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Ambassador Thomas Reilly, Covington’s Head of UK Public Policy and a key member of the firm’s Global Problem Solving Group and Brexit Task Force, draws on over 20 years of diplomatic and commercial roles to advise clients on their strategic business objectives.

Ambassador Reilly was most recently British Ambassador to Morocco between 2017 and 2020, and prior to this, the Senior Advisor on International Government Relations & Regulatory Affairs and Head of Government Relations at Royal Dutch Shell between 2012 and 2017. His former roles with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office included British Ambassador Morocco & Mauritania (2017-2018), Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Egypt (2010-2012), Deputy Head of the Climate Change & Energy Department (2007-2009), and Deputy Head of the Counter Terrorism Department (2005-2007). He has lived or worked in a number of countries including Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Argentina.

At Covington, Ambassador Reilly works closely with our global team of lawyers and investigators as well as over 100 former diplomats and senior government officials, with significant depth of experience in dealing with the types of complex problems that involve both legal and governmental institutions.

Ambassador Reilly started his career as a solicitor specialising in EU and commercial law but no longer practices as a solicitor.

The United Nations annual climate change conference—officially known as the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”), or COP27 for short—held in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, finally concluded early Sunday morning, more than 24 hours late.

COP27 was held amidst the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and the consequent economic turmoil, including Europe’s scramble to secure non-Russian gas. It was previewed by a UNFCCC report which concluded that on its current trajectory the world faced warming of between 2.5 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and accompanied by a new report from the International Energy Agency’s 2022 World Energy Outlook which concluded that the world needed to spend at least $4 trillion annually to tackle climate change from now until 2030.

Against this challenging backdrop, COP27 was never going to be straightforward. But those difficulties were compounded by divisions between developing and developed world over the priorities that should form the focus for COP27. Those divisions manifested themselves most clearly in tensions before, during, and at the conclusion of the Conference over the issue of “loss and damage.” This acrimony overshadowed almost all other aspects of the COP, which will nonetheless be viewed as historic for being the first COP to not only place the loss and damage issue on the official agenda, but for its creation of a separate fund to compensate countries most impacted by climate change. But loss and damage aside, the broader picture that emerged from COP27 was one of lost opportunities to adopt more ambitious and accelerated climate mitigation commitments in response to the dire scientific warnings about the impact of rapid global warming on the planet. In particular, efforts calling for a phase down of all fossil fuels were ultimately unsuccessful in the Summit’s final agreement and highlighted the mismatch between the pace of global emissions reduction commitments and that which is needed to avoid the most disruptive climate impacts.

Continue Reading COP27: A Flawed though still Consequential Climate Summit

COP27 was never going to be a ‘Big COP’ in the way that COP26 in Glasgow was.  It was not originally designed to be one of the five-year ratchet reviews of NDCs set out by the 2015 the Paris Agreement and there were no major new climate change texts due to be negotiated.  Sharm’s value is likely to be assessed, at least in part, on whether it effectively tees up important items for next year, including:

  • the Global Stocktake (the technical dialogue will conclude in June next year, and the political phase at COP28);
  • the Global Goal on Adaptation, due to conclude next year;
  • the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance, due to conclude in 2024; and
  • the increasingly important future discussions on loss and damage. 

However, COP27 remains an important waypoint – not least in how successful it eventually is in avoiding acrimonious debate and significant tensions over loss and damage.

Glasgow was a five-year review point.  But the UNFCCC assessed that not enough progress had been made by countries’ emissions reductions targets towards the 1.5 degree target and required all member countries to return to COP27 with improved goals.  So COP27 represents an important departure from the UNFCCC’s agreed timetable and in that sense demonstrates the increasing urgency of reducing emissions: an urgency juxtaposed against the record high attendance of representatives from oil and gas companies and the anguished debate about the role of gas as a transitional fuel.

Continue Reading COP 27 – Week one Summary

During its 40-year membership of the EU, the UK incorporated many thousands of pieces of EU legislation (including swathes of employment, workers and environmental protection legislation introduced under the EU’s Social Chapter) into UK law.  To ensure a smooth transition when the UK left the EU, that legislation was swept across onto the UK Statute Book as ‘Retained Law’.  Since one of the arguments of the Leave campaign had been to ‘take back control’ of the UK’s legislation, it was only to be expected that Retained Law would eventually be inspected for the logic of keeping it in a UK outside the EU – not least since part of the purpose of EU legislation was to ensure legal conformity across a 28-nation trading bloc. 

