Climate chief: UK must not use Brexit to water down environment laws
The UK must not water down its environmental laws as it leaves the European Union, one of the government's most senior advisers on climate change has warned.
Lord Krebs, chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee within the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), told the Guardian: “It will be absolutely crucial that governments in the UK replace European legislation and don’t see this as an opportunity to say we can now have dirtier vehicles or less efficient household appliances.”
Krebs said EU regulation played an essential part in setting industrial pollution, energy use and air quality standards in the UK, and also on habitat protection, biodiversity and marine conservation – areas controlled by the UK and devolved governments.
“It is really, really important that we replace that legislation,” he said.
The peer, a former head of the Food Standards Agency, is to tell Scottish ministers on Tuesday their efforts to prepare for the potentially severe impacts of global warming are being undermined by poor monitoring and weak delivery timetables.
He said his experts found there was insufficient evidence to say whether Scotland’s vulnerability to global warming was decreasing or not when they reviewed the Scottish climate change adaptation programme.
In a detailed climate change risk assessment for the UK released in July, the CCC said Scotland was already experiencing the first signs of climatic change, and faced huge risks if manmade warming continued, particularly to infrastructure, farming and housing.
It said annual rainfall had increased 13% since the early 20th century, while sea levels at Aberdeen had increased by about 15cm in the last century. Maximum temperatures had already increased by 1C, cutting average snow cover in the central Highlands.
Under a high-impact scenario, it said, summer temperatures in Edinburgh could rise by 4.4C by 2060, and five-day rainfall levels increase in the city by nearly 25% to 78.4mm.
As well as altering habitats, often to the benefit of farming, that would increase risks of severe flash floods of the type that devastated north-east Scotland earlier this year but also introduce damaging droughts in farming areas – currently a rare occurrence in Scotland.
Data published separately on Monday found that greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish industry had fallen again last year, by 10% for a group of six gases. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said that brought overall emissions down by 34% since 2007.
The CCC’s analysis of the Scottish climate change adaptation programme, published on Tuesday, found that 109 of its 148 policies and proposals for improving resilience had no timescale for delivery, even though ministers said they were “on track”. Another 11 had been revised or delayed, and there was no information on another eight. It said good progress on adapting key target areas was only being made in two out of 28 target areas: roads and railways, and in energy distribution.
Scottish planners and ministers were given a red mark for failing to deal with flood plain developments and for failing to make progress on soils and agriculture; there was an urgent need to address this. In 12 areas there was no information or monitoring, including emergency planning, healthcare, recovery from extreme weather and building on flood plains.
There was still no clear strategy on coastal erosion, damage to biodiversity from warming rivers and lochs and the potential for disruption to telecommunications and digital infrastructure, despite those being raised by the committee nearly five years ago.
Krebs will tell MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday that even though the Scottish strategy was simpler and clearer than the UK government plan for England, a lack of data and target-setting is now a pressing issue. It was too unclear in many cases who was responsible for these policies, he added, despite clear leadership on climate from Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister.
In many key areas, “we simply don’t know [if resilience is being improved] because we don’t have the data”, Krebs said.
“Scotland and England are in a pretty similar place in terms of progress [but] I would say Scotland wants to put a bit more emphasis on collecting information to show what’s actually happening,” he said.
Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for climate change in the Scottish government, said the CCC report had found her government’s adaptation programme was “a positive start in taking steps to prepare” and further improvements were under way.
“We have been developing and improving our adaptation response, for example with new indicators and reporting duties on public bodies and our new national centre for resilience. We will continue to develop our approach and the next adaptation programme, due to be published in 2019, will be based on the best available evidence and the advice and recommendations of the [CCC],” she added.
*This article first stated that Lord Krebs is chair of the Committee on Climate Change. He is chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee at the Committee on Climate Change. Lord Deben is the Committee chair.
This article first appeared on the Guardian
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