considering the planning systems of other countries.

OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) – unchanged from 2019 Bill – see Blog posts on this – England only (establishing an OEP is within the competencies of devolved legislatures – Scotland indicated it would go this direction see its Environmental Strategy – see my post of yesterday).

Changes to UK REACH – unchanged from 2019 Bill

Waste, Air and Water appear unchanged from the 2019 Bill, and I have Blog posted before about these topics. Nonetheless, I will Blog again re Waste, because this is highly complex and a lot of new processes are announced. Please read the Explanatory Notes – here.

New Blog posts will be made about the rest of the Bill, please look out for those.

EU Single-Use Plastics Directive (UK alignment)

From 1st January 2021, the UK is outside the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement transition period.

Northern Ireland – EU Law on goods (includes Environment) continues to apply.

Scotland – a ban on cotton buds is already in place

England – plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds ban will come into force in April 2020

Wales – the Welsh government will consult

The EU Single-Use Plastics Directive was published in 2019, Member States have two years to implement, some aspects a bit longer – here.

The 2019 Directive mandates a reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex, in line with the overall objectives of the EU’s waste policy, in particular waste prevention, leading to a substantial reversal of increasing consumption trends. The measures (put in place in member states) should achieve a measurable quantitative reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex on the territory of the Member State by 2026 compared to 2022.

The 2019 Directive also mandates a ban on the placing on the market of the single-use plastic products listed in Part B of the Annex and of products made from oxo-degradable plastic.

The 2019 Directive also obliges Member States to ensure that single-use plastic products listed in Part C of the Annex that have caps and lids made of plastic may be placed on the market only if the caps and lids remain attached to the containers during the products’ intended use stage.

The 2019 Directive sets out further measures.