Ideally, each piece of legislation would have been individually assessed to decide on its merit and value to the UK’s international competitivity and its compliance with international norms on climate change, environmental protection, human and employment rights etc.  Laws which met those requirements would then have been redrafted to suit the UK specifically: those which did not and which the UK outside the EU did not need would have been jettisoned after due consideration. 

The Bill…

Whilst it is widely accepted that a review and redraft of EU legislation is necessary and even logical for a UK outside the EU, concerns have been increasingly focused, not on the changes per se, but on the method that the government is planning to use to make those changes.

Continue Reading A Brexit Legislation Bonfire?

COP27 began in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, yesterday. It begins inauspiciously, set against the global impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting food and energy insecurity and dramatic price rises which have pushed climate change down domestic political agendas across the world and increased demand for new sources of fossil fuel to reduce reliance on Russian gas.  By the same token, the Russian aggression creates a lever that presents COP27 with a rare, perhaps unique, opportunity to accelerate the energy transition. 

Furthermore, since the effects of climate change are non-discriminatory, the need to tackle it is a genuine global need: a visionary take on COP 27 is that it could offer a ‘safe haven’ for international dialogue and collaboration where world leaders can find effective pathways forward on food, energy, nature and security. However, the augurs are not positive…

Billed as the ‘Implementation COP’ it was designed to require countries to improve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to reducing climate-change inducing emissions. However, the tussle over the agenda, which began at 1300 on Saturday and did not conclude until midday on Sunday, suggests that the alternative name for this COP – ‘The African COP’ – is more appropriate and that the focus and key to its success lies elsewhere.

Why Does COP27 Matter?

COP27 marks 30 years since the adoption of the UNFCCC[i] and seven years since the 2015 Paris Agreement of COP21[ii], which was the first legally-binding global treaty on climate change. It was the Paris Agreement that introduced NDCs which require countries to set out by how much they will reduce their national emissions each year, with a target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century.  The Paris Agreement also imposed a requirement to improve ability to adapt and build resilience to climate change; and to align finance flows with ‘a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development’.

Continue Reading What to Expect from COP 27

On 6 October 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted a Regulation on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices (the “Regulation”).  The Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 7 October. The Regulation has three main elements:

  1. A requirement to reduce electricity consumption by 5% in peak hours;
  2. A measure to return the excess revenues or profits of energy companies to the individual Member States; and
  3. The allocation of proceeds to customers to alleviate retail electricity prices and an extension to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) of the categories of beneficiaries of a possible Member State intervention in the retail price.

The Regulation’s market intervention is exceptional (albeit in response to an extraordinary geopolitical market disruption).  It will have widespread positive and negative impacts for energy market sellers and buyers.  These circumstances may provoke a range of disputes, transaction (re)structurings or additional compliance obligations that will require expert advice and understanding of the details of the Regulation.

Reduction in electricity consumption

EU Member States will endeavour to reach an overall 10% reduction in electricity consumption by all consumers.  The benchmark against which that reduction will be measured is the average of gross electricity consumption in the corresponding months of the reference period, i.e. from 1 November to 31 March in the five preceding years, starting from 2017.  In addition, in order to reduce retail prices and improve supply security, Member States are obliged to deliver a 5% reduction of electricity consumption during peak hours, (defined as the hours of the day where day-ahead wholesale electricity prices are expected to be the highest; gross electricity consumption is expected to be the highest; or gross consumption of electricity generated from sources other than renewable sources is expected to be the highest).  These measures will apply from 1 December 2022 until 31 March 2023.

Continue Reading EU Emergency Action on Energy

On 6 September 2022, Liz Truss was appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom. With her appointment, Government business will resume after the inevitable hiatus caused by the Conservative Party’s internal election process.

PM Truss has been busy – making her first speech (in which she set out her priorities); taking her first set of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons; and appointing her Cabinet and junior Ministers as well as the support staff in her own Office. These actions provide the first reliable indicators of her strategic vision for the country – and of her capacity to deliver it.

Truss’s first speech was aspirational but short on strategic vision for her government. The speech did set out a statement of intent in focusing on boosting economic growth, tackling the energy crisis and investing in the National Health Service, but there was no plan for how these goals will be delivered.

However, Truss’ Cabinet appointments perhaps provide a much clearer guide as to the nature and intentions of her government. She has surrounded herself with Ministers and Senior Advisors who share a common intellectual framework and ideology. Almost all are alumni of think-tanks and policy groups that are on the right-wing of the Conservative Party: the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the Taxpayers’ Alliance. All espouse reducing the size of the state, increasing competition, enabling free markets, and reducing taxation.

