1 Legal framework

1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern environment and climate regulation in your jurisdiction?

The United Kingdom continues to be at the forefront of environmental protection and climate action standard setting. In November 2021, the United Kingdom will host and preside over the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

There are numerous environmental laws in the UK that cover everything from fly tipping to littering, pollution, wildlife, conservation, climate change, noise and planning. They can be summarised into the following main categories:

  • Pollution environmental laws:
    • The Control of Pollution Act 1974 deals with environmental issues such as air, noise, water and atmospheric pollution, as well as waste on land.
    • The Environmental Protection Act 1974 deals with waste management and emissions into the environment.
  • Wildlife environmental laws:
    • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 complies with the European Council directives on the conservation of wild birds.
    • The Weeds Act 1959 deals with the prevention of injurious weed species on private lands in the United Kingdom. It primarily targets species such as broad-leaved dock, common ragwort, creeping whistle and spear thistle.
    • The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes it illegal to attempt to kill, injure or interfere with badgers without a valid licence. It consolidates the Badgers Act 1973, 1991 and the Badgers (Further Protection) Act in 1991.
    • The Hunting Act 2004 makes it illegal to use dogs to hunt mammals in the United Kingdom such as foxes or hare.
  • Conservation environmental laws:
    • The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 deals with the protection of listed buildings and conservation areas in the United Kingdom.
    • The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 establishes English Nature – a UK government agency to create national parks and areas of outstanding beauty – as well as addressing public rights of way.
    • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 protects buildings and structures classed as monuments.
    • The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for the freedom and right to roam uncultivated areas of the United Kingdom, such as mountains, moors and heaths.
  • Climate change environmental laws:
    • The Climate Change Act 2008 deals with the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom. Binding targets have been set that will reduce these emissions from levels recorded in 1990 by at least 80% by 2050.
    • The Planning and Energy Act 2008 enables planning authorities in England and Wales to impose requirements on local planning applications regarding energy use and efficiency.
    • The Energy Act 2020 requires energy providers to meet certain energy efficiency requirements when providing energy to consumers. Obligations include carbon emissions reductions and home heating cost reductions.

At the time of writing, the Environment Bill – which aims to establish a post-Brexit UK environmental and climate action framework – is currently going through Parliament. The Environment Bill establishes a new Office for Environmental Protection and deals with matters such as:

  • improving the natural environment;
  • waste and resource efficiency;
  • air quality and environmental recall;
  • water;
  • biodiversity;
  • local nature recovery strategies;
  • conservation; and
  • tree felling and planting.

It introduces legally binding targets for air quality, nature, water, resource and waste efficiency.

The enforcement powers of the new Office for Environmental Protection will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In addition to the matters set out above, the current legislative framework governing environmental and climate regulation consists of a combination of international, EU (notwithstanding the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union (Brexit) on 31 January 2020) and domestic instruments, including the following:

  • The Control of Pollution Act 1974 was passed to cover a number of environmental issues, such as air, noise, water and atmospheric pollution, as well as waste on land.
  • The Environmental Protection Act 1974 controls waste management and emissions into the environment.
  • The Energy Act 2020 relates to UK enterprise law which requires energy providers to meet certain energy efficiency requirements when providing energy to consumers.
  • The Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 provide:
    • a system for permitting specified environmentally significant operations;
    • a system for consenting to water discharges;
    • a groundwater permitting system; and
    • a system for radioactive substances regulation.
  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990 establishes legal responsibilities for pollution control for land air and water. It also covers waste disposal and statutory nuisance, such as noise or smells.
  • The Environment Act 1995 provides for the establishment of a number of new agencies and sets new standards for environmental management.
  • The Industrial Emissions Directive 2010 aims to achieve a high level of protection of human health and the environment taken as a whole by reducing harmful industrial emissions across the European Union, in particular through better application of best available techniques.
  • The Water Resources Act 1991 aims to prevent and minimise pollution of water, under which it is an offence to cause or knowingly permit any poisonous noxious or polluting material, or any solid waste to enter any controlled water.
  • The Water Industry Act 1991 sets out the main powers and duties of the water and sewerage companies, thus replacing those set out in the Water Act 1989, and defines the powers of the director general of water services.
  • The Environmental Change Act 2008 is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom. Binding targets have been set that will reduce these emissions from levels recorded in 1990 by at least 80% by 2050.
  • The REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 govern the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. They impose duties primarily on the manufacturers and importers of chemical substances.
  • The Waste Regulations 2011 and the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 require organisations which produce any form of hazardous waste to register with the Environment Agency and aim to protect human health and the environment by preventing or reducing the adverse impacts of waste management and generation.

1.2 Which bilateral and multilateral instruments on environment and climate regulation have effect in your jurisdiction?

  • The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 1985;
  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 1987;
  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1992;
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity 1993;
  • The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC 1998, effective 16 February 2005;
  • The Paris Agreement 2015; and
  • The Paris Agreement Katowice Rulebook 2018.

The United Kingdom is an active participant in international forums whose decisions and recommendations contribute to the development of global frameworks of environmental and climate regulation. These include:

  • the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
  • the Group of 7;
  • the Group of 20;
  • the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate;
  • the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; and
  • the International Energy Agency.

1.3 Which bodies are responsible for enforcing the applicable laws and regulations? What powers do they have? To what extent do they cooperate? What are the mechanisms for cooperation?

The main regulatory agencies enforcing environmental and climate change rules in the United Kingdom are as follows:

  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): The central government department responsible for environmental protection policy in England and internationally on behalf of the United Kingdom in the European Union and elsewhere.
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: The central government department responsible for climate change, having taken over the functions of the former Departments for Energy and Climate Change and for Business, Industry and Skills.
  • The Environment Agency in England: A non-departmental public body sponsored by DEFRA. Its overall responsibility is the protection and enhancement of the environment in England.
  • Natural Resources Wales: A body with the general duty to promote the interests of forestry, the development of afforestation and the production and supply of timber and other forest products in Wales. It also has a duty to promote the establishment and maintenance of adequate reserves of growing trees.
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency: A non-departmental public body of the Scottish government whose role is to ensure that the environment and human health are protected, and that Scotland's natural resources and services are used as sustainably as possible and contribute to sustainable economic growth.
  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency: An executive agency within DEFRA whose strategic purpose is to protect and enhance Northern Ireland's environment, and in doing so, deliver health and wellbeing benefits and support economic growth.
  • Scottish government, Welsh government and Northern Irish Executive: Each has devolved responsibilities for environmental policy and legislation in its respective country.
  • Natural England: Has responsibility for biodiversity, wildlife and habitats in England.
  • Marine Management Organisation: Responsible for marine activities and the marine environment throughout the United Kingdom.
  • Health and Safety Executive: A national independent regulator for work-related health safety and illness whose remit includes industrial safety, chemicals and asbestos management.

