Regulatory Outlook

Environment | UK Regulatory Outlook June 2024

Published on 26th Jun 2024

UK general election 2024: environmental law aspects | Government launches survey for post-implementation review of Habitats Regulations | Council adopts EU Nature Restoration Law

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UK general election 2024: environmental law aspects

As the UK approaches its general election, the two main contenders to form the next government, the Conservative and Labour parties have unveiled their manifestos, each setting out plans on environmental matters.

Labour has sets out its plan to end North Sea oil and gas licences, create a National Wealth Fund to drive the decarbonisation of energy intensive sectors, and introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) to mitigate the risk of carbon leakage from imported goods. See our Insight for more on these and other aspects of the manifestos.

The Conservatives' manifesto includes recommitting to net zero by 2050, reforming the Climate Change Committee, implementing an import carbon pricing mechanism by 2027, building two carbon capture clusters, and running annual gas and oil licensing rounds. Overall, the party has included far fewer climate and net-zero specific pledges than the other main parties. It is instead focusing on limiting the cost of decarbonisation on households.

Government launches survey for post-implementation review of Habitats Regulations 

The Habitats Regulations give protection to habitat sites designated as (or potentially) Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites. They require the relevant authority to undertake a Habitats Regulations assessment on the impacts of proposed developments that are likely to have a significant effect on such sites. The assessment process has been cited as delaying housebuilding due to nutrient neutrality requirements. The survey, launched by Defra, seeks evidence of the regulations' effectiveness, any unintended consequences and suggestions for possible refinements, including whether their objectives can be achieved with less regulation. Evidence obtained from the survey, which closes on 5 July, will be used to inform the review and may also support future wider policy work on the regulations.

Council adopts EU Nature Restoration Law

On 17 June 2024 the Council of the EU formally adopted the Nature Restoration Law. This law aims to put measures in place to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

The regulation requires Member States to establish and implement measures to jointlyrestore, as an EU target, at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030. Until 2030, Member States will prioritise Natura 2000 sites when implementing the restoration measures.

On habitats deemed in poor condition, as listed in the regulation, Member States will take measures to restore:

  • at least 30% by 2030
  • at least 60% by 2040
  • at least 90% by 2050

The law also includes provisions relating to the restoration of (i) urban ecosystems; (ii) the natural connectivity of rivers: (iii) pollinator populations,(iv) agricultural ecosystems, and (v) forest ecosystems, and there is a commitment to plant at least 3 billion additional trees by 2030 at Union level.

Under the new rules, Member States must plan ahead and submit national restoration plans to the Commission, showing how they will deliver on the targets. They must also monitor and report on their progress, based on EU-wide biodiversity indicators.

The regulation will now be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force. It will becomedirectly applicable in all Member States.


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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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