Friends of the Earth Scotland warns of the environmental risks posed by Brexit

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 27 October 2016 in News

The Scottish Parliament will today debate the effect of Brexit on the environment

Scottish Parliament: Credit: Anita Gould

Environmental groups have warned the Scottish Government of the environmental risks posed by Brexit, ahead of a debate in Holyrood today.

Friends of the Earth Scotland expressed concerns over the direction of UK Government environmental policy, with both climate change targets and renewable funding potentially in jeopardy after the UK takes control of areas which previously fell under the responsibility of the EU.  

A motion tabled by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham in Holyrood states that “Parliament agrees that membership of the EU has ensured progress on a wide range of environmental issues in Scotland and continues to underpin vital environmental protection”, while calling on the UK Government to “ensure that Scotland has a role in the decision-making, as well as full involvement, in all UK negotiations”.


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But FoE Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon warned that with the UK Government prioritising the use of nuclear power and fracking, there will be no compulsion on the UK to set any targets for energy saving or green energy after it leaves the EU.

He said: “There is a real danger that Scotland will toughen up its own climate target, to play its fair part in delivering the UN Paris Agreement, only to be held back by UK energy market rules rigged to support nuclear power.”

Meanwhile Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell has tabled an amendment calling for the UK Government to address concerns over the controversial CETA trade deal, which he said risks “washing away our environmental protections and leaving the door wide open for big business to sue, as the experience in Quebec over its fracking moratorium has shown”.

He said: “The negotiations to take us out of Europe against our wishes are being led by a right-wing Westminster Government that is gung-ho for fracking. The kind of free-trade deals Theresa May hopes to strike are corporate power grabs communities have been fighting, such as TTIP and CETA.

“Scotland needs to turn up the volume on these issues and make the case for staying in the EU so we have a strong voice on environmental protections. Wallonia has shown just this week that this is possible.”

Ruskell added: “The Westminster Government has been CETA's biggest cheerleader and it's simply unacceptable that our precious natural environment could be traded away by Tories we didn't elect and who aren't listening to Scotland."

Dixon argued the Scottish Government faces pressure from farming and fishing lobbies and from a UK government with different priorities on climate, nature and energy policy.

He added: “There will likely be a huge drive within the UK Government to rip up laws which protect nature, prevent pollution and set standards for a clean environment. Most of EU environmental law is devolved to Holyrood so Scotland can decide to keep these protections in place but we will still feel the impact of deep cuts to budgets for managing the environment. As a society we lose the protection of being able to appeal to European courts if either the UK or Scottish governments are failing to protect the environment.

“We cannot allow any trade deals, either at a UK or Scottish level, to weaken any important environmental regulations or promote the import of environmentally destructive products.  We have witnessed the huge public backlash to the EU deals with Canada and USA which are driven by demands of big business and had threatened to remove valuable public safeguards mistakenly labelling them as ‘barriers to trade’.”

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