Certain environmental responsibilities are within the remit of local authorities, including the collection and disposal of municipal waste and the regulation of emissions from smaller industrial plants within their local area to air, water and land. Local authorities play a key role in relation to contaminated land, as laid out under Part 11A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The UK courts play a fundamental role in the enforcement of environmental and climate regulation in both criminal and civil proceedings, to which they have generally adopted a robust approach.

1.4 What is the regulators' general approach to environment and climate regulation/action?

The purpose of environment agencies in the United Kingdom is to protect and improve the environment and contribute towards climate action.

The activities which are regulated by environment agencies include:

  • waste management (storage, treatment, transfer, landfill, incineration and biowaste);
  • industry (chemicals, food and drink, metals, power generation, refineries and fuels, paper and textiles, cement and minerals, construction and mining);
  • energy-intensive industries and large public and private sector consumers of energy;
  • the use, storage and disposal of radioactive substances;
  • water companies (abstraction, discharges and sewerage systems);
  • producers of packaging, batteries, waste electrical and electronic equipment and vehicles;
  • agriculture (including water abstraction and discharges disposal of farm wastes, disposal of pesticides, intensive farming units and storage of silage, slurry and fuel oil);
  • angling, fisheries and aquaculture (netting and trapping, abstractions and discharges and movements of live fish);
  • navigation on some waterways;
  • onshore oil and gas;
  • contaminated land; and
  • biodiversity and wildlife protection.

Environment agencies encourage the use of environmental management systems as a means of improving environmental performance and supporting legal compliance.

2 Environmental protection

2.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regimes that protect the following environmental assets in your jurisdiction? (a) Air; (b) Soil; (c) Fresh water; (d) Sea water; (e) Flora and fauna; and (f) Natural habitats and scenic landscapes.

(a) Air

The two main forms of regulation relating to air quality are:

  • ambient air quality regulation (which focuses on limiting the concentrations of specific pollutants in ambient air); and
  • point source pollution regulation (which focuses on limiting the emissions to air of certain pollutants).

Regulation of ambient air quality derives from three main sources, as follows:

  • UK National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS): These proposals aim to protect health and the environment without imposing unacceptable economic or social costs, and form a fundamental part of the government's strategy for sustainable development. The fundamental aim of government is to render pollution emissions harmless.
  • Local air quality management system in England and Wales: Local authorities must assess air quality in their area and designate air quality management areas if improvements are necessary.
  • Air Quality Directive 2008: This sets obligatory limit values and non-obligatory target values for a range of air pollutants similar to the NAQS. It also requires the government to produce air quality plans setting out measures for meeting the required standards and action plans in the event that certain alert thresholds are breached.

Regulation of point source pollution includes the following:

  • The Industrial Emissions Directive 2010 regulates emissions from industrial installations and mobile plants.
  • The Clean Air Act 1993 imposes restrictions on point source pollution, enabling local authorities to designate smoke control areas and making it an offence to emit ‘dark smoke' from industrial or trade premises.

(b) Soil

As defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is not an offence in itself to contaminate land, but it is an offence to fail to comply with a remediation notice.

In its remediation notice, the enforcing authority will identify the reasonable steps required to remediate the land. These steps are determined by reference to:

  • the efficacy of any proposed remediation actions;
  • the environmental and health impacts of the remedial actions;
  • the cost of the remediation; and
  • the benefits of the remediation in relation to the harm.

(c) Fresh water

Under the Water Framework Directive 2000, the United Kingdom was required to achieve good ecological and good chemical status across all types of surface water bodies, groundwater bodies and heavily modified or artificial water bodies by 2015.

(d) Sea water

All UK ‘controlled waters' (including territorial waters, coastal waters, inland freshwaters and groundwater) are regulated under the Water Resources Act 1991. A discharge to water may require various different consents, depending on:

  • the type of activity creating the discharge;
  • the substances in the discharge;
  • whether the discharge is to groundwater, surface water or into a sewer; and
  • whether the discharge occurs as part of some wider industrial activity.

(e) Flora and fauna

The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 is the primary mechanism for wildlife protection in Britain. This legislation covers the following:

  • wildlife protection;
  • nature conservation;
  • public rights of way; and
  • miscellaneous provisions.

The importance of biodiversity conservation was also given a legal basis through the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, which requires government departments to have regard for biodiversity in carrying out their functions and to take positive steps to further the conservation of listed species and habitats.

(f) Natural habitats and scenic landscapes

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 were introduced to combine the various amendments made to the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994. They cover the designation and protection of European sites and the protection of European protected species.

2.2 What are the key features of the regulatory regime that protects against environmental nuisances (eg, noise, odour and light pollution) in your jurisdiction?

The Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 require regular noise mapping and action planning for road, rail and aviation noise and noise in large urban areas. They require the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to produce noise action plans based on maps for road and rail noise and noise in agglomerations. The action plans identify important areas (ie, areas exposed to the highest level of noise) and suggests ways in which the relevant authorities can address them. Major airports and those which affect agglomeration are also required to produce and publish their own noise action plans separately.

Offensive odours and smells that contribute to the level of air pollution in local communities are regulated by the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which allows local authorities to investigate complaints and treat the smell as a statutory nuisance if coming from industrial or agricultural activities.

‘Light pollution' is defined as artificial light that is allowed to illuminate, or intrude upon, areas not intended to be lit. Local authorities receiving complaints about artificial light in England and Wales can now assess whether light is a nuisance under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, which extends nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act to cover artificial light emitted from premises (eg, domestic and commercial security lights, artificial light from transport facilities, lighthouses).

