Environment calendar – January 2007

United Kingdom

The environment calendar highlights key dates for proposed and existing legislation and policy and closing dates for consultation papers relating to major environment issues in the EU and England.

It will provide a useful tool for environment managers tracking new legislation for the purpose of implementing an environment management system such as ISO 14001 or EMAS.

It will also be helpful for those in environment technologies industries seeking new opportunities by highlighting upcoming legislation.

Key developments and dates this month include:

  • The European Commission launched a major package of energy and climate policy proposals on Wednesday 10th January 2007. The overall aim of the proposals is sustainable, secure and competitive energy. The Commission proposes that the EU set an example by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by limiting dependence on fossil fuel.

In the proposals the Commission reaffirms the goal of a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, which was part of last October’s energy efficiency action plan. Other proposals set out in the package include;

  • A proposed binding target for the EU to achieve a 20% share of renewable energy by 2020 against 1990 levels but with an objective in international negotiations for developed countries to achieve a 30% reduction, plus a 10% target for biofuels.
  • Reaffirmation of the central role of emissions trading as a key mechanism for reducing greenhouse gases and the basis for international efforts to fight climate change.
  • A commitment to install carbon capture and storage in several fossil fuel power stations by 2015 and phase out plants without it.
  • A political boost for nuclear power, possibly leading to development of new EU rules on safety and security.
  • Measures to make EU energy markets more competitive and to create European gas and electricity grids.

Altogether, the package consists of ten main papers and supporting documents. The ten main papers are; the overarching "energy policy for Europe", Post 2012 climate policy, Strategic energy technology plan, Renewable energy road map, Renewable electricity progress report, Biofuels progress report, Sustainable fossil fuel power generation, Nuclear illustrative programme, Internal market for gas and electricity and Gas electricity infrastructure.

The proposals, however, have not been welcomed by many environmental groups who have criticised the proposed binding 20 per cent reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and are demanding a unilateral 30 per cent target be set. They argue that the Commission has fallen behind several leading EU member states on this issue. They also criticised the lack of measures relating to heating and cooling from renewable energy sources.

  • Defra launched a consultation on 18th December 2006 on Trans-frontier Shipment of Waste Regulations and the UK Management Plan for Exports and Imports of waste. This follows changes to the EC Waste Shipments Regulation that will apply in July 2007. The consultation will be of particular interest to those who notify shipments of waste to UK competent authorities, transport waste to or from the UK, prepare waste for shipment from the UK, and those who treat waste that has been shipped into the UK. Local authorities whose waste may be shipped out of the UK for recovery overseas and non-governmental organisations with an interest in the recycling of waste may have a specific interest.
  • The Water Resources (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 came into force on the 31st December 2006. The aim of the amendments is to improve public participation in the process of carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment. The regulations incorporate provisions to reflect changes which have been made to the abstraction and impounding licensing system under the Water Resources Act 1991.
  • The Groundwater Directive (2006/118 /EC), a daughter directive of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, was published in the OJ on the 12th December 2006 and came into force 1st January 2007.

Specific measures to prevent and control groundwater pollution in order to prevent the deterioration of the status of all bodies of groundwater include:

  • criteria for the assessment of good groundwater chemical status; and
  • criteria for the identification and reversal of significant and sustained upward trends and for the definition of starting points for trend reversals.

Defra launched a consultation on 29 December 2006 on the other proposed Water Framework Directive on Priority Substances (which include pesticides, biocides and heavy metals). The proposed Directive includes;

  • Setting environmental quality standards (EQSs) in water for Priority Substances. This includes an annual average concentration for all substances and a maximum allowed concentration for most substances.
  • An obligation on Member States to ensure that concentrations of Priority Substances do not increase in sediment and biota.
  • Biota standards for 3 substances.
  • Allowing member states to designate ‘Transitional Areas of Exceedance’ where EQSs can be exceeded without prejudicing a water body’s ability to achieve ‘good status’ under the Water Framework Directive.
  • Requiring member states to draw up inventories of emissions, discharges and losses of Priority Substances.