Continue Reading The Truss Government – What Inferences Can We Draw?

This year the impact of climate change has been more visible than ever before. Temperatures in the UK reached an unheard-of 40+ degrees C; rivers in Germany and China have run dry, creating problems for transport and hydro-electric power creation; one-third of Pakistan is under flood-water. This feeling of crisis has been compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the consequent ever-rising gas prices.  These factors have combined to focus international political and public attention on the urgency of the energy transition. 

The success of the energy transition will depend on access to significantly increased quantities of rare earth metals and minerals, which are central to the production of permanent magnets used in electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines. According to the IEA, meeting current energy policies will require a doubling of current levels of mineral extraction and refining by 2040.  Reaching the Paris target of 1.5 degrees C will require a quadrupling by 2040.  Attaining Net Zero by 2050 requires a six-fold increase by 2040.

Can this be done?

Proven reserves of rare earth elements (REE) are assessed to be sufficient (just) to meet the needs of the energy transition. The question is therefore whether a solution can be found to the inefficiency of their extraction and use; and whether mining and processing activities across the value and supply chains can be expanded quickly enough to meet this projected growth.

Continue Reading Elemental Risk: the Threat to Electric Vehicles

Gazprom reduces supplies again

Gazprom’s 27 July decision to reduce the gas it supplies through Nord Stream 1 to 33 mcm means it is now delivering just one-fifth of the pipeline’s capacity. This reduction ensures Europe will continue paying (ever higher prices) for (just enough) Russian gas in order to service its day-to-day needs, whilst leaving insufficient extra to fill storage units before the winter (in late June, the Commission mandated that EU gas storage facilities should be 80% full by 1 November).  The Gazprom reductions come against the backdrop of a historically hot summer, where consumer demand, including for air conditioning, is significantly higher than normal[i].

Ironically, given the IPPC report and COP27 at the end of the year, the major beneficiary of the Russian gas supply crunch appears to be coal: the IEA forecasts a 7% rise in global coal consumption to reach the all-time record set in 2013, with electricity demand for coal likely to increase by as much as 16%.

Continue Reading Europe’s Gas Crisis

The UK government has reported a successful start to the implementation of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (the “NSIA” or “Act”). During the first three months (Jan-March 2022) in which the new NSIA regime has been active, the Investment Screening Unit (“ISU”) received 222 filings and reviewed 17 transactions in depth. Of those 17 transactions, three have been cleared unconditionally, with the other 14 transactions still under review at the end of the reporting period.

Mandatory NSIA filings, which represented 196 of the total flings, were most commonly made in six sectors: defence, military and dual-use, critical suppliers to government, artificial intelligence, data infrastructure and advanced materials.  There were significantly fewer filings in other sectors, with fewer than five filings per sector in areas such as synthetic biology, civil nuclear, advanced robotics and transport.

Collectively, these figures and other data suggest that the NSIA regime is operating, so far, broadly in line with expectations. While there are fewer filings than expected overall, this may reflect a broader global slowdown in M&A and investment activity. The ISU further reports that it is meeting, and often working well within, the maximum statutory time periods for the assessment of filings. The ISU indicates its willingness to complete reviews expeditiously where possible, including for in-depth assessments.

Continue Reading UK National Security and Investment Regime Working Well

The UK government has reported a successful start to the implementation of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (the “NSIA” or “Act”). During the first three months (Jan-March 2022) in which the new NSIA regime has been active, the Investment Screening Unit (“ISU”) received 222 filings and reviewed 17 transactions in depth. Of those 17 transactions, three have been cleared unconditionally, with the other 14 transactions still under review at the end of the reporting period.

Mandatory NSIA filings, which represented 196 of the total flings, were most commonly made in six sectors: defence, military and dual-use, critical suppliers to government, artificial intelligence, data infrastructure and advanced materials.  There were significantly fewer filings in other sectors, with fewer than five filings per sector in areas such as synthetic biology, civil nuclear, advanced robotics and transport.

Collectively, these figures and other data suggest that the NSIA regime is operating, so far, broadly in line with expectations. While there are fewer filings than expected overall, this may reflect a broader global slowdown in M&A and investment activity. The ISU further reports that it is meeting, and often working well within, the maximum statutory time periods for the assessment of filings. The ISU indicates its willingness to complete reviews expeditiously where possible, including for in-depth assessments.

Continue Reading UK National Security and Investment Regime Working Well