2.3 What are the consequences of breach of these regulatory regimes?

Noise nuisance is generally treated as an environmental health matter and is dealt with by the relevant local authority. In certain circumstances, the police can deal with a noise complaint. In serious cases of anti-social behaviour, the police and council can work together to take action against residents under Part 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Councils must investigate complaints about smells from industrial, trade and business premises that could be a ‘statutory nuisance' (covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990). For the smell to count as a statutory nuisance, it must unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premise or injure health or be likely to injure health. If the local authority concludes that that a statutory nuisance is happening, has happened or will happen in the future, it must serve an abatement notice, which requires the person(s) responsible to stop or restrict the smell. The notice will usually be served on the person(s) responsible, but can also be served on the owner or occupier of the premises. Statutory nuisance laws do not apply to smells from residential properties.

3 Climate change/action

3.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing greenhouse gas emissions in your jurisdiction?

On 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom launched its emissions trading scheme (UK ETS). Under this scheme, companies operating in certain sectors can trade emissions allowances (also known as carbon credits). The benefits of this scheme are twofold:

  • It provides continuity from the United Kingdom's participation in the European Union's equivalent emission trading scheme (EU ETS); and
  • It focuses efforts to reach the United Kingdom's goal of reducing all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050.

The key distinguishing feature of the UK ETS is that it has a much more ambitious emissions reduction target than the EU ETS. The United Kingdom's initial cap on the total amount of certain GHGs that can be emitted by the installations covered by the system (ie, allowances) is 5% lower under the UK ETS than the United Kingdom's share cap under the EU ETS. As the UK ETS has a smaller market than the EU ETS, a lower cap will help to maintain market stability by limiting price spikes and aggressive price fluctuations.

3.2 What emissions trading regimes are operational in your jurisdiction and what are their key features?

The Carbon Price Floor (CPF), introduced in April 2013 as part of UK policy of electricity market reform, places a minimum price on GHGs emitted by the power sector. The CPF is designed to supplement the EU ETS transposed into the United Kingdom's domestic GHG Emissions Trading Scheme Regulations 2012, which require companies to buy permits to emit GHGs while generating electricity. Since the price of these permits can fall, the incentive to reduce emissions decreases. The CPF therefore imposes a minimum price that companies must pay in order to pollute, providing a baseline incentive for companies to cut emissions.

3.3 How prominently does renewable energy feature in the energy mix in your jurisdiction? What regulations and other measures have been put in place to promote the use of renewable energy?

In the United Kingdom, there is a variety of renewable energy sources as technologies gain more government and private investment. Currently, 33% of the UK energy supply is obtained from renewables, with half of this coming from wind energy.

The Renewables Obligation scheme is one of the main support mechanisms for large-scale renewable electricity projects in the United Kingdom. Smaller-scale generation is mainly supported through the feed-in tariff scheme.

The Climate Change Levy was introduced in 2001. It is a tax on UK business, collected by energy suppliers, designed to encourage energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and promote energy from renewable sources.

The Offtaker of Last Resort is a government scheme that aims to promote the availability of power purchase agreements (PPAs). It is intended as a last resort to help renewable generators that cannot get a PPA through the usual commercial means.

3.4 What regulations and other measures have been put in place to promote greater energy efficiency in your jurisdiction?

The 2015 Energy Efficiency Regulations set out minimum energy efficiency standards for England and Wales. From 1 April 2018, these regulations make it unlawful for landlords to grant a new lease of properties that have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating below E. Additionally, landlords will not be permitted to continue to let a property with an EPC asset rating of below E unless specific energy efficiency measures have been carried out first or another exemption applies.

3.5 What other initiatives have been rolled out in your jurisdiction to combat climate change and its effects? How are those effects typically manifesting in your jurisdiction at the present time?

The Climate Change Act 2008 contains the world's first legally binding national commitment to cut GHG emissions. In April 2019, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan introduced the Ultra-Low Emission Zone – the toughest vehicle emissions standard to help reduce toxic air pollution and protect public health.

3.6 What impact is Covid-19 likely to have on climate action in your jurisdiction?

The UK Committee on Climate Change, expanding on its advice to the prime minister in May 2020, set out a series of priorities in its Progress Repost to Parliament, published in June 2021. These priorities include the following:

  • Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future: There are vital new employment and reskilling opportunities across the country if governments support a national plan to renovate buildings and construct new housing to the highest standards of energy and water efficiency, to begin the shift to low-carbon heating systems and to protect against overheating. The roll-out of ‘green passports' for buildings and local area energy plans can begin immediately.
  • Tree planting, peatland restoration and green infrastructure: Investing in nature, including in towns and cities, offers another quick route to opportunities for highly skilled employment and outcomes that improve people's lives. By making substantial changes in the use of land, which are needed to meet the United Kingdom's net zero target, significant benefits can be realised for the climate, biodiversity, air quality and flood prevention.
  • Strengthening energy networks for the net zero energy transformation in order to support electrification of transport and heating: The government has the regulatory tools to bring forward private sector investment. New hydrogen and carbon capture and storage infrastructure will provide a route to establishing new low-carbon British industries. Fast-tracked electric vehicle charging points will hasten the move towards the full phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 or earlier.
  • Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle and work remotely: Dedicated safe spaces for walking and cycling, more bike parking and support for shared bikes and e-scooters can help the nation get back to work in a more sustainable way. For home working to be truly a widespread option, resilient digital technology (5G and fibre broadband) will be needed.
  • Moving towards a circular economy: Within the next five years, reuse and recycling rates should be rapidly increased and biodegradable waste should no longer be sent to landfill. Local authorities need support to invest strategically in separated waste collections and recycling infrastructure and to create new regional jobs.

The report concludes that COVID-19 lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. However, sustained reductions in emissions require sustained government leadership, underpinned by a strong net zero strategy. The report provides 50 recommendations, including the following:

  • Restore 100% of upland peat by 2045, including through a ban on rotational burning;
  • Bring forward proposed plans to address overheating risk in homes through building regulations;
  • Make the government's next round of adaptation reporting mandatory for all infrastructure sectors;
  • Build a strong emergency resilience capability for the United Kingdom against climate shocks, learning from the COVID-19 response; and
  • Implement a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation.

