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Environmental Weekly News Round Up - 8 December 2023

Welcome to our latest weekly Environment Law News Update, where we bring you developments, insights, and analysis in the world of environmental law. 


CoP28 Pledges and Actions So Far

We are now more than halfway through the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (CoP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and which concludes on Tuesday 12th December.  So, what have been the key updates and focuses of CoP28 so far?

  • Climate Finance Initiatives: The President of the UAE Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced the establishment of a $30 billion fund dedicated to global climate solutions.  The fund aims to attract an investment of $250 billion by the end of the decade.  Additionally, CoP28 participants pledged $700 million to assist lower-income countries in coping with losses and damages caused by climate change.  The presidency also introduced 10 principles to ensure that finance for climate solutions is available, accessible and affordable.
  • Agricultural Emissions Agreement: Over 130 countries signed a declaration to incorporate emissions from agriculture into their national plans for addressing climate change.  Furthermore, a coalition of more than 25 leading food and agriculture organisations has committed to scaling regenerative agricultural.  This initiative involves partnering with 3.6 million farmers to transition over 160 million hectares of land to practices that protect the soil and limit carbon emissions.
  • Renewable Energy and Efficiency Targets: Around 118 countries have agreed to set targets to triple renewable power generation capacity 11,000 GW to double energy efficiency within this decade.  This agreement marks a significant step towards accelerating the global transition to renewable energy sources.
  • Methane Emission Reduction Pledge: Fifty oil and gas companies made a pledge to reach near zero methane emissions by 2030. They are required to submit a plan to meet these targets by 2025.  Additionally, a fund was announced to support methane abatement projects in emerging markets and developing economies.  These companies also agreed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 2050.
  • Health and Climate:  For the first time in its history CoP28 dedicated a day to health, recognising the connection between a healthy planet and healthy people highlighting the increasing acknowledgment of the impact of climate change on public health.
  • Progress of the Global Stocktake: CoP28 has advanced the world’s first global stocktake, a process crucial for assessing progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals.  The stocktake aims to increase ambition and accelerate action on climate change by informing the next round of climate action plans due in 2025.


In summary CoP28 so far has addressed several key issues central to climate action.  However, the effectiveness of these initiatives in combating climate change will depend on actual implementation of these commitments. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees C global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030.  

A stark report from the UN Climate Change indicates that the world is on track for 2.5 °C warmer world by the end of the century based on the implementation of current pledges by national governments.  While Cop28 might have set the stage for ambitious climate action the true impact will be measured by the tangible actions taken by countries and significant acceleration and commitment from all parties involved.


Airline Ad Campaigns banned for Greenwashing

As sustainability and environmental protection has been at the forefront of recent headlines, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has been targeting “corporate greenwashing” ads. 

The ASA has recently banned online ad campaigns by three airlines - Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad – for giving “a misleading impression of these business’s environmental impacts.” Air France's ad stated it was "committed to protecting the environment", Lufthansa urged passengers to "fly more sustainably" and Etihad's ad used the words "environmental advocacy".

Lufthansa and Etihad has since removed the google ads but while also justifying their word choices and company positions. Lufthansa claims "fly more sustainably" was a reference to its "Green Fares" option which claims to use “some sustainable aviation fuel and made a contribution to climate protection projects.” 

This is not the first time the ASA has accused Lufthansa of misleading its customers with unproven environmental promises. Earlier this year, the airline’s campaign “Make Change Fly” was also criticized. Nonetheless, the company keeps reiterating its aim to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

Etihad, on the other hand simply pulled the campaign and agreed to refrain from using the term “environmental advocacy” in the future. It should also be noted that the ASA investigated and found that, while Etihad has said sustainability is a "key priority", there was no evidence of the firms’ engagement in environmental advocacy. Air France did not provide a “substantive response” to the ASA’s investigation.

These advertisements were picked up using an artificial intelligence system which scans the web for possible breaches. Other airlines, such as KLM, have been previously pressured to remove their campaigns on grounds of “misleading the public” and “corporate greenwashing”. 

There is increased pressure to lower carbon emissions and a call for companies (including airlines) to reduce their footprint and many advances have been made. 

This autumn “the first transatlantic flight by a large passenger plane powered only by so-called sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) flew from London to New York.” Unfortunately, SAF is still not widely used and there appear to be no plans for commercial plants in the UK. There is hope that this will however soon change as the UK government has stated its plans to “require 10% of aviation fuel to be SAF by 2023”.


