Latest environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

As we head towards the summer recess in parliament, the legislation covered below has already made the statute book.

Air and noise pollution

Legislation to tackle air and noise pollution in Wales has been published, with the aim of supporting a cleaner, healthier and greener future. The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Act 2024 implements measures that will improve the quality of the air environment and reduce the effects of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and our economy.

It will also support a package of measures set out in the Clean Air Plan for Wales to improve the air environment and give the Welsh government powers to tackle unwanted noise and protect sounds that matter to people, such as birdsong. The Welsh government is the first in the UK to bring forward legislation that requires governmental consideration of soundscapes.

Draft vapes legislation

The English and Scottish governments have both published draft legislation that will ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes. Wales has also confirmed it intends to follow suit.

Disposable vapes have a very short life span and, as well as encouraging youth vaping, they are harmful to the environment. The concern is not just that precious resources are wasted in their manufacture and disposal, but far too many are being carelessly discarded, potentially polluting soil and water.

Amends to packaging law

Recent UK legislation that requires packaging producers to collect and report data on the amount and type of packaging that they place on the market has been amended. The data collected is used to calculate the fees that producers will be required to pay to cover the cost of managing this packaging as part of the extended producer responsibility for packaging schemes from 2025.

The new amendments make sure that:

  • Packaging material that would otherwise not have had a producer obligation attached to it until the implementation of a deposit return scheme in Scotland will be reported
  • Packaging producers are reporting all the packaging they place on the market
  • Some obligations are given more clarity
  • The definition of ‘household packaging’ is clarified in response to stakeholder feedback, as well as improvements in other provisions.

These amendments apply to the reporting period 1 January 2024 to 30 June 2024.

The consultation process has started in two key legislative areas, CBAM and restrictions around PFAS.

CBAM consultation

The Treasury and HMRC have published a consultation setting out proposals for the design and administration of the UK carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). CBAM is linked with the drive to net zero and deals with the problem of carbon leakage, which is when companies move carbon-intensive production abroad to countries that have less stringent climate policies.

This follows on from an initial CBAM consultation in March 2023 into proposals for policy measures that would mitigate future carbon leakage risk. The government has now confirmed that a UK CBAM will be implemented by 2027.

PFAS in firefighting foams

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is consulting on information relating to firefighting foams that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In April 2023, the HSE as the agency for UK REACH, published a risk management options analysis (RMOA), which concluded that PFAS have a number of properties that pose concern to both the environment and human health.

A key recommendation of the RMOA was the introduction of a restriction proposal to address significant emissions to the environment arising from PFAS use in firefighting foams. A finalised dossier is expected to be published in March 2025.

In court

The European Court of Human Rights has made its first-ever ruling on a climate change case. It was brought by a group of women who claimed Switzerland had not done enough to combat climate change, violating their human rights.

Finally, in case law, in Brett v Environment Agency, an appellant has appealed against penalty notices served on him by the Environment Agency.

Neil Howe PIEMA is head of writing at Barbour EHS


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