4 Environmental permits and approvals

4.1 What environmental permits and approvals are required in your jurisdiction, and when are these typically required?

Under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, permits are needed to carry out a wide range of specified activities. These activities range from anything that produces emissions from nuclear power stations and sewage treatments plant to scrap metal and other activities which may pollute the air, water or land. For some activities (principally relating to waste), a permit cannot be granted if relevant planning permission is not already in place. For others, it is up to the applicant to decide whether to apply for a permit before or after applying for planning permission. Depending on the activity, applicants must apply to either the Environment Agency or the relevant local authority. The regulator will normally take up to 13 weeks to determine the application and will charge both for determining the application and for ongoing regulation of the permit. The charges vary according to the nature of the activity.

An environmental permit is required to operate the following:

  • an ‘installation' – that is, an industrial facility, manufacturer or other business that produces potentially harmful substances (eg, a landfill site, a large chicken farm, a food factory, a furniture factory, a dry cleaners or a petrol station);
  • a waste operation – that is, a site where waste is recycled, stored, treated or disposed of;
  • a mining waste operation – that is, a site which manages waste produced from mines or quarries;
  • a medium combustion plant or specified generator;
  • a small waste incineration plant where certain types and quantities of waste are burned;
  • a mobile plant which is designed to move or be moved, such as a machine that is moved onto a site to clean contaminated soil; and
  • a solvent emission activity, which releases organic solvents directly or indirectly into the air.

Unless the activity falls within an exclusion or an exemption, an environmental permit is needed to carry out:

  • standalone water discharge activities that involve releasing polluting liquids to surface water such as rivers or streams; and
  • standalone groundwater activities that involve releasing polluting liquids directly or indirectly to water underground.

An environmental permit is needed for activities which involve radioactive substances.

An environmental permit may be needed for flood risk activities:

  • in, under, over or near a main river (including where the river is in a culvert);
  • on or near a flood defence on a main river;
  • in the flood plain of a main river; and
  • on or near a sea defence.

4.2 What is the process for obtaining environmental permits and approvals? If a permit or approval is refused, can the decision be appealed?

An application for environmental permits and approval from the Environment Agency must be completed on the relevant form and submitted with the required fee. Before applying for a permit, it is advisable to contact the Environment Agency's pre-application advice service to ensure that the application is correct.

Once the application is ‘duly made' (ie, there is no missing information and the correct fee has been paid), the agency has four months to process the application (except for dry cleaners and small waste oil burners, for which the time limit is three months). If the permit has not been granted four months after submission of the completed application, the applicant may presume that it has been refused and an appeal can be made.

In certain cases, a legal challenge by way of judicial review may be available. This is a specific review of the decision(s) of a public authority with specific rules and timeframes. It is available in limited circumstances. The appeal time will vary depending on the type of appeal. Applications for judicial review must be made promptly and in any event within three months of the date on which the grounds first arose.

4.3 What is the duration of environmental permits and approvals?

The duration of environmental permits and approvals will vary depending on the nature of the activity in question. Specific advice should be sought in each individual case.

4.4 What, if any, requirements and restrictions apply to the transfer of environmental permits and approvals?

A joint application to transfer an environmental permit must be made by the existing and proposed permit holders. Fees are required for the transfer of permits, which are usually changed annually.

4.5 What ongoing rights and obligations apply to the holder of an environmental permit or approval?

The holder of an environmental permit or approval is under:

  • a duty to observe the perimeters of the permit or approval; and
  • an ongoing duty to disclose any material changes in circumstances.

4.6 What are the consequences of breach of an environmental approval or permit?

The consequences include:

  • enforcement notices;
  • clean-up notices;
  • fines;
  • imprisonment; and
  • civil sanctions.

5 Waste management

5.1 How is ‘waste' defined and regulated in your jurisdiction? Does the regime vary depending on the type of waste involved?

Article 3(1) of the 2008 Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) defines ‘waste' as "any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard".

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 imposes a duty of care on persons concerned with handling waste. This duty of care affects anyone that produces, imports, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste; or that, as a broker, has control of such waste. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides for the management of pollution from industrial processes. It deals with issues relating to waste on land, defining all aspects of waste management, and places a duty on local authorities to collect waste. Businesses have a duty to ensure that any waste they produce is handled safely and within the appropriate legal framework.

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) aims to reduce reliance on landfill as a disposal option. It seeks to reduce the environmental impacts on landfills and reduce the risk to human health, imposing a consistent minimum standard for landfills across the European Union. The Landfill Directive:

  • sets minimum standards for the location, design, construction and operation of landfills;
  • sets targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill;
  • controls the nature of waste accepted for landfills;
  • defines the different categories of waste (municipal waste, hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste and inert waste); and
  • applies to all landfills, defined as waste disposal sites for the deposit of waste onto or into the land.

The Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 were introduced as part of a framework for the controlled management of hazardous waste and to replace the Special Waste Regulations. The new definition of ‘hazardous waste' covers a much wider range of waste and is far broader than that of ‘special waste'. It is commonly defined as waste that contains substances or possesses properties that may make it harmful to human health or the surrounding environment.

The Packaging Waste Regulations were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1997 to meet the requirements of the EU Directive on Packaging Waste, with the aim of increasing the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in a consistent way and reducing the amount of packaging used altogether. In 2011, 10.8 million tons of packaging waste were disposed of in the United Kingdom, with 67% being recovered.

5.2 What key rights and obligations apply to waste operators in your jurisdiction? What are the consequences of breach?

A duty of care applies to anyone that imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of, or that is a dealer or broker that has control of, controlled waste (referred to as a ‘waste holder').