Corporate Accountability in Focus: Director Sentenced for Environmental Violations

In a recent legal development, the director of Digaway Ltd a waste management company has been handed a 12-week custodial sentence and his company fined £7,000 for running an unlawful waste disposal site.  The sentence was imposed following a series of inspections by NRW officers at the company’s site in Caerphilly, which began in December 2021.

NRW officers initiated their investigation after receiving reports of unauthorised waste activities at the site.  During their initial visit they discovered several skips filled with household waste materials, wood and plastic along with substantial quantities of waste soil and construction and demolition debris.

The company’s director Daniel Jenkins was initially advised by NRW to remove the waste from the site and cease depositing further material.  Despite this guidance, follow up inspections that took place between February and August 2022 revealed continuous violations.  During this time NRW officers noted an additional 20 – 30 skips and observed the construction and demolition waste that was being sorted and crushed on site.

The case was heard in the Cwmbran Magistrates Court on 21st November 2023 where the company were fined £7,000 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £190.  Daniel Jenkin who had been prosecuted in his capacity as director of Digaway Ltd was ordered to pay the investigation costs of NRW amounting to £3,125 and was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment.

This case is particularly noteworthy due to the personal prosecution of the director Daniel Jenkins alongside the company.  The imposition of a 12-week custodial sentence on Jenkins in addition to the fines levied against the company indicates that NRW must have gathered compelling evidence of his direct involvement in the offences.  

The outcome serves as a crucial message to directors and senior management of companies especially in sectors involving environmental regulations.  It is a clear indication that directors can be held accountable for their company’s actions especially if they are found complicit or negligent in unlawful activities.  

Directors should take a proactive role in understanding and managing the environmental impact of their company’s actions and ensure that all levels of the company from top management to operational staff are trained and aware of the legal requirements and the importance of compliance.

In conclusion, the case is a stark reminder that ignorance or neglect of legal responsibilities in environmental management is not only detrimental to the environment but can also lead to severe legal repercussions for individuals at the highest levels of company management.


Chris Packham launches legal challenge over UK’s watering down of climate policies. 

Chris Packham has filed a high court legal challenge to the UK government over its decision to weaken key climate policies. 

The broadcaster, and environmental campaigner has applied for a judicial review of the government’s decision to remove the time limit on phasing out petrol and diesel powered cars and vans, gas boilers, off-grid fossil fuel domestic heating and minimum energy ratings for homes, that Rishi Sunak announced in September. The previous Prime Minister announced that he would delay the ban on selling new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, and 20% of households would be exempt from the new gas boiler ban. 

After the announcement, Packham wrote to Sunak to challenge the decision, arguing that he did not have the legal right to change the timeline of carbon pledges, since this was  governed by statute. 

He then received a response which he deemed unsatisfactory and filed the judicial review application. He has also added that the government’s response to his letter made it clear that the decision was made without any public consultation, without informing the climate change committee or parliament, and without providing any reasoning for the delays. The grounds for his judicial review include obligations under the Climate Change Act. 

The legal challenge cites the requirement to have plans in place to meet the budgets if the proposals or policies are altered. Peckham argues that this obligation has been breached because they have not confirmed or outlined how they still intend to meet the latest budget. 

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said that it rejected Packham’s claims and would ‘robustly’ defend the challenge. The measures and their schedule had been set out in the government’s carbon budget delivery plan. 

Challenges such as this are becoming more popular with environmental campaigners. Friends of the Earth brought a similar challenge that the 2021 sixth carbon budget did not include sufficient detail in order to demonstrate how the UK would reach net zero by 2050, as the Climate Change Act 2008 says it must. 

Following on from this, it has been announced today that Packham has been let go by the bird of prey rehabilitation centre ‘Raptor Rescue’ because his environmental campaigns were ‘splitting’ its membership. 

The charity’s chairman has said that some members don’t like the ‘political side’ of Mr Packham’s activities, and his stance on breaking the law for environmental reasons could not be supported by their organisation. They have also said that Packham has not done anything for the charity. 

Whether this decision is related to his decision to launch a judicial review is unknown, but one thing is for certain, like Friends of the Earth, Mr Packham is a key voice in the tough stance environmental campaigners are taking on the Government following statute.