21 March 2023

Success for Scottish Climate Emergency Legal Network’s Seventh Gas Campaign

On 2 February 2023 the UK Government passed The Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouses Gases) Order 2023 in response to a campaign by the Scottish Climate Emergency Legal Network (SCELN) to amend the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008.

SCELN, of which Legal Services Agency is a founding member, has successfully campaigned to address the discrepancies between national and devolved climate change legislation. Dr Thomas Muinzer, director of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Energy Law, noted that the Climate Change Act 2008 only covered six greenhouse gases. This was contrary to corresponding Scottish and Welsh climate change legislation which list seven greenhouse gases.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 list an additional greenhouse gas, namely Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3). This was incorporated into Scottish and Welsh legislation in 2015 after NF3 was added to the list of targeted greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Although NF3 is produced in relatively small quantities, it is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with a long atmospheric lifetime of 550 years and its levels are increasing, particularly due to its use in electronics.

The SCELN commenced the seventh gas campaign in order to press the UK Government and Parliament to incorporate this highly polluting gas into national law via amendments to the Climate Change Act 2008. A legal brief by SCELN lawyers and a scientific brief by Professor Javier Martin-Torres were provided to the Secretary of State. SCELN also made a written complaint to the European Commission. Following a request for a Parliamentary Answer by Caroline Lucas MP in June 2021, the Government announced that it intended to amend the definition of greenhouse gases in the Climate Change Act 2008 to include NF3.

The Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse Gases) Order 2023 amends sections 24(1), 25(1) and 92(1) of the Climate Change Act 2008 to designate NF3 as a targeted greenhouse gas. This is a significant update to climate change legislation and one which LSA is proud to have been a part of.