Waste holders include the following:

  • Waste producer: Any person whose activities produce waste, including:
    • private sector businesses such as shops, offices, factories and tradespersons (eg, electricians, builders, glaziers and plumbers);
    • public sector services such as schools, hospitals and prisons;
    • charities and voluntary and community groups; and
    • permitted operations or exempt facilities that produce waste as part of their activities.
  • Anyone that carries out a waste operation that changes the nature or composition of the waste is regarded as a producer of the waste. Waste producers play a key role under the duty of care requirements, as they are in the best position to identify the nature and characteristics of the waste.
  • Waste carrier: Anyone that normally and regularly collects, carries or transports waste in the course of any business or with a view to profit, including those that produce and transport their own waste (eg, builders and landscape gardeners).
  • Waste dealer: Any person, business or organisation that buys waste with the aim of subsequently selling it, including in circumstances where the dealer does not take physical possession of the waste
  • Waste broker: Any person, business or organisation that arranges waste transportation and management of waste on behalf of another party, such as organisations contracting out waste collection services (eg, local authorities, supermarkets and producer responsibility compliance schemes).
  • Waste manager: Anyone involved in the collection, transport, recovery or disposal of controlled waste, including the supervision of these operations, the aftercare of disposal sites and actions taken as a dealer or broker.

The duty of care requirements apply to households, industrial and commercial waste, also known as ‘controlled waste'. Whether a substance or object is waste is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The following definitions describe common waste operations and processes:

  • Recovery: Any operation which has the main result of waste serving a useful purpose by replacing non-waste materials that would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function. An example is incineration for energy recovery.
  • Preparation for reuse: The operation or process of checking, cleaning or repairing products that have previously been discarded so that they can be reused without any other pre-processing – for example, repairing bicycles, furniture or electrical or electronic equipment which has been previously discarded by the owner.
  • Recycling: Any operation by which waste is reprocessed into products, materials or substances, whether for its original or other purposes – for example, crushed glass graded for blasting or playground surfaces from waste tyres.
  • Disposal: Any operation which is not recovery even where the operation has a secondary consequence of reclaiming substances or energy – for example, landfill.
  • Treatment: Any recovery or disposal operation, including preparation prior to recovery or disposal.

Waste holders have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure that when waste is transferred to another waste holder, the waste is managed correctly throughout its complete journey to disposal or recovery. This can be done by:

  • checking that the next waste holder is authorised to take the waste;
  • asking the next waste holder where it is going to take the waste and checking that the intended destination is authorised to accept that waste; and
  • carrying out more detailed checks if it is suspected that the waste is not being handled in line with the duty of care – for example, requesting evidence that waste has arrived at the intended destination and has been accurately described.

Waste holders with a duty of care must:

  • prevent unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal of waste;
  • prevent a breach by any other person to meet the requirements to have an environmental permit, or a breach of a permit condition;
  • prevent the escape of waste from one's control;
  • ensure that any person to whom the waste will be transferred has the correct authorisation; and
  • provide an accurate description of the waste when it is transferred to another person.

5.3 Are any producer responsibility regimes applicable in your jurisdiction?

The United Kingdom has an extended producer responsibility regime in force for the recycling of waste packaging. This means that all businesses which make or use packaging – excluding certain smaller companies – have a legal obligation to ensure that a proportion of what they place on the market is recovered and recycled. The regime came into force in 1997 and was updated in 2007 with the introduction of the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007. There have been a number of amendments to the regulations since 2007. Under the regulations, packaging producers can meet their recycling obligations by buying recycling evidence, known as packaging waste recovery notes or packaging waste export recovery notes (PERNs), from accredited reprocessors or exporters. The system is known in the industry as the PERN system.

6 Hazardous substances

6.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances in your jurisdiction?

The most significant pieces of legislation relating to hazardous substances include the following:

  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 sets out the steps employers must take to prevent, reduce or control the exposure of workers to any materials that may be hazardous to their health. All companies must complete a risk assessment.
  • The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 classifies explosive, oxidising and flammable materials as ‘dangerous', given that they can create or contribute to an explosive atmosphere. Employers must identify all potential hazards from explosive materials and put a plan in place for handling them.
  • The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require the ‘duty holder' to conduct an assessment to determine whether there is any asbestos present.

6.2 What key rights and obligations apply to operators of hazardous sites in your jurisdiction?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 set out the framework for the rights and obligations which apply to operators of hazardous sites in the United Kingdom.

6.3 What reporting requirements apply to environmental accidents in your jurisdiction?

The following matters should be reported to the Environment Agency:

  • damage or danger to the natural environment;
  • pollution to water or land;
  • poaching or illegal fishing;
  • dead fish or fish gasping for air;
  • main rivers blocked by a vehicle or fallen tree causing risk of flooding;
  • flooding from any river, stream, canal, natural spring or the sea;
  • incidents at Environment Agency-regulated waste sites;
  • illegal removals from watercourses;
  • unusual changes in river flow; and
  • collapsed or badly damaged river or canal banks.

The following matters should be reported to the local authority:

  • burst water mains;
  • noise;
  • waste;
  • fly tipping;
  • pest nuisance;
  • discarded syringes; and
  • dangerous buildings and structures.

6.4 What is the process for investigating environmental accidents in your jurisdiction?

The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (COMAH) require that businesses take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances and limit the consequences to individuals and the environment of any major accidents which occur.

The COMAH competent authority undertakes investigations. The investigation may be concerned with issues related to COMAH or another legislative regime, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act or the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

6.5 What are the potential consequences of breach of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances – both for operators themselves and for directors, managers and employees?

The potential consequences of breach of the regulatory regime governing hazardous activities and substances are very serious. They include fines, imprisonment or both.

7 Contaminated land

7.1 What are the key features of the regulatory regime governing contaminated land in your jurisdiction?

The system for identifying and remediating statutorily defined ‘contaminated land' under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides a risk-based approach to the identification and remediation of land where contamination poses an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.

Building regulations require that reasonable precautions be taken to avoid risks to health and safety caused by contaminants in ground to be covered by buildings and associated ground.

7.2 Who bears the liability for the clean-up of contaminated land? Can such liability be excluded or subcontracted/delegated?

Section 78F of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines who may be an ‘appropriate person' – that is, a person liable to remediate the contaminated land. In short, a person is liable if it "caused or knowingly permitted" the contaminating substance(s) "to be in, on or under" the land in question. If, "after reasonable inquiry", no such person can be found, the responsibility for remediation falls to the owner or occupier of the land.

