Roadmap for change

The European Green Deal is a mandate for legislative transformation. Paul Sheridan and Olivia Jamison, of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, explain how it might influence waste and resources policy in the UK

In December 2019, the European Commission (EC)heralded the launch of the European Green Deal.[1] This legal and political mandate aims to ensure the EU achieves net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. It sets out overarching objectives that will inform all future EU legislation and policy, including: achieving climate neutrality by 2050; mainstreaming sustainability; and promoting ‘nature-based solutions’.

All EU legislation is up for review to ensure alignment with the objectives to be enshrined in a European Climate Law. By October 2020, the EC will also present a comprehensive plan to increase the EU’s GHG emission reduction target for 2030 to ‘at least 50 per cent and towards 55 per cent’. The measures expected to be introduced on the back of the Green Deal will have dramatic impacts on those operating within the EU, but may also influence policy in the UK.

Areas of priority for the EC include:

  • Mainstreaming sustainable finance and investment
  • Supplying clean, affordable and secure energy, building and renovating in an energy and resource-efficient way
  • Shifting to smart and safe ‘zero-emission mobility’, with initial measures to introduce new air pollutant standards and a new sustainable transport strategy by 2020
  • Consideration of extending the EU emissions trading system to the maritime sector and road transport emissions, while reducing the free allowances to airlines
  • Eliminating all sources of pollution, with concrete measures to address air and water pollution, and a strategy on sustainable chemicals
  • Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Promoting a sustainable industry for a circular and climate-neutral economy
  • Introducing a healthy and environmentally friendly food system through reforms of agricultural and food regulation
  • Working with stakeholders to identify and remedy incoherent related legislation.

In announcing the Green Deal, it was recognised that ‘Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, economic growth is decoupled from resource use, and no person – and no place – is left behind’. At the same time, a Roadmap was published, setting out actions and timelines. The Just Transition Mechanism, providing financial support and technical assistance to help those most affected by the move towards the green economy, is expected to mobilise at least €100bn over the period 2021-27.

As part of the Roadmap, the EU Industrial Strategy and a new Circular Economy Action Plan have been launched, together with proposed legislative waste reforms. Actions with a timeline of 2021 include: methodologies to track and minimise the presence of substances of concern in recycled materials and articles; harmonised information systems for the presence of substances of concern; scoping development of further EU-wide end-of-waste and by-product criteria; and revision of waste shipments rules. For 2022, the roster includes waste reduction targets for specific streams and other measures on waste prevention, and an EU-wide harmonised model for separate collection of waste and labelling, to facilitate separate collection.

UK developments

Last year, by amending legislation on GHG emissions, the UK made law a target to be net zero by 2050. Progress towards this goal has not been what it should be, however. On 25 June 2020, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), issued its 2020 progress report to Parliament.[2]

In respect of waste accounting for four per cent of 2019 emissions, it was noted that: ‘Policy needs to accelerate the move to a circular economy, with more ambition on waste reduction, reuse and recycling during the 2020s, particularly in England and Northern Ireland. Regulation should be announced this year to ban landfilling of biodegradable waste from 2025 across all UK nations. Emissions from waste incineration will also need to be addressed.’

Relevant recommendations include:

  • Examination of the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and requirements for CCS readiness, with clear dates for when it will need to be integrated across biomass and waste facilities
  • Continued use of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure framework to better report transition and physical climate risks, and shift investments away from high-carbon infrastructure
  • Legislation (in England via the Environment Bill) for, and implementation of, a ban on landfilling of municipal and non-municipal biodegradable wastes from 2025
  • A target within the Environment Bill for a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2030 in England, and policies to meet this
  • Accelerated investment plans for local authorities to put in place universal municipal waste recycling collections across England during 2022-24, with the required recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion facilities
  • Mandatory business food waste reporting, building on Wrap’s existing voluntary scheme
  • Further policies to accelerate the resources and waste strategy for England, focusing on efficiency in construction and manufacturing, and reducing consumer demand
  • Examining the impact of waste targets on the use of (and need for further) energy from waste plants, and issuing guidance notes to help align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets.

The CCC has noted that ‘the UK’s exit from the EU will put the delivery of more environmental goals directly in the UK’s hands’. Certain pre-existing EU laws will roll over into law applicable in the UK; however, measures arising from the Green Deal will not. While recommendations from the CCC to government are clear, policy-makers trying to reach targets might gain inspiration by looking across the Channel, given the commonality of the ultimate target of net zero.


  1. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, The European Council, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions, The European Green Deal,
  2. Reducing UK emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament,

This article first featured in the August/September issue of Circular.

Send this to a friend