New environmental standards investigation to probe Scottish council tools for tackling climate change

A probe into the systems geared to help Scotland’s local authorities tackle climate change has been launched.

The investigation is being undertaken by the new independent body Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS), set up in October last year to ensure the effectiveness of and compliance with environmental laws after Brexit.

The move comes following the submission of a representation to ESS highlighting concerns regarding existing arrangements.

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The inquiry – Consideration of the effectiveness and implementation of local authorities’ climate change responsibilities – is the second for the new agency, which is already examining issues surrounding air quality and atmospheric levels of nitrous oxide.

The Scottish Government declared a climate change emergency in May 2019, prompting the Scottish Parliament to introduce a new 2045 target for the country to achieve net zero climate emissions – or become carbon neutral.

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Public bodies in Scotland, including local authorities, are required by law to “act in the way best calculated” to contribute to the delivery of climate targets.

ESS and its board will now consider the full scope of this investigation, with the findings due to be published when the work is concluded.

Jim Martin is chair of Environmental Standards Scotland, a new independent body responsible for ensuring that public authorities comply with environmental law, which was set up last October after the UK’s exit from the European Union left a gap in how the application and implementation of environmental law is scrutinised. Picture: Mark F Gibson/Gibson Digital

“It is crucial that public bodies meet their environmental responsibilities and that robust systems are in place to help achieve this,” ESS chair Jim Martin said.

“The consequences of not meeting climate change targets are serious and action needs to be taken.

“In light of this, and given the scale of emissions which local authorities are directly responsible for or have levers to influence, ESS has taken the decision to launch an investigation into the effectiveness of the systems in place to support local authorities.”

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