Maitland Green: Our Weekly Update – 10 May 2018

10th May 2018

News that the government are keen to host COP26 London in 2020, have unveiled plans for a business-backed research centre to tackle plastic pollution, and are being lobbied by senior Conservatives to formally include wind turbines in the Industrial Strategy, has fuelled the impression that the UK wants to make the environment and climate change central issues on which it can lead the world.

Nevertheless, the coalition of environmental groups and NGOs, Greener UK, released their latest Brexit tracker this week. While it celebrates tentative progress, Greener UK warns that environmental protections risk being undermined unless the government puts in place a powerful environmental watchdog following Brexit.

Today the government launched a consultation on its plans for an environmental watchdog in an Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, due to be published in draft form this autumn, alongside plans for new legislation aimed at ensuring core EU environmental principles, such as the “polluter pays” principles, are adhered to after Brexit. The new legislation, Michael Gove promises, will hold government to account on environmental ambitions and obligations. Nevertheless, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party, has been scathing of the proposals, which she called “lacklustre”.

The government proposes the watchdog has three main functions: general scrutiny and advice, handling complaints and enforcing government delivery of environmental law. The government has also proposed two legal options for their environmental principals. The first would be that a set of environmental principals would be listed in the Environmental Principals and Governance Bill, with a statutory policy statement under that legislation to explain how they should be interpreted and applied. The second option would mean environmental principals set out and explained in a statutory policy statement issued under primary legislation. Including the principals in primary legislation would mean future governments would not be able to change a commitment without reference to Parliament, but not legislating a set of principals would offer greater flexibility for Ministers to adopt different principals as scientific knowledge and understanding of environmental challenges evolves.

The proposals in full can be read here. You can submit your views here. The consultation closes midday 2 August 2018.

The News in Brief:

Energy, Emissions & Clean Tech

In Westminster and the EU

Waste & Resources
  • Unilever has revealed its “green brands” are growing 46 per cent faster than the rest of its business. It also revealed that 70 per cent of its revenue growth last year came from its “sustainable living” brands. Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands as those which have the lowest environmental impact in the company’s portfolio. They include all the company’s top six brands including Dove, Lipton, Dirt is Good, Rexona, Hellmann’s and Knorr.
  • Following  plastic-reducing announcements from UK McDonald’s, US McDonald’s has been criticised for “dragging its feet” about phasing out plastic straws. Later this month the shareholders will vote on a proposal to launch a study into alternatives. The chain’s board of directors is urging shareholders to reject the proposal which would divert resources from other environmental initiatives such as a pledge to source all packaging from renewable or recycled sourced by 2025.
  • Sainsburys has abandoned a £10m project to halve food waste in Swadlincote, a town in Derbyshire, after a year-long trial produced miserable results. Sainsburys gave out free gadgets to cut food waste and smart fridges but the experiment suggested households had  cut their waste by only 9 per cent.

In Westminster and the EU

Natural Environment
In Westminster and the EU


Green Finance & Responsible Investing

Analysis of the Week
Sam Richards, Director of the Conservative Environment Network, believes we have a duty to future generations to “leave our country and our planet in a better state than we found it” but argues environmentalists have too often “offered little more than a thinly-veiled assault on the free markets that sustain our modern way of life, and protecting our planet is seen as a chance to sneak socialist dogma in through the back door”. He argues, “despite the doom and gloom from those on the left, going green doesn’t have to mean abandoning your iPhone and restarting life in a clearing in the New Forest. The cutting-edge technology that capitalism provides – from new efficient wind turbines to electric cars – combined with sensible, market driven policies, can cut costs for businesses and consumers while protecting and enhancing our environment for future generations.”

Comment of the Week
Sonia Sodha calls for individual caps on air travel, which people could trade with each other, to help reduce the environmental impact of flying.