The person that either caused or knowingly permitted the contamination is liable. Such a person is categorised as a Class A person. If no Class A person can be found, the current owner or occupier of the site becomes liable and is categorised as a Class B person. A Class B person need not have been aware of the contamination occurring in order to be liable for it. Given the potential scale of remediation costs, the process of identifying the presence of contaminated land is a key issue in property transactions and corporate acquisitions involving the transfer of land. Where multiple Class A or Class B persons exist, the enforcing authority will apportion liability according to the rules set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

7.3 How is liability determined in cases where multiple parties have contributed to the contamination?

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 sets out the process for determining liability. Section 78F(7) of the act deals with the determination of the appropriate person to bear responsibility for remediation and provides that: "Where two or more persons are appropriate persons in relation to any particular thing which is to be done by way of remediation, they shall be liable to bear the cost of doing that thing in proportions determined by the enforcing authority in accordance with guidance issued for the purpose by the Secretary of State."

7.4 Can individuals bring proceedings against polluters, landowners and/or occupiers where they have been affected by contamination? If so, which court/tribunal is competent to deal with such proceedings?

Yes. There are multiple causes of action potentially available which, depending on the value of the claim, can be brought in the county court or the High Court.

8 Reporting, auditing and disclosure

8.1 Are any public registers of environmental information maintained in your jurisdiction? If so, what are they, who can access them and how? What possibilities exist for third parties to access environmental information and what is the process for doing so?

The Environment Agency is obliged to maintain and make available for inspection public registers of information. Requests for information may be made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which provides for a public right of access to information held by public authorities.

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 is a UK statutory instrument that provides a statutory right of access to environmental information held by UK public authorities. The regulations came into force on 1 January 2005.

8.2 What environmental reporting requirements apply to companies in your jurisdiction?

From 1 April 2019, quoted companies must report on their global energy use and large businesses must disclose their UK annual energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is required by the Companies (Directors' Report) and Limited Liability Partnerships (Energy and Carbon Report) Regulations 2018.

The Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors' Reports) Regulations 2013 amended the Large and Medium-sized Companies and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2008 to require quoted companies to report information on GHG emissions in their directors' reports. ‘Quoted companies', as defined by the Companies Act 2006, must report on environmental matters (including the impact of their activities on the environment), to the extent that this is necessary for an understanding of their business, within their annual report, including the use of key performance indicators where appropriate.

8.3 Are companies in your jurisdiction subject to environmental audit requirements?

The Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors' Report) Regulations 2013 introduced changes to require quoted companies to report their annual emissions and an intensity ratio in their directors' reports.

The Companies (Directors' Report) and Limited Liability Partnerships (Energy and Carbon Report) Regulations 2018 introduced additional disclosure requirements for quoted companies. These regulations introduce requirements for large unquoted companies and limited liability partnerships to disclose their annual energy use and GHG emissions, and related information.

8.4 When and how must environmental issues be disclosed (eg, in the event of the potential sale of land or a merger or acquisition)?

The scope and extent of environmental due diligence carried out during transactions will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the type of transaction (eg, share purchase or asset purchase);
  • the nature of the assets being purchased or the business of the company whose shares are being purchased;
  • the client (eg, the buyer, seller, lender or guarantor);
  • the value of the transaction;
  • the location of the shares or other assets being acquired (eg, United Kingdom or abroad);
  • the type of due diligence required (eg, high-level draft, full report or certificate of title);
  • any materiality threshold below which it is agreed that any risks and liabilities are not to be explored or reported on;
  • the timeframe allowed for the due diligence to be carried out; and
  • the confidentiality or market sensitivity of the transaction.

During this process, if it is identified that the target has failed to comply with all relevant environmental permits and licences, or has failed to provide information about any indemnities or other provision made in relation to environmental liabilities, such issues must be disclosed immediately to the parties that may be potentially affected.

9 Tax

9.1 What environmental and climate taxes are applicable in your jurisdiction?

The Climate Change Levy (CCL), adding approximately 15% to energy bills of businesses and public sector organisations, is a carbon tax designed to encourage both the use of energy from renewable resources and the use of less energy more generally. Four categories of taxable commodities are subject to the CCL:

  • electricity;
  • natural gas as supplied by a gas utility;
  • petroleum; and
  • hydrocarbon gas in a liquid state.

The Carbon Price Floor (CPF) places a minimum price on greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by the power sector. The CPF is designed to supplement the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, transposed into the United Kingdom's domestic GHG Emissions Trading Scheme Regulations 2012, which require companies to buy permits to emit GHGs while generating electricity. Since the price of these permits can fall, the incentive to reduce emissions decreases. The CPF therefore imposes a minimum price that companies must pay in order to pollute, providing a baseline incentive for companies to cut emissions.

9.2 Are any exemptions or incentives available?

The CCL takes forward the UK government's policy on environmental taxation and is a central part of its strategy to achieve a 12.5% reduction in GHG emissions, agreed under the Kyoto protocol.

The levy is estimated to save around 5 million tonnes of carbon per annum by 2010 and is expected to raise £1 billion in its first full year. At least half of these savings should be achieved through CCL agreements with energy-intensive sectors.

The tax is levied at the point of sale to the final consumer. In order to avoid double taxation, it will not apply where a taxable commodity is used to produce another taxable commodity.

The UK government has notified several exemption or reduced rates from the tax, for a period of 10 years. This duration is meant to allow business to plan the necessary investments in energy savings and to gain legal certainty for their investment planning and actual decisions.

