Louise Wylie has the latest on the recent environmental developments in Scotland.

COP 25 Comes to an End

As the UN’s COP25 climate talks come to an end, environmental groups and politicians are looking ahead to the next meeting in Glasgow in 2020. Despite a two-day extension, the longest climate negotiations on record ended with a compromise deal after large polluters opposed more ambitious targets on tackling the climate emergency. All countries are now required to make new climate pledges in time for COP26, but decisions on other, more divisive measures were postponed. Small island nations along with European, African and Latin American countries campaigned for higher targets, but had to compromise with richer nations including the USA and China. Green campaigners have claimed the commitments do not go far enough to keep global temperature rises to 1.5C, the maximum limit scientists have argued for. Environmentalists and observers were controversially barred from the conference after protesting the slow pace of talks.

European Green Deal presented

Last week, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal setting out actions to move to a clean, circular economy, stop climate change and protect biodiversity. The Deal covers all sectors of the economy and includes a political ambition of becoming a climate neutral continent by 2050. The European Parliament and Council will now be asked to endorse the ambition and included measures. The European Commission has committed to presenting the first European Climate Law within 100 days, and will also present strategies on biodiversity, circular economies, agriculture and pollution. To meet investment needs, the Commission will release a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan and Green Financing Strategy next year.

Circular Economy Consultation set to close

The Scottish Government’s consultation on proposed legislation on the development of a circular economy closes on Thursday. The Government is planning wide-scale changes to recycling and waste systems, as part of their net-zero emissions ambitions and aims on plastic pollution. The consultation covers proposals for a circular economy bill – which include charges for some single-use items – and other regulations on procurement and the single-use carrier bag charge, set to be raised to 10p.

Deposit Return Scheme Report published by the Environment Committee

Last week, the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee released a report on the Government’s proposed deposit and return scheme, which would see a deposit of 20p placed on single-use plastic, metal and plastic drink containers. Overall, the Committee supported the scheme but noted concerns about the controversial inclusion of glass and issues regarding how it would operate. It has previously faced criticism for its potential impact on small and rural retailers, and inadvertent incentive to buy bigger bottles.

EU Water Framework backed

Following the EU’s final evaluation of water legislation and the EU Water Framework Directive, Member States are finalising plans to achieve water objectives. The European Commission concluded that the Directive was “fit for purpose” after a two-year evaluation process, a decision which has been welcomed by environmental groups. The Directive provides higher protection for freshwater rivers, lakes and wetlands, and includes measures on flood risk management. A target has been set to meet those objectives by 2027, but the outlook is “mixed”. NGOs have called for more ambitious plans by Member States on water protection.