Regulatory Outlook

Environment | UK Regulatory Outlook October 2023

Published on 31st Oct 2023

UK government publishes draft Vehicle Emissions trading schemes order | Consultation opens on proposed ban of wet wipes containing plastic | Government delays mandatory biodiversity net gain to January 2024

UK government publishes draft Vehicle Emissions trading schemes order

On 16 October 2023, the government published a draft order establishing four UK wide trading schemes that are due to operate from 1 January 2024, two in relation to Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) production and two in relation to CO2 emissions.

The ZEV production schemes relate to the number of vehicle registrations made by manufacturers, and the allowances for non-ZEVs will decrease annually from 2024. If fewer non-ZEVs are registered than their target then the manufacturer will have surplus allowances. If they register more than their target then they will be in deficit and will need to purchase additional allowances. Surplus allowances can be traded or banked.

The CO2 standard schemes work in a similar way, however allowances are based on a baseline per-vehicle emissions target. Manufacturers must have one allowance for every gram CO2/km they emit on average across their entire fleet. Again, sufficient allowances will be given for manufacturers to meet their targets and surpluses can be traded and banked. If there are deficits, allowances must be bought or can be transferred from ZEV scheme surpluses.

Consultation opens on proposed ban of wet wipes containing plastic

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a UK-wide consultation on the proposed ban on the manufacture, supply and sale of wet wipes containing plastic, with the aim of reducing plastic and microplastic pollution in the country's waters and improving water quality.

The proposal forms part of the government's Plan for Water in delivering more investment, stronger regulation and stricter enforcement across the water system.

The consultation closes on 25 November 2023.

Government delays mandatory biodiversity net gain to January 2024

On 27 September 2023, the government confirmed that it is delaying the implementation of mandatory BNG requirements for new planning applications.

Guidance and the implementing regulations will be published by the end of November 2023 including:

  • The statutory metric which will be used to calculate the biodiversity gain.
  • The draft biodiversity gain plan template which must be prepared by developers when submitting planning permission.
  • The template habitat management and monitoring plan template which sets out the long term management will improve on and off-site habitats.
  • Further BNG guidance and advice for landowners, developers and local planning authorities.

For further information about the BNG requirements please see our Insight.

Government publishes initial list of irreplaceable habitats under the mandatory BNG regime

On 5 October 2023, Defra published an initial list of irreplaceable habitats for biodiversity net gain (BNG) in advance of the introduction of the rules in January 2024. It lists the following habitats to which BNG will not apply:

  • Ancient woodland
  • Ancient and veteran trees
  • Blanket bog
  • Limestone pavements
  • Coastal sand dunes
  • Spartina saltmarsh swards
  • Mediterranean saltmarsh scrub
  • Lowland fens

The list will be set out in secondary legislation which will state that off-site biodiversity units and statutory biodiversity credits cannot be used to compensate for the loss of irreplaceable habitats. 

This means that BNG will not be a requirement for developments affecting these sites, and instead bespoke compensation must be agreed with the local planning authority to deliver appropriate compensation to reflect the same type of habitat that was lost. 

The irreplaceable habitats broadly mirror the list of examples in the national planning and policy framework. The full list will be published in the second half of 2024.

Defra announces household goods will start carrying water efficiency labels

Please see Products.

Defra offers £50m for businesses to meet Windsor Framework labelling requirements

Please see Products.

European Commission adopts measures to prohibit the sale of microplastic containing products.

On 25 September 2023 the European Commission adopted measures setting out the international restrictions on the sale of microplastics and of products to which microplastics have been intentionally added that are released when used under REACH.

The restrictions adopt a broad definition and include all synthetic polymer particles under 5 millimetres that are organic, insoluble and resist degradation. Products affected by this include (among others) cosmetics, detergents, glitter, fertilisers and medicines.

The measures do not extend the sale ban to products used at industrial sites or those not releasing microplastics during use.

The first measures (including a ban on loose glitter and microbeads) will come into force from the 15 October 2023.

CMA publish new Green Agreements Guidance on sustainability collaborations

Please see Competition.

Government announces changes to net zero policies

On 20 September 2023, the prime minister announced significant changes to the UK's net zero policy, although the government has committed to existing domestic and international net zero targets. Below is a summary of the key announcements:

  • Delay of the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.
  • Delay of the ban on new off-grid oil and LPG boilers and new coal heating for off-grid homes to 2035 instead of phasing them out from 2026.
  • The government will no longer require homeowners and landlords to meet energy efficiency targets. 

New ban on single-use plastics in force

On 1 October 2023, new bans and restrictions on a range of polluting single-use plastic items came into force. Businesses including retailers, takeaways, food vendors, or the hospitality industry, will no longer be able to sell single-use plastic cutlery, polystyrene cups or food containers in England. The supply of single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls will also be restricted. See further information.

First phase of prohibition on single use plastic launched in Wales

The draft Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Act 2023 (Commencement No 1) Order 2023 was laid before Welsh parliament on 3 October 2023, and will bring the remaining provisions of the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Act 2023 into force on 30 October 2023. The Act makes it an offence to supply certain single use plastic products and oxo-degradable plastic to a consumer in Wales. This includes cups, cutlery, straws, stirrers and takeaway food containers.

Further information is available in the Explanatory Memorandum.


* 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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