The subjects of the notification in question are as follows:

  • Exemption for electricity, gas and coal used in public transport and rail freight (diesel and petrol are not within the scope of the tax, as they are already subject to excise duties): The main beneficiaries of this exemption will be mainline railways, light railways, London Underground and rail freight companies using electricity.
  • Exemption for input fuels and electricity generated by ‘good-quality' combined heat and power (CHP): This technology makes significant fuel and emissions savings over conventional, separate forms of power generation and heat-only boilers. The generation of electricity and the recovery of heat in CHP schemes typically achieve overall energy use efficiencies of 60% to 80% and sometimes more, compared to efficiency rates in the range of 25% to 50% for the generation and supply of electricity from conventional power stations which reject the unutilised energy content as heat directly into the atmosphere or into seas or rivers. Some of the heat cogenerated in a CHP scheme is typically used in industrial processes or for heating and hot water in buildings. The heat used in this way displaces heat that would otherwise have to be supplied by burning additional fuel and so leads directly to a reduction in emissions. The development of CHP provides a particularly environmentally effective approach for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. ‘Good-quality' CHP plants must meet a set of criteria ensuring a particularly efficient use of energy.
  • Exemption for electricity generated from some energy sources: The technologies eligible for exemption include:
    • wind energy;
    • hydropower up to 10 megawatts;
    • tidal power;
    • wave energy;
    • photovoltaics;
    • photoconversion;
    • geothermal hot dry rock;
    • geothermal aquifers;
    • the biodegradable fraction of municipal and industrial wastes;
    • landfill gas;
    • agriculture and forestry waste;
    • energy crops; and
    • sewage gas.
  • This exemption is also applicable to imported electricity from the same energy sources.
  • Reductions for companies entering into climate change agreements: Those sectors that can agree targets for improving their energy efficiency or reducing carbon emissions will benefit from an 80% discount of the levy. Climate change agreements have already been concluded between the UK authorities and numerous sectors, including the chemical, aluminium, food and drink, paper, glass, ceramics, cement and steel industries. Monitoring and evaluation of the targets will ensure that they are respected and remain challenging over the 10-year period.

9.3 What strategies might parties consider to mitigate their environmental and climate tax liabilities?

In mitigating environmental tax liability, parties should consider taking up commercial activities that utilise renewable sources of energy. Carbon tax credits should also be considered.

10 Insurance

10.1 What types of environmental insurance arrangements are put in place in your jurisdiction? Is there any mandatory environmental insurance in your jurisdiction? How sophisticated is the environmental insurance market? What, if anything, is excluded from insurance cover?

Environmental impairment liability covers claims for:

  • personal injury;
  • damage to property;
  • clean-up expenses;
  • legal expenses; and
  • fines that have been incurred as a result of pollution.

Often property and liability insurance policies have exclusions relating to pollution, which means that additional insurance for pollution-related damage is still required. Since the extent of the pollution exclusions varies from policy to policy, numerous different types of environment insurance policies have been developed by insurance companies to cover them.

Environmental insurance is a risk transfer solution to indemnify the insured against losses arising as a result of potential environmental liabilities. The insured for property-based coverage can be the buyer or seller of a property, or often both.

A separate environmental insurance policy is often required because public liability insurance typically excludes environmental liabilities with the exception of sudden, unintended and unexpected pollution incidents. Public liability insurance will only provide cover for third-party damages and not for the remediation of the property of the insured.

Lloyd's of London – the oldest and most sophisticated insurance market in the world – and a number of other insurers provide environmental insurance.

10.2 What are the ‘green finance' arrangements in your jurisdiction? To whom do they apply? What, if any, obligations do they impose? Who is responsible for monitoring, enforcing and reviewing such arrangements in your jurisdiction?

In June 2021, the UK Debt Management Office and Her Majesty's Treasury published the UK government's Green Financing Framework. This framework describes how the UK government plans to finance expenditures through the issuance of green gilts and the retail Green Savings Bonds that will be critical in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges, funding much-needed infrastructure investment and creating green jobs across the United Kingdom. It sets out the basis for the identification, selection, verification and reporting of the green projects that are eligible for financing from the proceeds of the UK government's green gilt programme and the retail Green Savings Bonds. The framework aligns with the Green Bond Principles as published by the International Capital Market Association (ICMA).

The ‘green finance' arrangements in the United Kingdom are discussed below.

Green loans: This is used as a generic term for any type of loan instrument whose proceeds are used to finance or refinance environmentally sustainable activity. In March 2018, the Loan Markets Association and the Asia Pacific Loan Market Association launched the Green Loan Principles with the support of the ICMA. The Green Loan Principles act as a framework of market standards and guidelines, with the aim of ensuring consistency in the methodology used across the green loan market. They are based on ICMA's Green Bond Principles, with the aim of producing uniformity across the financial markets.

Demand for green loans has increased exponentially over the past few years as companies seek to enhance their perceived green credentials and also in light of the anticipation of increased reporting and regulatory oversight in this area.

Sustainability-linked loans (SLLs): These loans present an alternative format of green or sustainable loan whereby the interest rate of the loan can be stepped up or down according to the borrower's change in sustainability rating over the time period of the loan. While SLLs have been used for some years, publication of the Sustainability-Linked Loan Principles marks the first time that a set of sustainable finance principles from an industry body has deviated from the ‘use of proceeds' model.

Green bonds: Green bonds are a natural source of financing for issuers that have a financing or refinancing requirement for a green project. There does not currently appear to be a premium for green bonds compared to non-green bonds of the same issuer. An issuer that will use the proceeds to finance projects towards its environmentally friendly programmes (eg, to reduce its carbon footprint or waste from its ordinary business activities) can also tap the market and further signal its commitment to its cause. Green bonds can be attractive to investors with the right balance of the green and commercial aspects.

Sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs): These are bonds whereby the proceeds from the issuance are not ring-fenced for green or sustainable purposes (unlike ‘use of proceeds' green bonds or sustainable bonds), and may be used for general corporate purposes or other purposes. Instead, the SLBs are linked to the performance of certain key performance indicators in achieving pre-defined sustainability performance targets; depending on whether this is achieved, certain characteristics of the SLBs may vary (eg, coupon ratchet). Therefore, issuers are committing explicitly to future improvements in sustainability outcomes with a pre-defined timeline. SLBs are a forward-looking performance-based instrument.

Sustainable securitisations: Certain characteristics differentiate sustainable securitisations from conventional securitisations, as follows:

  • the sustainability of the assets backing the securities;
  • the potential to amalgamate sustainable assets into pools to fund sustainable structures;
  • the sustainable use of proceeds of the securities (under the ICMA's Green Bond Principles); and
  • the constituents of the investor base.

Although the sustainable securitisation market has expanded over the past few years, much of its potential remains latent. This is due to a perceived lack of readily available sustainable assets to collateralise. However, there is now a critical mass of eligible assets – such as sustainable corporate loans, sustainable mortgages and loans for hybrid and electric vehicles – to make sustainable securitisations viable and profitable. It is now just a question of market education and re-examination of potentially eligible assets for sustainability.

