In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Mark Davies considers environmental developments in Scotland, a new fisheries agreement with Norway and acquittal of French climate protestors.
Environmental developments in Scotland
A big week for environmental law in Scotland, starting with the passing of the Climate Change Bill by MSPs on 26 September. Passed by 113 votes to zero (the Scottish Green MSPs abstaining after Holyrood failed to back a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2030) the Bill introduces a target of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 following an amendment proposed by Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish. The Bill also contains a target for Scotland to become a net-zero society by 2045, meaning Scotland’s target will be more stringent that that announced by Theresa May in one of her last acts as Prime Minister, which commits the UK to achieving net-zero by 2050.
Other additions in Scotland’s new Climate Change Bill are the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change to enable recommendations to be made on how a net-zero transition will be achieved and a requirement for Ministers to report annually on the progress being made in each sector.
One such way the Scottish Government is looking at meeting its proposed new targets is by reforming planning laws. Under proposals announced yesterday by Planning Minister Kevin Stewart, developments such as local renewable energy projects or electric vehicle charging points would bypass the need for planning permission. He stated, “Planning has a key role to play in addressing climate change and radically reducing our emissions. Removing red tape from some of the highest priority projects can be a big step towards our goal of a net-zero carbon future.”
If these proposals are brought forward it will presumably require serious amendment of National Planning Framework 3, which published in 2014 and sets out Scotland’s long-term vision for development and investment across the country.
South of the border, Westminster is ever-keen on tinkering with the planning system (much to the dismay of many) so it will be interesting to see whether England follows suit.
UK signs fisheries agreement with Norway
On 30 September the UK and Norwegian governments signed an agreement ensuring that UK fisherman will continue to have access to fish in Norwegian waters after (perhaps better considered as ‘if’) the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. The agreement protects rights that UK fisherman currently enjoy derived from an agreement between the EU and Norway, with those rights having been set to cease when the UK becomes an independent coastal state.
All sounding very promising! …until one realises that the agreement signed yesterday will ensure the existing arrangements between the UK and Norway will remain in place until the end of 2019. No detail is provided as to what will happen in 2020 or beyond and one surely has to raise the concern that all this provides is two months of security.
The arrangement is to:
- Honour the existing access arrangements agreed between the UK and Norway;
- Ensure that appropriate licencing, control and enforcement provisions are in place (copying the current EU/Norway model);
- Honour the management decisions that were made with Norway for 2019 for North Sea stocks that are jointly managed; and
- Honour the existing quota exchanges for 2019.
The licensing of vessels is to be undertaken by a new licensing authority, the Single Issuing Authority, which (and the clue is in the name) will operate for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that fisherman have the correct licence to fish legally after (again, perhaps better considered as ‘if’) the UK leaves the EU.
Vessels over 12-metres will require an IMO number and are encouraged to register for one now to ensure licence documentation is processed in time.
The Government’s press release may be found here
Judge Gilets Vertes acquits climate crisis protestors
Finally, on a lighter note, a judge (note not actually called Gilets Vertes) in Lyon acquitted two climate crisis protesters who removed Emmanuel Macron’s portrait from an official building. 20 activists had reportedly entered the town hall in a district of the city with miscreants Fanny Delahalle and Pierre Goinciv removing the President’s gold-framed picture and posing with it outside.
Prosecutors sought a fine of EUR 500 for theft, arguing that the protestors had done nothing to help climate change. The Judge, although accepting of the fact that an “object of very strong symbolic value” had been stolen, is said to have concluded that the climate crisis was more serious.
He is reported to have found that “Climate change is a constant that seriously affects the future of humanity by provoking natural catastrophes that poorer countries don’t have the means to protect themselves against… If France has undertaken internally… to respect objectives as the government has, objectives that are probably insufficient but are at least necessary, the documents produced by the defence testify that these objectives will not be reached.”
In his judgment, the ‘intrusion’ into the town hall had only caused a limited disturbance and that they constituted a “legitimate call on the president”.
Rather unsportingly, although perhaps unsurprisingly, the public prosecutor’s office has apparently said it will appeal the decision.
Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards
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