Last year, Covington predicted an increased focus on environmental enforcement under the Biden Administration.  Recent statements by key environmental leadership have confirmed this, further sharpened Administration priorities, and track renewed focus by DOJ more broadly on combating corporate malfeasance.  In the coming year, regulated entities should prepare for increased criminal enforcement, including consideration of conduct within their supply chains.  They should also expect increased scrutiny of their environmental compliance programs, including the potential for corporate monitorship if DOJ deems a company’s compliance program to be inadequate.

Continue Reading Environmental Enforcement in 2022: Renewed Focus on Criminal Conduct, Compliance

The Italian Legislative Decree 196/2021 (“Italian Decree”) implementing the Single-Use Plastic Directive (“SUPD”) will enter into force on January 14, 2022.  The Italian Decree diverges from the SUPD on significant aspects: it provides a more flexible definition of plastic; delays the entry into force of the ban on prohibited SUPs; and exempts from such ban specific biodegradable and compostable materials.  The Decree also imposes specific return obligations on waste plastic bottles.

While the Italian Decree provides companies with additional flexibilities to market their SUPs in Italy, companies should carefully assess the risks that may arise if EU Courts finally hold that the Decree is not compatible with EU law.

Continue Reading Italy Transposes into National Law the EU Single-Use Plastic Products Directive

Last December, the European Commission published its legislative Package on Hydrogen and Decarbonized Markets (“Package”), which proposes new rules aiming to develop a hydrogen market in the EU. The new rules bring much awaited legal clarity to the concepts and role of blue and green hydrogen within the EU’s energy regulatory framework for the climate transition.

In effect, the Commission’s legislative Package is intended to promote the use of blue hydrogen until at least 2030 provided that it achieves the same decarbonization as green hydrogen (i.e., 70% GHG reduction).  However, the European Parliament and Council may amend both the proposed definition and conditions of blue hydrogen and the proposed regulative incentives during their consideration of the Package and its adoption through the legislative procedure that will now follow.  Moreover, the European Commission will be empowered to develop much of the methodologies implementing the definitions of blue and green hydrogen.  Companies intending to engage in blue and green hydrogen operations in the EU/EEA would be well advised to closely follow these developments.

Continue Reading New Definitions for Blue and Green Hydrogen: The European Commission’s Package on Hydrogen and Decarbonized Gas Markets

Addressing climate change has been a priority for President Biden since his first day in office.  On December 8, 2021, President Biden continued that focus by issuing Executive Order (EO) 14057, Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, which includes a number of requirements directed at introducing sustainability to federal acquisitions.

Continue Reading Contractors Have an Opportunity to Help Shape ESG Requirements

ESG and sustainability disclosure and reporting requirements for listed and non-listed companies are rapidly taking shape. As announced at COP26, there is now an International Sustainability Standards Board (“ISSB”) tasked with encouraging global uptake of ESG reporting standards. In the EU, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (“EFRAG”) is the body tasked with developing mandatory sustainability and ESG reporting standards under the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (“CSRD”). Both the ISSB and EFRAG have each recently published ESG and sustainability disclosure and reporting “prototypes”. These prototypes are important pieces to an emergent reporting regime that is very likely to become critical commercially—if not mandatory—for many companies. There are also encouraging signs that what has until recently been a relatively disjointed set of standards, is beginning to come together under a more harmonized agenda and institutions.

This blog presents an overview of some of the detailed climate-related disclosure and reporting metrics covered by the ISSB and EFRAG climate prototypes, and highlights critical considerations for companies as more detailed and mandatory ESG and sustainability reporting frameworks begin to take shape.

Continue Reading ESG & Sustainability Reporting Developments: Climate Disclosure Prototypes

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (“COP”) in Glasgow has drawn to a close, with seemingly mixed messages and a somewhat ambiguous conclusion, it is worth reflecting on the overall trajectory of the climate issue, societal expectations, and the accomplishments that — with time — Glasgow is likely to represent.  COP26 highlighted the fragility of the planet, as well as the fragility of the global consensus-based United Nations approach to protecting it.  It highlighted the sweep of global climate-induced challenges and the scale of transformation needed to address them.  With rising temperatures has come a rising global focus on climate and a far greater set of emerging societal expectations for meaningful responses by government and the private sector.  Despite the risk that the global agreement forged in Glasgow is seen by climate activists as all talk and no action — what they referred to as “blah, blah, blah” — I believe that a number of features will endure as important accomplishments.

Continue Reading Report from Glasgow COP26: Assessing the United Nations Climate Conference

On the 10th of November 2021, the Scottish Government published its Draft Hydrogen Action Plan (the “Plan”), as a companion document to its December 2020 Hydrogen Policy Statement.

The Plan sets out the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for the Hydrogen industry in Scotland across the next five years. The aim is for Scotland to have capacity to produce 5 GW of Hydrogen by 2030 and 25 GW of Hydrogen by 2045. This blog sets out the key takeaways from the Plan.

Continue Reading The Scottish Government’s Draft Hydrogen Action Plan

The European Commission seeks stakeholders’ feedback until 18 November on its proposal to define cross-border projects in the field of renewable energy generation that would be eligible to receive EU funding under Connecting European Facility instrument.

Continue Reading European Commission Opens Public Consultation to Define Selection Criteria for Renewable Energy Projects Eligible of EU Funding

On 19 October, alongside a number of other important strategy documents (over 2,000 pages in total), the UK Government published its ‘Net-Zero Strategy’ (NZS) which will help achieve the UK’s interim five yearly carbon targets leading up to net-zero by 2050.

Continue Reading The UK’s Net Zero Strategy

In December 2020, the UK PM set out an ambitious 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, one of the key points of which was the production of 5 GW of low carbon hydrogen in the UK by 2030.  The Plan envisaged hydrogen playing a key role in decarbonising energy-intensive industries and heavy transport and replacing natural gas in domestic heating.

On 17 August the UK Government published its Hydrogen Strategy (together with a number of associated Consultations), which lays the foundations for the UK’s future hydrogen economy and sets out how the UK Government will support innovation and stimulate investment in low carbon hydrogen to meet its 5GW target.

Continue Reading Hydrogen in The UK