Marine Environment News in Brief - August 2021

The latest news on regulation in the marine environment. This month features climate change, new funding, water company performance and consultations.

Fisheries and Climate change

The All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Fisheries held an event covering Climate Resilience: Lessons from Abroad’. This event explored examples of pioneering efforts to build climate resilience into fisheries and coastal communities.

A recording of the event can be found on the APPG website.

Biodiversity in the UK: bloom or bust?

Of the G7 countries, the UK has the lowest level of biodiversity remaining, with 15% of species threatened with extinction.

The Government has many environmental policies in place or in development. These include the 25 year Environment Plan, a ‘state of nature’ target through the Environment Bill, Local Nature Recovery Strategies, biodiversity net gain for new developments, supporting nature-based solutions to climate change and leading the Global Ocean Alliance to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

Following a Biodiversity and Ecosystems Inquiry, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has reported that existing Government policy and targets are inadequate to address biodiversity loss. This is made worse by nature policy not being joined up across Government, nor is nature protection consistently factored into policy making.

EAC notes that although current policies are a welcome start, they do not represent the transformative change required to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. As a result, nature will continue to decline, and the next generation will inherit a more depleted, damaged natural environment. Government action needs to be stepped up in scale, ambition, pace, and detail.

The EAC summary and full report are available on the Government website.

Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund

Defra, the Environment Agency and Natural England have announced funding for 27 projects aimed at driving private investment in nature and tackling climate change from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund.

The projects include kelp forest restoration, a saltmarsh carbon code to support restoration, natural flood risk management and improving water quality. The funding will be used to develop the projects so they can provide a return on investment by capturing the value of carbon, water quality, biodiversity and other benefits.

Further details regarding the projects can be found on the Government website.

South Marine Plan Review

The South Marine Plan, adopted in 2018, covers the inshore and offshore marine plan areas from Folkestone in Kent to the river Dart in Devon and to the international boundary with France and the Channel Islands. It is one of the most complex and used areas of the English coastline, covering one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. It also has over 50 marine protected areas, including a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site.

The plan has been used to inform a range of consenting and planning decisions, drafting byelaws and sub-national policy documents, and providing consultation advice. It has helped promote coexistence by facilitating effective use of marine space and minimising conflict, ensuring proposals avoid or reduce any negative impacts on other activities. Protection of marine biodiversity and ecosystem services, e.g. herring spawning areas, have also been enabled through the appropriate consideration and mitigation of impacts in planning decisions. However, there are many instances of either insufficient or inconclusive data which limits conclusions on policy effects and effectiveness.

Read the South Marine Plan Review summary and the full report on the Government website.

Water Company Environmental Performance Report

The Environment Agency (EA) introduced the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) in 2011 as a tool for comparing performance between the water and sewerage companies. In the most recent assessment, none of the water companies have managed to achieve all the expectations set out by the EA in 2015.

Wessex Water, United Utilities and Severn Trent Water have sustained industry leading performance for most of the five year period. Northumbrian and Yorkshire Water have also shown improvements based on a range of measures including pollution incidents, and compliance with permits.

However, the performance of some companies has given cause for concern. South West Water has been consistently low for the entire five years of the EPA. Anglian Water and Thames Water have not shown significant improvement over the past five years, and more than half of all serious incidents in 2020 were from the assets of these two companies.

The Environmental Performance Assessment can be read on the Government website.

Water Company Net Zero plans

English water companies, through Water UK, have agreed to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. Several water companies have published their plans on how to get there. The plans highlight progress on energy efficiency, renewable generation, demand management, sequestration schemes, but also rely heavily on purchasing renewables and offsetting.

Read the net zero plans of Thames Water and Yorkshire Water on their respective websites.

United Utilities has become the first water company to win a Science Based Targets initiative approval for its carbon targets. South East Water is the first UK water company to create a 25 Year Environment Plan.

Consultations

There are four consultations currently open. All links take you to the website for the consultation.

  • 30 August: Defra consultation on management of the <15m scallop fleet.
  • 30 August: Defra consultation on latent capacity in the >10m scallop and shellfish fleet.
  • 30 September 2021: Defra consultation on MPA compensation guidance.
  • 10 October 2021: DAERA (Northern Ireland) consultation on the third cycle river basin management plan 2021 to 2027.