Policy News, April 2020

COVID-19 News, Resources & Waste, Energy, Water and Environment and Climate

The latest updates on the policies affecting your business.


  • Covid-19 News
    • National Testing Strategy
    • Vaccine Taskforce
    • Cross-government UK-wide plan on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Updates on the reopening of Household Waste Recycling Centres
  • Resources and Waste
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Environment and Climate
  • Employment

COVID-19 News

Defra’s Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, has written to key workers in the waste industry to express her gratitude for their continuing efforts in protecting public health and the environment during COVID-19.

Northern Irish Environment Minister Edwin Poots has also praised waste industry key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

  • National Testing Strategy: COVID-19 testing extended to all essential workers in Englan
    COVID-19 testing has now been extended to all essential workers in England and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus.

  • Government launches a Vaccine Taskforce to combat COVID-19
    Rapid development and production of a coronavirus vaccine will be driven by a new government-led Vaccine Taskforce, led by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan van Tam

  • A Cross-government UK-wide plan on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    The Department for Health and Social Care has announced a three strands plan on PPE to provide clarity over: guidance, distribution and future supply. 

  • Updates on the reopening of Household Waste Recycling Centres
    Designed in line with Government and WISH guidance, Veolia has released some valuable guidelines to help local authorities and contractors with the safe reopening of essential HWRCs during the lockdown. Defra now ranks the reopening as a priority to help ease the pressure on kerbside collections and reduce fly-tipping by ensuring the integrity of the whole waste collection and treatment network. Veolia recommends two overarching principles to be respected: safety first and clear communication

Resources and Waste

Treasury extends plastic packaging tax consultation deadline until August

The second consultation on the design of the Plastic Packaging Tax was published on 11 March 2020. In a recent announcement, the Treasury decided to extend the consultation deadline by three months insofar as many sectors with an interest in this policy are affected by COVID-19. The closing date is now 20 August 2020.

Ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds delayed due to coronavirus outbreak

Defra confirmed that due to the ongoing pandemic and subsequent disruption to businesses, the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is delayed until October 2020. The ban was originally due to come into force in April after secondary legislation was laid in Parliament in March.

Defra pauses work in the Chemical Strategy until October 2020

Defra has announced it has temporarily stopped work on the Chemicals Strategy while it deals with the fallout from COVID-19. The call for evidence won’t go out in April as planned and overarching work will resume in October. Note that the Health and Safety Executive will not be carrying out official recognition inspections of organisations testing plant protection products, and will be issuing most product authorisations and approvals online rather than by post.



Government unveils proposals to boost decarbonisation of the UK’s heating systems

The Government has unveiled a wide ranging package of proposals aimed at accelerating the decarbonisation of the UK's heating systems, setting out plans to replace the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme for homes and businesses over the coming years. In its response to the consultation outcome on ‘Renewable Heat Incentive: biomass combustion in urban areas’, BEIS backtracked on its original proposal to bar biomass boilers from securing support in urban areas through the scheme, meaning biomass installations can continue to apply for support for the remainder of the RHI.

BEIS considers temporarily relaxing Capacity Market rules due to COVID-19

BEIS has consulted on proposals to introduce temporary rules to modify the application of the Electricity Capacity Regulations 2014 and Capacity Market rules during the pandemic, in order to:

  • remove or relax certain obligations and deadlines
  • reduce administrative and operational burdens
  • give capacity providers more time to appeal
  • provide greater discretion to extend the time for capacity providers to achieve compliance

Ofgem publishes guidelines on its response to COVID-19

Ofgem is prioritising work on ensuring that the energy industry can effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, on protecting consumers, and on maintaining Britain’s supply of electricity and gas. Ofgem has published a non-exhaustive summary of key regulatory implications, including relating to some industry programmes. Ofgem expects operators to prioritise customer and staff safety and is said to be pragmatic in its approach to compliance during this period.

Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting: a three-month extension due to COVID-19

UK businesses have been granted a three-month extension for reporting on energy and carbon use. The Government has said that if a firm is unable to meet its company accounts filing deadline due to COVID-19, it can apply for an extension.


Ofwat puts in interim measures to protect business customers due to COVID-19

Water sector regulator Ofwat consulted on a series of interim measures to help business customers to pay their water and sewerage bills on time and minimise disruption. The retail code modifications include:

(1) restricting retailers from charging interest or late payment fees for late payments or requesting that customers be disconnected at this time;

(2) deferring payment of a proportion of wholesale charges to reflect late payment by non-household customers; and

(3) use of a temporary vacant flag in the market database to reflect that a closed business is not consuming water.

Environment & Climate

Petersberg Climate Dialogue: clean, climate-friendly, resilient recovery from COVID-19

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue, co-hosted by the UK and Germany, was the first major climate ministerial meeting of 2020. The Dialogue took place from 27-28 April 2020, in a virtual format, enabling broader participation of over 30 climate ministers and a variety of stakeholders. Discussions focused on measures that could pave the way for a green recovery from the economic crisis posed by COVID-19.

BEIS consults on extending Climate Change Agreements by two years

BEIS is consulting on an extension of the Climate Change Agreement scheme (CCA) which works by setting energy target reductions for energy intensive businesses in return for discounts on the climate change levy on their energy bills. The proposal is to put in place new targets from January 2021, allowing the extension of the scheme beyond its current March 2023 end date to March 2025. This extension is expected to prevent an estimated 700,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted each year. Consultation is open until 11 June 2020.

New parliamentary inquiry into technological innovation and climate change

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into technological innovation and climate change. MPs will focus on a specific technology currently in use (wind, solar) or in development (hydrogen) and consider its potential and how Government policy can facilitate the UK making the best and most cost-effective use of that technology. Deadline for written evidence is open until 15 May 2020.

Committee on Climate Change to push for a climate-resilient coronavirus recovery

The Committee on Climate Change has announced that it will present advice on supporting a resilient, low carbon economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis as part of its annual assessment of the UK’s progress towards its 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal in June. Note that the release of the Committee’s advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) is postponed until December.


National Minimum and Living Wage increases are effective since 1st April

The 2020 National Living Wage came into effect on Wednesday 1 April. The new rate results in an increase of £930 over the year for a full-time worker on the National Living Wage. The new National Living Wages rates are:

  • for those aged 25 and over, £8.72 an hour
  • for those aged 21 to 24, £8.20 an hour
  • for those aged 18 to 20, £6.45 an hour
  • for those aged under 18, £4.55 an hour
  • for apprentices, £4.15 an hour