Environment Law update: Access to information 8

United Kingdom
United Kingdom

Pollution inventory – Scotland

The Scottish Executive has announced that SEPA is to launch a pollution inventory in August 2005. The Scottish European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER), which will be available online by the end of May 2003, is the first step in the process and will contain information on activities regulated under PPC.
(Scottish Executive News Release, 13 February 2003)

European Union

Aarhus Convention

The access to environmental information pillar of the Aarhus Convention has come into force after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. The new Directive (2003/4/EC) replaces a previous Directive (90/313/EEC) and is likely to provide the public with wider and more easy access to environmental information from public authorities. Public authorities will be required to respond to requests from the public within two months and to take the initiative on making information available in an electronic format that is easily accessible. Such information will include data on emissions and discharges into the environment and their impact on public health in addition to the results of environmental impact assessments. The Directive has to be transposed into national law by 14 February 2005.
(OJL 41, 14 February 2003)

Vacuum cleaners

A Decision setting out the ecological criteria for awarding an eco label to vacuum cleaners (2003/121/EC) has been published in the Official Journal. All self contained vacuum cleaners, such as cylinder and upright vacuum cleaners are included, but cordless, battery operated or central vacuum cleaning systems are not. The specifications cover energy consumption, dust removal efficiency, ease of recycling at the end of use and noise. Motors should have a life time of at least 550 hours and replacement parts must be available for at least 10 years after production ceases. Manufacturers must also offer a two year guarantee to consumers and should provide a disassembly report to third parties on request. Another requirement is that plastic parts over 25 grams in weight should not contain certain flame retardants. In relation to noise, products should not exceed 76dBA.
(OJ L 47, 21 February 2003)

Detergents for dishwashers

After publication in the Official Journal, the criteria for awarding an eco label to detergents used in dishwashers has been made more stringent. The new criteria (2003/31/EC) include a lower phosphate content for the award. Currently held by six companies, the original criteria established by Decision 1999/427/EC, will still be valid for at least 18 months to allow companies holding the award time to adapt to the new criteria. The new Decision applies from 1 January 2003 until 31 December 2007. The product group contains all detergents intended for use exclusively in automatic domestic dishwashers and those operated by professional users that are similar to domestic dishwashers. The aim of the new criteria is to reduce water pollution by reducing the quantity of detergent and other harmful ingredients, to reduce energy use by promoting low temperature detergents and minimising waste by reducing the amount of primary packaging.
(OJ L 9, 15 January 2003)

Laundry detergents

The criteria for laundry detergents to be eligible for an EU eco label have been revised after the publication of a Decision (2003/200/EC) in the Official Journal. The aims of the new criteria are to save transport and energy by encouraging compact laundry detergents; reduce water pollution by reducing the volume of chemicals, particularly hazardous ingredients, in the product; and minimising waste through reducing the amount of packaging used. In addition, there are new criteria for informing consumers by improved labelling of laundry detergents on their environmental impact. The Decision applies from 1 March 2003 until 29 February 2008. Those products already awarded an eco label before 1 March 2003 may continue to use that label until 31 August 2004. Those producers applying before 1 March 2003 may be awarded the eco label under the terms of the previous Decision 1999/476/EC allowing it to continue to use the label until 31 August 2004.
(OJ L 76, 22 March 2003)

International

Pollution register

Agreement has been reached on a protocol to the Aarhus Convention by countries from Europe, Central Asia and Canada for reporting on emissions of 86 pollutants from industrial facilities. Under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), companies will be required to report annually on their releases into the environment and on transfers to other companies of these pollutants, with the information placed on a public register known as a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR). Information will be required from a range of activities including refineries, thermal power plants, chemical and mining industries, waste incinerators, wood and paper production and processing, and intensive agriculture and aquaculture. The requirements are marginally stronger than the EU’s Pollutant Register (EPER), with additional requirements including an obligation to report dioxin releases to water and soil, and the volumes of waste sent for disposal.
(UNECE Press Release, 31 January 2003)

Environmental reporting

A global assurance standard for corporate public reporting on social, environmental and economic performance has been launched by the British Organisation, AccountAbility (AA). The AA 1000 Assurance Standard is designed to increase confidence in corporate reporting by the public, investors and regulators. The standard is the result of a two-year worldwide consultation involving hundreds of organisations, including the investment community, NGOs and business. The standard was piloted by a number of leading companies including Camelot, the Co-operative Bank and CIS in the UK, and also by assurance providers such as KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers. The AA 1000 Assurance Standard, which is openly accessible on a non-commercial basis, will also place new demands on consultants and accountants that provide external audit and verification of CSR and environmental reports. It requires them to demonstrate independence and impartiality by publicly disclosing commercial relationships with their clients. They must also prove their competency for examining issues such as human rights, labour standards and climate change. Verifiers will also be expected to comment if a report has omitted information that could be important to stakeholders. The standard is supported by several organisations including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
(Accountability News Release, 25 March 2003)

An aid to producing a corporate sustainable development report has recently been made available. Produced by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a coalition of around 160 international companies committed to sustainable development, it is an attempt to address increasing global expectations on company accountability and transparency. The guidance is intended to help companies to produce reports to include the relevant information for stakeholders, to mitigate company risk by protecting corporate brand and to gain competitive advantage. There are also recommendations on how to fulfil the information needs of the financial community and a debate on standardisation of reporting formats. It says that mounting pressure from major stakeholders is shifting sustainability reporting from a voluntary activity to a mandatory requirement.
(WBCSD, January 2003)

For further Informatinon please contact Paul Sheridan on +44(0)20 7367 2186 or at paul.sheridan@cms-cmck.com