Environmental Law News Update

October 2, 2020

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger considers the new Jet Zero Council, pledges to reverse biodiversity loss and the extension of the Environment Agency’s Covid Regulatory Position Statements.

New Jet Zero Council

The new Jet Zero Council has launched with the aim of zero-emission flight by 2050.

The Group is intended to focus on developing UK capabilities to deliver net zero-emission commercial flight by developing and industrialising zero-emission aviation and aerospace technologies, establishing UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels and commercialising the industry by driving down production costs and developing a co-ordinated approach to the policy and regulatory framework needed to deliver net zero aviation by 2050.

The Group will be chaired by Grant Shapps MP, Transport Secretary and Alok Sharma MP, Business Secretary and has amongst its members representatives of some of the key aviation players, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, Rolls Royce and Airbus, although there doesn’t appear to be a representative from RyanAir.

This is consequently billed as a Government and Industry partnership, with the aim of providing advice on ambitions for clean aviation. The primary focus will be on reducing carbon emissions, while taking into account wider sustainability issues. There appear to be two potential routes: either the development of electric or hydrogen based propulsion technologies leading to zero emission aircraft or combining low emission aircraft with sustainable aviation fuels that are not based on the conventional fossil-derived kerosene. However, don’t rule out that the Government may still attempt to use an offsetting scheme as a means of claiming zero-emission flight.

The Group’s members and its key aims can be found here

Countries pledge to reverse biodiversity loss

World leaders have pledged to clamp down on pollution, embrace sustainable economic systems and eliminate the dumping of plastic waste in oceans by the middle of the century as part of “meaningful action” to halt the destruction of nature on Earth.

Ahead of a UN Summit on Biodiversity that was held virtually from New York on 30 September, the political leaders of 64 countries including the UK signed the ‘Pledge for Nature’ comprising of 10 commitments for urgent action over the next 10 years. These include:

1) Putting biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the heart of any Covid-19 recovery strategy;
2) Committing to a global biodiversity framework with robust goals and targets;
3) Addressing the various environmental challenges in an integrated and coherent way;
4) Moving to sustainable food systems;
5) Reaffirming the Paris Agreement;
6) Ending environmental crimes;
7) Mainstreaming biodiversity into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral policies;
8) Integrating a ‘One-Health’ approach into all relevant policies and decision-making processes;
9) Strengthening all financial and non-financial means of implementation;
10) Basing the design and implementation of policy on science.

Highlights of the Summit included Jair Bolsonaro attacking international greed over the Amazon rainforest and emphasising that Brazil intended to make full use of the huge wealth of resources available to it in its territory and Xi Jinping committing China to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and ensuring the China’s greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2030.

Greta Thunberg was not convinced, tweeting:

“Every few years, governments gather to make solemn promises about the action they will take to defend the living world, then break them before the ink is dry. Must read to understand the laughable, cynical empty promises and “pledges” still taking place.”

EA extends Covid Regulatory Position Statements

The Environment Agency has extended some Regulatory Position Statements as part of its response to Covid-19. This includes (amongst others):

  • Monitoring emissions from some environmental permitting activities: PRS C20 (to be withdrawn on 31 January 2021 unless extended by the EA);
  • Reporting for installations, radioactive substances and waste permits: RPS C21 (to be withdrawn on 31 January 2021 unless extended by the EA);
  • Social distancing when signing and handing over waste transfer and consignment noted in person: RPS C8 (to be withdrawn on 31 March 2021 unless extended by the EA).

Ordinarily, complying with the Regulatory Position Statements mean that the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action provided that the activity meets the relevant description, the conditions are complied with and the activity does not or is not likely to cause environmental pollution or harm to human health. It should be noted that some of the Regulatory Position Statements require prior written approval from the Environment Agency before they can be relied upon.

The Environment Agency has also made use of virtual inspections of permitted waste sites as part of its efforts to check those sites are complying with regulations. The Environment Agency continues to emphasise that it expects operators to take all reasonable steps to comply with regulatory requirements using contingency plans to help them comply.

The updated Regulatory Position Statements can be found here

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