Published on August 21st, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Scotland & Wales Pledge Cooperation On Brexit Environmental Concerns
August 21st, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
The Environment ministers from Scotland and Wales have announced their intention to cooperate on ensuring Brexit will not damage efforts to protect and enhance the UK’s environment.
Ever since a slight majority of UK voters turned out in June to express their desire to exit from the European Union, or Brexit, there have been numerous concerns raised about exactly what ‘Brexit’ will look like — will it be a hard and total exit from the European Union, or will the UK remain a participant to some degree in the EU’s mechanisms. Before she announced and suffered at the hands of an ill-advised election, British Prime Minister Theresa May had promised that the UK’s Brexit would be a ‘hard Brexit’. Following the election — an election May’s Conservative Party barely won — the promise of a hard Brexit has been less appealing, and much less viable.
Significantly, numerous parties across the EU and throughout the UK have raised concerns over the impact Brexit will have on the UK’s environmental and energy targets — specifically its emissions targets. Environmental and green groups from across the country have set out their hopes and advice for Brexit at the same time that warnings have been offered that UK’s Brexit policies must not upset the country’s larger and essential need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy.
Long having served as outliers within mainstream UK politics, the governments of Scotland and Wales have this month reiterated their concerns about the environmental and energy implications of a poorly organized Brexit, announcing that they are joining together to ensure that the UK’s ‘EU Withdrawal Bill’ will not damage the UK’s efforts to protect and enhance the environment. Specifically, the Scottish and Welsh Environment Ministers met last week to ensure that the UK Parliament in London does not take control of devolved powers — which is essentially the long-standing policy that each member country of the UK has the right to enact its own powers from its own government headquarters.
According to the BBC, “Since 1999, the way the United Kingdom is run has been transformed by devolution — a process designed to decentralise government and give more powers to the three nations which, together with England, make up the UK.” Revoking these devolved powers would be a massive threat to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and would not only invoke memories of past London overreach, but would also seriously threaten the tremendous environmental and energy work done in each country — specifically Scotland, which has repeatedly outdone its southern neighbor.
Almost 80% of Scotland’s environmental laws originated at the European Union level, including legislation pertaining to waste management, pollution & regulations, biodiversity, flooding, and drinking water quality. Putting aside the ever-present underlying question of whether Scotland will reach for independence one day — potentially leading to their reintegration into the EU — Scotland wants to hold on to its existing legislation because they know it works and has boosted their economy tremendously while making the country a world leader in environmental and energy efforts.
Of particular concern for Scotland’s Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, was the possibility that policy areas such as climate change and the circular economy — policy arenas in which Scotland has set itself more ambitious targets than the UK Government — will be dragged back under UK-wide policies imposed on all countries, rather than negotiated.
“My message has been clear and consistent — the Scottish Government will steadfastly adhere to its environmental commitments, despite the growing threat of a hard Brexit,” said Ms Cunningham. “That is why we are joining with our Welsh counterparts to urge the UK Government to ditch this ill-conceived power grab. Imposing a UK-wide framework for the environment risks undermining the significant progress Scotland has made, which has seen us win international recognition for our work on climate change and the circular economy.
“We are not opposed in principle to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas but this must be through agreement – not imposition,” Cunningham added. “Protecting devolution will allow us to drive forward our ambitious work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance environmental standards and create a cleaner, greener Scotland for everyone.”
“Devolution has enabled the Welsh Government to deliver ground-breaking legislation for the people of Wales, which delivers on international obligations and has been recognised as cutting-edge by a number of international institutions,” added Welsh Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths.
“The approach presented by the UK Government in the Withdrawal Bill could significantly undermine this progress.
“Our approach has not been about trading off agriculture and the environment, it’s about both. You can’t have one without the other. The [European Union Withdrawal] Bill as it stands has the potential to seriously impact on this approach by locking us into an outdated framework while also removing our ability to bring forward reforms.
“This is why, like Scotland, we want EU powers in devolved areas to come straight to Wales. Welcoming my Scottish counterpart to Wales today will allow us to continue to work together to develop a strong future which benefits everyone.”