Environmental Information under Threat
Published on 12 December 2022
Providing evidence to the Scottish Government on Brexit and the Aarhus Convention
Since the rules enabling public access to environmental information were made in order to implement EU laws, they are among the many provisions under threat from the UK Government’s plans to remove all retained EU laws from the statute book at the end of 2023.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill being debated at Westminster imposes this mandatory “sunset” on all laws introduced to implement EU measures, unless they are specifically preserved or replaced before the end of 2023 (a later deadline can be set in some cases). Given the need to continue compliance with the Aarhus Convention, it can be expected that something will be done to prevent the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 simply disappearing, but if the Bill proceeds the key point is that positive steps will have to be taken within the coming months.
This was one of the examples raised by Professor Colin Reid when he participated at a round-table evidence session with the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament when it was considering the impact of the Bill at the start of December.
It also featured in a workshop he contributed to with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission as part of its work in considering how environmental rights feature in the context of the obligation to ensure that there is no diminution of the rights guaranteed under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement as a consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU (an obligation contained in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement).