With 80% of Scottish environmental protections stemming from EU legislation, the EU’s positive impact on our natural environment is unquestionable. Through EU membership, Scotland has not only been able to better protect our natural environment, but also develop world-leading policies setting the bar across Europe and beyond.
This, however, does not change the fact that, as rich and diverse as our wildlife is, it is also under increasing pressure from pollution, loss of habitat and climate change. Today, 1 in 11 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction.
The prospect of the UK’s exit from the EU endangers our ability to continue protecting and enhancing our environment at a critical time for nature and climate.
This is why environmental NGOs from across Scotland are calling on Scottish Government to protect our environment now and in the future.
Scottish Government needs to introduce a Scottish Environment Act that will:
Embed much needed EU environmental law principles in Scots law
There are four key principles that have guided EU policy-making on the environment. As a result of EU membership, these EU environmental principles can be applied by courts, businesses and governments in their decision-making. They form an essential component of environmental law.
Scotland’s environment has been shaped by these principles, from GMOs and fracking to the introduction of a deposit return scheme and measures to tackle climate change.
These principles need to continue forming the basis of Scotland’s environment policy in the future and to do that they need to be legally binding.
Create an independent and well – resourced watchdog to enforce environmental protections
Environmental protections are only as strong as the mechanisms that ensure they are upheld.
On leaving the EU, Scotland and the rest of the UK will lose the oversight and enforcement roles of the European Commission, European Court of Justice and other EU bodies.
These institutions perform key functions from reviewing, monitoring and reporting on the state of the environment to investigating potential breaches of environment and ensuring enforcement and applying sanctions in cases of noncompliance. They have played an invaluable role in giving a voice to the public on environmental matters and holding governments to account.
Set clear targets for environmental protection alongside adequate financial resources.
We need to stop and reverse the loss of our natural environment. Experience shows that legally binding targets provide a clear direction for government and stakeholders such as businesses and other operators.
We need to build on the Scottish Government’s commitment to bring forward the first Scottish Environment Strategy and ensure that its provisions are legally binding through a Scottish Environment Act.