Deposit return scheme: consultation response published
The Government has published the results of a consultation on implementing a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers. The idea of the scheme is to incentivise recycling through small cash deposits placed on containers, which people could get back through returning containers to ‘reverse vending machines’. The machines would be located at designated sites, such as supermarkets. 83% of respondents to the consultation were in favour of the system. Environmentalists are disappointed that the scheme would only include plastic bottles and aluminium cans, but not glass bottles.
Sustainable drainage requirements on new developments
As a result of a recent review into the benefits and impacts of sustainable drainage systems, Defra has recommended that such measures should be made mandatory for all new developments in England from 2024. Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) reduce surface water and sewer flood risk by using features such as soakaways, grassed areas, permeable surfaces and wetlands. SuDS are increasingly important to mitigate impacts of climate change, urbanisation and a growing population. Developers would need to incorporate SuDS to meet the new legal requirement, which would mark a shift away from the planning process.
The Government is launching a consultation on energy-efficient lighting, aiming to cut energy use and emissions in homes and businesses. Under the proposals, lighting in both domestic and non-domestic properties across the UK would need to meet minimum performance standards that are higher than current EU legislation.
The standards would include only the most efficient LED bulbs being available in shops, making it easier for consumers to save energy at home. If adopted, the proposals would come into force in late 2023, with further increased minimum standards introduced from September 2027.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) countdown
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) will be introduced over the next decade requiring all rental properties to meet energy efficiency criteria, with fines for non-compliance. Details on the next phase of MEES are still emergent, but a November 2021 consultation suggested that all non-domestic rented buildings operating under a tenancy (e.g. offices, retail stores, hotels) must meet EPC grade B by 2030, with EPC C by 2027 a proposed interim requirement.
The Energy Security Bill contains a broad range of measures to support deployment of low-carbon technologies and reduce exposure to global volatility in gas prices. The bill allows an extension of a cap on retail energy prices beyond 2023 which may be implemented to limit the amount that suppliers can charge for both gas and electricity.
EU Parliament agrees position on new corporate due diligence law
EU lawmakers have adopted a common position on proposed EU rules to make companies accountable for human rights and environmental violations along their value chains. The EU corporate sustainability due diligence directive (CSDDD) aims to ensure EU companies prevent, identify and mitigate adverse human rights and environmental impacts occurring in their supply chains. The proposed law includes linking company directors’ remuneration to climate transition plans.
The Parliament’s vote means that negotiations with member states on the final scope and obligations of the law, with the aim of adopting the law before the next European elections in June 2024.
The UK Government has announced its plan to introduce a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by 2027 for imported goods. This mechanism aims to impose a charge on specific products, ensuring they face a similar carbon price as those manufactured within the UK. The goal is to create a fair competitive landscape among regions with varying levels of decarbonisation efforts. Initially, this levy will impact imports of iron, steel, aluminium, fertiliser, hydrogen, ceramics, glass, and cement.
In 2023, the Government sought feedback on a carbon pricing mechanism, with strong support from UK manufacturers. They believed that such a policy would safeguard their businesses from being undercut by cheaper goods originating from countries with less rigorous environmental regulations. Further specifics about the mechanism, including the precise range of products covered, will undergo consultation in 2024.
Biodiversity Net Gain to become mandatory for large developments
The Environment Act 2021 mandates a 10% biodiversity net gain on all large domestic, commercial and mixed-use developments. This means that developers will need to deliver (with proof) a minimum uplift of 10% in the amount of biodiversity at the site, relative to its biodiversity prior to their intervention. The requirement was originally to be introduced in October 2023, but the Government recently pushed back implementation until January 2024. The legislation will also apply to small developments from April 2024.
To crack down on illegal deforestation in supply chains, Defra has announced the UK Deforestation Due Diligence law, which will apply to large companies with a turnover of over £50m. The legislation will require companies to undertake due diligence of their supply chains where they source products containing palm oil, soy, leather, beef and cocoa. If these products are found to be from land illegally converted or deforested then the import will be banned. Companies will also have to report the findings of their due diligence annually for transparency.
The Government is yet to announce when the legislation will come into force.
DEFRA calls for evidence to reform the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013
DEFRA has issued a call for evidence to back a revision of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013. The accompanying proposal document outlines potential modifications, including improved collections of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from households financed by producers, introducing new producer obligations for online marketplaces and fulfilment houses, and addressing the environmental impacts of vaping products. The imminent ban of disposable vapes from sale is anticipated.
The insights gathered from this consultation will inform broader policy adjustments and advancements aimed at supporting the circular economy and meeting net zero obligations. Revisions to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations policy could commence as early as next year, with household collection potentially rolling out by 2026.
Biodiversity Regulations effective February 2024 for new development projects
The Environment Act of 2021 mandated that developers must provide evidence that their projects result in a net increase in on-site biodiversity. Effective from 12 February 2024, developers in England will need to achieve a 10% “Biodiversity Net Gain.” In certain instances, this net gain can be achieved through enhancements made in other locations, a process known as biodiversity offsetting. Smaller projects will not be required to demonstrate this until April 2024. Biodiversity net gain refers to making sure that when new developments happen, there’s more wildlife and nature in the area afterwards than before.
The EU Parliament has passed a directive aimed at prohibiting businesses from making misleading or ambiguous green claims targeted at consumers. The directive will mandate the evidence of claims with life-cycle data and will specifically address the validation of certification schemes, acknowledging the proliferation of eco-labels in the market as a source of confusion for the public. Claims such as ‘climate-neutral’ or ‘carbon-neutral,’ when reliant on offsets, are likely to be prohibited.
Similar to the UK’s Green Claims Code, organisations will be obligated to ensure that claims regarding a product’s positive environmental impact are accompanied by information about its negative impacts as well.
These changes are anticipated to take effect in 2026, providing EU member states with a two-year window to amend their respective laws accordingly.