Yesterday, the European Parliament approved a new (recast) Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (“UWWTD”) that will impose new additional costs on producers marketing pharmaceutical and cosmetic products in the European Economic Area by the end of 2027.  Some studies suggest that the costs that producers would have to collectively pay could be around €1 billion per Member State.  This is well above the figures published in the Commission’s impact assessment, which estimated the annual cost of implementing the various requirements of the UWWTD in all Member States at €3.8 billion, including €1.2 billion for micro-pollutants treatment.

The upcoming UWWTD lays down rules on the collection, treatment, and discharge of urban wastewater, and puts particular emphasis on the implementation of the polluter pays principle.  The Directive aims to address the environmental and health concerns resulting from the presence of micro-pollutants, other pollutants (e.g., heavy metals, PFAS), microplastics and antimicrobial resistant (“AMR”) bacteria in European waters.  It introduces new measures for the treatment of wastewater, including quaternary treatment for micro-pollutants, and makes producers of pharmaceutical and cosmetic producers pay for such treatment.

Continue Reading New EU Wastewater Treatment Fees on Producers of Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Products

On February 12, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) announced that it will award up to $100 million to support U.S. pilot projects and testing facilities demonstrating and scaling carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.  The funding will support projects and facilities that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere and store it in geological, bio-based, or ocean reservoirs, or that convert the captured CO2 into value-added products.  The funding is intended to support the development of a commercially viable U.S. CDR industry, in advancement of the goal of DOE’s Carbon Negative Shot of reducing the cost of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it at gigaton scales to less than $100 per net metric ton of CO2-equivalent by 2032.  The funding is a significant opportunity for developers and investors in CDR ventures that are prepared to deploy a pilot project in an area of interest for DOE.

Continue Reading DOE Announces $100 Million in Funding to Accelerate Carbon Removal

On January 17, 2024, the European Parliament formally endorsed its provisional agreement with the Council on the Directive Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition through Better Protection against Unfair Practices and Better Information (“Greenwashing Directive”).  The Council is now expected to endorse the provisional agreement after which the Directive will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force.

The Greenwashing Directive aims to contribute to the EU’s green transition by empowering consumers to make informed purchases using reliable sustainability information about products and traders.  To do so, the Directive amends Directive 2005/29 on Unfair Business-to-Consumer Practices (“Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”) by introducing specific rules on sustainability and environmental claims.  The Greenwashing Directive is intended to work in tandem with the proposed Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (the “Proposed Green Claims Directive”), which we reported on here

Companies should keep a close eye on the transposition of this Directive, as it will have a significant impact on how they communicate about their sustainability, environmental, and social or ethical efforts.  Covington can help companies with navigating these regulatory requirements while meeting their business objectives.

Continue Reading EU Adopts New Rules on Greenwashing and Social Impact Claims

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) recently released a preliminary report analyzing data related to the recyclability of certain materials in California.  The report, issued in accordance with CalRecycle’s obligations under California Senate Bill 343 (SB 343), is intended to help the public determine whether businesses may legally claim their products and packaging are recyclable in California, including through the inclusion of the common “chasing arrows” symbol.

Enacted in 2021, SB 343 provides that products or packaging may not include messaging “indicating that the product or packaging is recyclable, or otherwise directing the consumer to recycle the product or packaging” unless it satisfies the statutory definition of “recyclable.”  Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 42355.51(b)(1).  To be considered recyclable, items must be collected by recycling programs that serve at least 60% of the state’s population and sorted by large volume transfer or processing facilities (LVTPs) that serve at least 60% of statewide recycling programs.  Companies that make noncompliant recyclable claims may face liability under the state’s consumer protection statutes. It is also important to note that compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides may be insufficient to assure compliance with these new California requirements.

The preliminary report analyzes whether certain categories of materials—including subcategories of metal, plastic, fiber, and glass—are collected by local recycling programs and whether they are sorted by a sample of the state’s LVTPs.  The report also estimates the percentages of the state’s population served by the analyzed programs and facilities.  The results are broken down by type of material to aid the public in determining whether specific items may be advertised as “recyclable” in California.  Covington’s more detailed analysis of the report’s findings and implications is available via email here.

CalRecycle will present its preliminary findings and solicit feedback on February 13, 2024 during a public workshop.  The workshop is live in Sacramento and may also be attended via webcast.  Additionally, interested parties may submit written comments until February 29, 2024.  CalRecycle plans to finalize its findings within 60 days of the public workshop.

The European Parliament and Council are in negotiations to finalize the adoption of a proposal for a new Directive on the Right to Repair.  The proposed Directive aims to meet the product sustainability and circularity objectives by improving product durability, reusability, upgradeability, and repairability as outlined in the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan 2020, a key component of the European Green Deal.*

Continue Reading The Right To Repair Gains Momentum In The EU

The European Commission is currently holding a public consultation on a Draft Delegated Act (“DDA”) on a common rating scheme on the energy performance of data centers in the European Union and European Economic Area (“EU/EEA”).  The DDA will lay out the energy key performance indicators that operators and owners of data centers must report, the sustainability indicators that will be calculated per data center, and the aggregated data that will be made publicly available, in accordance with the new EU Energy Efficiency Directive (“EED”). 

The adoption of the DDA will introduce specific mandatory environmental and energy performance reporting requirements for data centers for the first time in the EU/EEA, and probably in the world.  These reporting requirements may be the first step for the EU to adopt mandatory environmental performance targets for data centers within the next decade.

Continue Reading Upcoming Sustainability Reporting Requirements for Data Centers in the EU

In the early hours of December 14, 2023, the Council of the EU (“Council”) and the European Parliament (“Parliament”) reached a provisional political agreement on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (“CSDDD”). Described as a “historic breakthrough” by Lara Wolters, who has led this file for the Parliament, the CSDDD will require many companies in the EU and beyond to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence on their global operations and value chain, and oblige them to adopt a transition plan for climate change mitigation.

Given the CSDDD’s relevance for companies’ ongoing compliance planning on environmental and human rights matters, this blog aims to advise clients on the basic elements of the CSDDD agreement based on press releases from the Council, Parliament, and the European Commission (“Commission”), even if much uncertainty remains. Although a political agreement has been reached, the text of the agreement is not publicly available and a number of details of the legal text will need to be finalized in follow-up technical meetings. Covington will publish a more detailed alert on “how to prepare” for the CSDDD once the full text is available (likely in early 2024).

Continue Reading Provisional Agreement on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD): Key Elements of the Deal

What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.
Continue Reading COP28 Final Negotiations Recap: A Global Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

What You Need to Know.

  • Azerbaijan is poised to host COP29 next year after receiving regional backing.  If formally confirmed, Azerbaijan’s COP Presidency would resolve months of deadlock.  It will also trigger criticism that next year’s COP will again be hosted by a nation heavily dependent on fossil fuel exports.
Continue Reading COP28 Day 10 Recap: Food in Focus, and a Look Ahead to COP29 and COP30

What You Need to Know.

  • The thematic focus of the day’s programming was on nature, land use, and ocean, including events on scaling effective solutions that protect, restore, and beneficially manage nature ecosystems, addressing drivers of nature loss, empowering Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and creating resilient livelihoods.  As part of this discussion, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) launched a report highlighting that nearly $7 trillion of public and private finance each year supports activities that directly harm nature—thirty times the amount spent annually on “nature-based solutions,” or actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use, and manage natural resources that simultaneously provide human well-being, ecosystem, and resilience and biodiversity benefits.
Continue Reading COP28 Day 9 Recap: Nature, Land Use, Oceans, and Nature-Based Solutions