Welcome to the latest “take out the trash day”. In the past 36 hours, the UK government has put out 42 consultations and papers, just days before parliament’s summer recess and Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.
These are not insignificant announcements. There’s everything from how the National Health Service hopes to prevent ill health and eliminate smoking in England by 2030, to plans to force councils to offer food waste caddies, and for everyone with an energy bill to pay for new nuclear power stations. Here are eight of the most eye-catching. Let me know if I’ve missed anything big, by emailing me or tweeting me (@adamvaughan_uk).
Consumers will pay for new nuclear power stations while they’re still being built
For the past decade, government has been arguing that consumers shouldn’t be exposed to the risks of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station being delayed or going over budget. Last night, it argued the opposite – that consumers should start paying for future nuclear plants while they’re still being built, because it would provide “value for money” and a “a lower cost to consumers”.
The reason for this new funding model is the last one – of a guaranteed price of power – has failed to bring forward new nuclear plants after Hinkley, with several developers shelving projects in the past year. The proposed new way of funding them is called the regulated asset base model, and would see a regulator decide how much a nuclear developer could pass on costs to consumers through their energy bills, before a power station is even operating. The nuclear industry says the model will make “a substantial contribution” to lowering costs. Campaign group Greenpeace says it won’t, and says it shifts the liability from developers to consumers if things go wrong.
New money for developing the first small nuclear plants has also been announced.
Londoners will still be breathing dangerously dirty air in 2030
A pair of reports, one from researchers at King’s College London and one from an Imperial College London team, hold bad news for Londoners. The government’s clean air policies should reduce the number of people exposed to levels of tiny particulate matter (PM2.5s) exceeding World Health Organization limits from 15m in 2016 to 4.4m in 2030, but there will still be widespread breaches in London. The capital “presents special problems”, says one report, with pollution in the city likely to be above the limits in 2030 even if “extreme measures” are taken.
Everyone in England is going to get a food waste caddy
The government is going to make English local authorities offer a separate food waste collection each week, alongside their normal rubbish and recycling collection. Legislation is also going to be changed to force councils to offer a minimum set of things they recycle by 2023, including glass bottles, paper and card, plastic bottles, plastic pots, and aluminium cans.
Some people will be offered whole genome sequencing on the NHS within months
Seriously ill children likely to have a rare genetic disorder, children with cancer, and adults with certain rare conditions and cancers are to be offered whole genome sequencing later this year through the NHS. Plans for how genetic testing for more common diseases might be offered through the NHS are due out later this year. The department of health’s prevention green paper also sets “an ambition to go ‘smoke-free’ in England by 2030.”
A bottle deposit return scheme is (probably) arriving in England and Wales from 2023
The government has been talking for aeons about some form of a scheme where consumers pay a deposit for drink bottles and cans, which is only refunded after the container is returned. Yes, like the sort of schemes that used to run more than 40 years ago. Today the government said it is “minded” to use legislation to introduce the new scheme by 2023. Exactly which bottles and cans would be covered is unclear, but officials say it’s likely to include those up to 3 litres in size.
The government has fleshed out environmental protections after Brexit
More details have been published on the environmental laws and watchdog that will replace European protections once the UK leaves the EU. The big one is that the watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, is getting new powers, including the ability to take the government to court. Ruth Chambers of the Greener UK coalition of non-governmental organisations says: “Giving the green watchdog powers to initiate legal action against the government and undertake its own investigations shows that Michael Gove has listened to some major concerns.”
A plastic packaging tax is coming in 2022
The Treasury “notes the levels of support” among the 400-plus individuals and groups that responded to its consultation on plans for a plastic packaging tax. The government said today that the tax will be introduced by 2022. More details are promised in the budget later this year.
Biodiversity loss near railway lines must be stopped
Following concerns over excessive tree-felling near railway lines, a government-commissioned report last year urged Network Rail to better manage vegetation. Today the Department for Transport responded by saying it: “expects Network Rail to achieve no net loss in biodiversity on its existing lineside estate by 2024 and to achieve biodiversity net gain on each route by 2040
Ministers really want to make carbon capture and storage work
How do you make the economics of carbon capture and storage work? Last night the government published a list of options, including subsidies akin to the ones awarded to offshore windfarms. It’s also looking closer at how old oil and gas sites can be used to transport and lock away the carbon.
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