Environmental Law News Update

June 5, 2017


In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger and Laura Phillips consider the environmental priorities of the Labour manifesto, the implications of a US withdrawal from the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and further details of Six Pump Court’s continuing series of environmental seminars.


Labour manifesto and the environment

Following on from our analysis of environmental and energy policy in the Conservative Manifesto, here’s a look the Labour Manifesto. In summary, even a quick glance reveals that climate change and environmental protection are high on the agenda for a prospective Labour government. In addition to the emphasis on green energy sources, there are explicit commitments to ‘defend and extend existing environmental protections’ (93), to renewable and green energy (see below) and to meeting the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement (22, 118). There is rather less detail about how these will be achieved in practice.

Labour intends to nationalise energy production and make it greener. It will do this in three stages: first by altering operator license conditions; then by creating ‘publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and cooperatives’ to compete with private energy suppliers; and lastly by legislating to permit these companies to purchase the regional grid infrastructure (16, 20).

It commits to cheap and secure energy, primarily through the greater energy efficiency and the use of new technologies such as carbon capture and storage (21); 4 million homes would be insulated (20, 60); Homeowners would be offered interest free loans to make their homes more energy efficient and landlords will be offered both carrot (through an Energy Saving Allowance) and stick (through Landlord Energy Efficient Regulations) (21). It would introduce an emergency price cap of £1,000 per annum for a dual fuel household energy bill.

There is an explicit commitment to support renewable energy (including tidal lagoons), repeated in several places throughout the Manifesto (8, 12, 21-22) and an ambitious target for 60% of the UK’s energy to come from zero-carbon or renewables by 2030 (14).

Fracking will be banned altogether (21) but North Sea oil jobs would be protected (21). Labour would also invest in low-carbon and green technologies such as low emission vehicles (12, 27, 91).

These measures will be financed (along with Labour’s other Manifesto commitments) through increased taxation (9).

Labour supports the use of nuclear energy as a source of power and would support further nuclear projects (21); the UK would remain part of Euratom (22, 25).

Climate change and conservation
Labour explicitly commits to meeting the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement (22, 118). It will introduce measures to protect ‘blue belts’, for plastic bottle deposit schemes, for the protection of bees and forests and the planting of trees (94).

There is a rather vague commitment to ‘consult’ on establishing an environmental tribunal to make it easier and cheaper to challenge unlawful government decisions on the environment (air quality is explicitly mentioned as an example) (81). It is wholly unclear how this would work in practice, or what sanctions or remedies might be available.

Air quality
Labour intends to introduce a new Clean Air Act (93) and commits to retrofitting ‘thousands’ of diesel buses in areas with the most severe air quality problems (91), but there is little real detail as to how air quality would be improved.

It should be noted that Labour explicitly commits to ensuring that there would be no weakening of current EU derived environmental protection laws as a result of Brexit (25-6). It would prioritise maintaining access to the European internal energy market in order to keep down energy costs (22).

It would actively seek to negotiate an Environmental Goods Agreement at the WTO to support British environmental technologies and services (27).


Withdrawing from the Paris Accord

President Trump has announced that he will be taking the US out of the Paris Accord. He hasn’t, however, specified how this will be done.

Article 28 of the Paris Accord states that at any time after three years from the date on which the agreement has entered force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from the agreement by giving written notice. Any such withdrawal takes effect one year after such notice is given.

From a practical perspective, that timescale takes the US beyond the date of the next presidential election.

In the meantime, the US will remain bound by the terms of the agreement. This includes submitting a plan every five years spelling out how the US intends to tackle climate change. Countries are also supposed to report on their progress on meeting their own set targets for cutting emissions, which for the US is currently a target of an approximate 25% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025.

Consequently, exiting the process in a manner consistent with the Paris agreement itself maintains the obligations agreed to by the US by the Obama administration. Against that irreducible standard, US domestic policy is likely to face considerable scrutiny.


Seminar – Flood Defence and Pollution Control: Statutory Powers and Compensation

Six Pump Court presents the second in our series of environmental and public law seminars to be held this year:

Flood Defence and Pollution Control: Statutory Powers and Compensation – Tuesday 27th June

Flood damage is an increasing threat. A variety of statutory powers are entrusted to the Environment Agency, local authorities and others under various Acts and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 in respect of flood defence, flood risk management, drainage, water pollution and water quality. Difficult questions arise as to the right to any compensation and its inter-relationship with other causes of action. This seminar will consider the nature and extent of the powers available to regulators and the obligations and rights of those affected.

For more information and to book click here

Coming soon – ‘Piercing the Veil’ Incorporation and Liability for Environmental Damage: Widening the Net – Wednesday 12th July – more details to follow


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