Environment, Land & Resources

UK Delays Decision on Adopting EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

Posted in European Environmental and Public Law, Green Finance

The delay may complicate the regulatory landscape for sustainable finance as the EU moves toward a standardized classification system. 

By Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, and Michael D. Green

The UK government (government) has delayed a decision on whether it will adopt the EU’s taxonomy of sustainable finance activities (the Taxonomy) as the UK approaches the end of its post-Brexit transition period.

The European Commission’s Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance, which developed the Taxonomy, published its final report on the document in March 2020. The resulting Taxonomy follows from consultations with more than 200 industry experts and scientists. Continue Reading

UK Publishes Proposed Emissions Trading System

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, European Environmental and Public Law

The proposals outline the potential new UK system after Brexit, which could be linked to the EU Emissions Trading System

By Paul Davies and Michael Green

On 1 June 2020, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published proposals outlining a new UK-wide Emissions Trading System (UK ETS) contained within a response document to a consultation conducted in May 2019. The proposals were jointly designed by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, and the Northern Irish Executive (together, the government). The government has stated that the proposals are a “crucial step” towards achieving the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. Continue Reading

China Proposes Cutting Clean Coal From Revised Green Bond Standards

Posted in Environmental Regulation

The proposal signals continued convergence of international standards as the green bond market further matures.

By Paul Davies, Michael Green, and Aaron Franklin

On 29 May 2020, Chinese regulators published a draft of their 2020 revision to the Green Bond-supported Project Catalogue (Green Project Catalogue) for comments. The Green Project Catalogue comprises a list of projects that are eligible to be included as green projects in a green bond framework approved by Chinese regulators — with the 2020 version marking the first revision to the list since 2015. Perhaps the most eye-catching development in the new Green Project Catalogue is the exclusion of “clean fossil fuels”, a previously included project category that had led to a notable divergence between the projects that are eligible for green financing in China, and those that meet generally accepted market standards in other parts of the world. Continue Reading

Swiss Parliament Considers Responsible Business Initiative

Posted in Environmental Litigation

The initiative has the potential to significantly extend liability for certain Swiss companies in relation to abuses of human and environmental rights.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

Since 1891, Swiss citizens have been able to request changes to the Swiss constitution through popular initiatives. Currently, if an initiative is put forward by a group of at least seven citizens, and subsequently wins the support of 100,000 signatories within 18 months, a nationwide referendum is potentially triggered. However, before the referendum takes place, Swiss legislators may propose a compromise position to the initiative. This compromise proposal will become law if the initiative’s sponsors agree to it; otherwise, the original initiative is submitted for a national referendum.

The Responsible Business Initiative (KVI), put forth in 2016, is one such popular initiative. As currently worded, the KVI sets out due diligence requirements for Swiss-based companies with respect to environmental and human rights, both in Switzerland and abroad. Notably, it also proposes that Swiss-based companies be held liable for environmental and human rights harms caused anywhere within their global supply chain. Continue Reading

The EU Recovery Fund: “Building Back Better” in a Post-COVID-19 World

Posted in European Environmental and Public Law, Green Finance

Do European Commission ambitions signal a new, more sustainable direction of travel for the EU and globally?

By Paul Davies and Michael Green

On 27 May 2020, the European Commission (the Commission) announced a €750 billion stimulus fund aimed at helping the economies of the EU member states recover from the shock sustained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this fund, officially titled Next Generation EU, the Commission hopes to “build back better”, through channels that contribute to a greener, more sustainable and resilient society. When combined with the proposed €1.1 trillion EU budget for the next seven years, the Commission’s wider recovery plan comes to a total of €1.85 trillion.

The plan follows the Commission’s Green Deal, which was announced in December 2019. The Green Deal was proposed as a framework of legislation from which the bloc could achieve its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To decarbonise the economy, the Green Deal envisages government spending and public initiatives worth €100 billion per year, according to the Commission’s European Green Deal Investment Plan. Discussions surrounding the Green Deal had gained traction prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as considerations on how best to tackle the social and economic issues raised by the transition to a carbon-free economy. Continue Reading

Aftermarket Defeat Devices and the Clean Air Act – Are Citizen Suits A Threat?

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change

A recent federal court decision in Utah renews the question of whether defeat device and tampering prohibitions constitute “an emission standard or limitation”.

By Arthur F. Foerster

A non-profit citizen group, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, is seeking nearly US$1.5 million in costs and attorneys’ fees after successfully prosecuting a citizen action in Utah federal court for violations of the defeat device and tampering provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA, or the Act).[i] Section 304 of the CAA authorizes persons to enforce compliance with “an emission standard or limitation” or an “order” issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a state with respect thereto, after notice is provided and so long as the EPA or state is not already litigating an action to require compliance with the standard, limitation, or order.[ii]

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