On 12 October 2021, the Geneva Association and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development held a high-level meeting entitled "Future Proofing Technological Innovations for a Resilient Net-Zero Economy". The main purpose of the meeting was to sketch out some of the discussions that will take place at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

The key messages from the meeting were as follows:

  • Insurers will play a vital role in assessing, pricing and managing risks relating to untested technologies for sectors to transition to net-zero emissions. Innovations in insurance products and services are needed to support adoption and large-scale deployment, where market conditions allow.
  • Deeper cross-sectoral partnerships can fast track the de-risking and adoption of new technologies – particularly between insurers, carbon-intensive industries, technology and engineering companies, the financial sector and governments.
  • Enhanced coordination of public and private investments, alignment of investors' risk/return profiles and de-risking could enable more sustained financing for the commercialisation of climate technologies.
  • Governments can create an enabling environment to incentivise market development and boost demand for technological innovations in energy, transportation, food and water systems and other carbon-intensive sectors – as well as the greening of the public infrastructure.

11 Disputes

11.1 In which forums are environmental and climate change disputes heard in your jurisdiction?

Traditionally, there have been no specialist environmental courts or tribunals in England and Wales. Prosecutions for environmental offences – such as causing pollution, knowingly permitting pollution, breach of statutory duty, breach of a prohibition and failure to comply with a notice – are dealt with the criminal courts before general criminal judges. Private civil actions for damages or other civil remedies arising from environmental issues are heard in the ordinary civil courts.

Public cases, where the legality of a decision of a government decision such as the Environmental Agency is challenged (whether by industry or by non-governmental organisations), are heard at first instance in the Administrative Court by High Court judges assigned to that division.

11.2 What issues do such disputes involve?

Environmental litigation covers a wide range of matters in the civil courts, from breach of environmental indemnities and statutory environmental torts to nuisance litigation and flooding claims.

Regulatory appeals in the magistrates courts include appeals against abatement notices, enforcement notices, permitting decisions and access to environmental information.

Environmental disputes can include the following:

  • environmental nuisance litigation, including noise, odour and visual impact, airborne dust, aerosols and particulates, and migration of contamination;
  • environmental warranty and indemnity claims arising from corporate and real estate transactions;
  • environmental damage claims arising from:
    • the environmental impact of business operations;
    • the storage and transport of hazardous substances; and
    • the environmental impact of products placed on the market;
  • statutory nuisance appeals of abatement notices, defending abatement notices on behalf of local authorities and advising on Section 82 proceedings;
  • statutory environmental appeals and inquiries, including:
    • environmental permitting decisions;
    • enforcement notices;
    • improvement notices;
    • notices under the contaminated land regime; and
    • public disclosure of environmental information;
  • disputes with environmental professionals for breach of contract, negligence or breach of duty;
  • tribunal hearings, including:
    • environmental damage claims;
    • access to and protection of environmental information; and
    • regulatory appeals;
  • international disputes and appeals arising from decisions of EU and supranational institutions such as the European Chemicals Agency; and
  • flooding disputes, including:
    • civil claims for property damage;
    • challenges to policy; and
    • compensation actions for interference with land ownership.

11.3 What defences and indemnities are available, both for corporates and for individuals?

For certain regulatory environmental offences which are not subject to strict liability, it is a defence to show that:

  • all reasonable steps or precautions were taken and all due diligence was exercised to avoid committing the offence; or
  • the act was necessitated by an emergency to avoid a danger to the public.

Indemnities depend on what contractual arrangements are in place.

11.4 How are environmental disputes resolved?

Administrative action or private resolution between affected parties. Alternative dispute resolution – an out-of-court alternative to litigation to resolve disputes between parties – is often used to resolve environmental disputes.

11.5 Have there been any recent cases of note?

In London Borough of Hillington Council, R (on the application of) v High Speed Two (Hs2) Ltd [2020] EWCA Civ 1005, the Court of Appeal ruled that HS2 Ltd could not rely upon the Environmental Minimum Requirements and had to provide sufficient information to the council in support of its planning applications. The Court of Appeal also rejected HS3 Ltd's contention that it was permissible for it to carry out its own investigations as part of the application process, stating that it would not have been the intention of Parliament to "set up a scheme which gave the appearance that HS2 Ltd was a judge in its own cause".

12 Trends and predictions

12.1 How would you describe the current environment and climate change landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?

The current landscape is best described as mixed, so that one must take care in choosing the procedure relevant to the proposed activity.

In 2020 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough, with the support of a broad range of individuals and organisations dedicated to climate action, launched the Earthshot Prize, which will awarded annually from 2021 to 2030 to five winners each year whose solutions substantially help the environment. The prize is awarded by the Royal Foundation in five separate categories supported by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A £1 million prize will be awarded annually between 2021 and 2030 to a winner in each of the following categories:

  • restoration and protection of nature;
  • air cleanliness;
  • ocean revival;
  • waste-free living; and
  • climate action.

Each area is supported by the SDGs and scientifically agreed international measures. Submissions are open to any individual, team, organisation or government with workable solutions.

13 Tips and traps

13.1 What are your top tips for smooth environmental and climate change compliance in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking points would you highlight?

Environmental protection and climate change are global problems which can only be adequately addressed with cooperation between all stakeholders. It is hoped that the eagerly anticipated COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November 2021 will produce a reliable framework for addressing the pressing environmental and climate challenges facing the planet.

On 11 October 2021, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero initiative, spearheaded by Mark Carney – the former governor of the Bank of England and UN special envoy for climate action and finance – called for action asking G20 governments for a series of key policies towards achieving net zero. These include:

  • ending fossil fuel subsidies and ensuring that these funds are redistributed towards a ‘just' transition to a green economy;
  • banning unabated coal and oil power plants by 2040;
  • introducing mandatory climate reporting for all companies by 2024; and
  • reforming global financial regulations to incentivise green investment.

In terms of potential sticking points, transitioning to electric cars and net zero home heating systems will need to be addressed in a manner that minimises opposition and encourages widespread participation.

Sustainable renewable energy sources will need to be scaled up to ensure a reliable, adequate long-term supply. This assumes that most non-renewable energy sources will have to remain in the ground if the international community is to meet its climate commitments.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.