Latest environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024


Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

As parliament slows down in what looks set to be a general election year, the EU is leading the way on strengthening some key legislation, as we find out below.

F-gas and ODS rules

Two new European regulations on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) and ozone-depleting substances (ODS) have come into force. Both F-gases and ODS have been regulated in the EU and subject to international controls for a number of years.

Both new regulations provide tighter controls and represent a significant step towards limiting global temperature rise in line with the Paris Agreement. The F-gas regulation in particular will contribute to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The regulations together could bring about a total reduction in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions of 490Mt (CO equivalent) by 2050.

tinyurl.com/4bzvvjrs

UK REACH work programme

The third annual UK work programme and rationale has been published, setting out how the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency will meet the objectives and timescales set out in UK REACH. The programme explains how priorities for potential risk management of chemicals have been identified, based on a review of restriction proposals put forward by stakeholders, and substances proposed for restriction by regulators, such as the European Chemicals Agency. A key priority in 2023-2024 is tackling per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

A regulatory gap is opening up between the UK and EU REACH systems. At the time of writing, the UK hadn’t restricted or banned any new substances since Brexit, or added any new chemicals to the Candidate List, which identifies substances of very high concern and prioritises them for authorisation under REACH. By comparison, the EU has increased its Candidate List by over 30 substances, added five substances to its Authorisation List and adopted restrictions on a further eight.

tinyurl.com/y9cwa6h3

BNG law comes into force

Legislation on biodiversity net gain (BNG) is now in force. It establishes the system for BNG, which is a form of creating and improving natural habitats and ensures development has a measurably positive impact (‘net gain’) on biodiversity.

All major housing developments are required to deliver at least a 10% benefit for nature, expanding or improving natural habitat with the development. England is the first country in the world to make BNG a legal requirement after it was established in the Environment Act 2021, and implemented through amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

tinyurl.com/4af2349n

ON THE WATCHLIST

Scotland is looking to restructure its environmental regulatory framework, among other notable consultations.

Integrated framework

SEPA is proposing incorporating its four main regulatory regimes into an integrated environmental authorisation framework. The framework is currently contained in the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018, and only applies to the regulation of radioactive substances. The aim is to extend this to include water, waste and industrial activities.

tinyurl.com/38nh6u95

Circular economy

The Scottish government has published a consultation on its circular economy and waste route map, setting out a strategic plan for delivering a system-wide vision of its circular economy up to 2030. It emphasises reducing waste, modernising recycling practices, decarbonising disposal methods and strengthening the circular economy through strategic oversight and collaboration.

tinyurl.com/yzfnr86t

Air quality agreement

The European Commission has welcomed a provisional political agreement on the revised Ambient Air Quality Directive. Once adopted, the new law will set 2030 EU air quality standards aligned more closely with the WHO global air quality guidelines, which is an important step to better protect health and move forward on the path to zero pollution by 2050.

tinyurl.com/2phzaxrb

In court

Severn Trent Water has been fined £2,072,000 for allowing huge amounts of raw sewage to discharge into the River Trent from Strongford Wastewater Treatment Works between November 2019 and February 2020.

tinyurl.com/s69e9m83

Finally, in case law, in King Berebon v Shell Petroleum Development Co of Nigeria, restoration claims for the residual clean-up of two oil spills in Nigeria have been granted.

tinyurl.com/bdzbpz6m

Neil Howe PIEMA is head of writing at Barbour EHS


Further reading: Asim Ali, IEMA’s public affairs officer, examines the UK government's policy announcements from March and how they affect the goals of decarbonisation and environmental sustainability: IEMA - UK environmental policy digest - March

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