Policy Highlights: April 2021

In April, the discussion around Net Zero intensified, with the government announcing plans to set in law the target of reducing emissions by 78% by 2035. Biodegradable and compostable plastics were also a hot topic, as Defra published a summary of responses to their consultation on the subject. Read on for key policy highlights from the past month:

Net Zero

As well as announcing plans to legalise the 2035 emissions target, the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a call for evidence in the role of biomass for reaching Net Zero. Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have announced a grant scheme to restore English peatlands, with the aim of reducing emissions from peat. This comes as 80% of respondents to a survey conducted by BritainThinks indicated their belief that the government should be responsible for dealing with environmental issues, and 62% want higher government spending to address them.


Defra's summary of the consultation on biodegradable and compostable plastics showed that while both are seen as valid options, there are strong concerns over the extent to which these plastics actually biodegrade. The government is going to work with UKRI to gather further information. Research is also being undertaken into required investment in the waste management sector to appropriately deal with these plastics. In other news, Defra has published guidance on the carrier bag charge rising to 10 pence from 21st May.


BEIS has published a new Heat Networks Planning Database (HNPD), detailing district and communal networks across the UK. In addition, BEIS is also introducing a new Electricity System Restoration Standard, in order to introduce a legally binding target for the restoration of electricity supplies in the event of a National Electricity Transmission System failure.


Eliminating single-use plastics has been high on the sustainability agenda in the UK for a while now, with items like plastic straws and cotton buds being banned in the last couple of years.


The government has announced nine new partnerships between UK businesses and research institutions to develop innovations in support of the UK's key priorities, including climate change and boosting medical research. One of the projects is Unilever's partnership with the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford to look into how they can reduce the carbon footprint of everyday consumer products.


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