3. Environmental governance arrangements: monitoring, measuring and reporting
3.1 Chapter 3 presents the analysis of responses to Questions 5 and 6 of the consultation, which relate to environmental governance arrangements and cover monitoring, measuring and reporting.
3.2 Environmental governance arrangements are highlighted in the consultation paper as a means to ensure effective implementation of policy relating to the environment and compliance with the law relating to the environment. Four key elements of governance are described, with acknowledgement of overlap and interaction. The first of these - monitoring, measuring and reporting activities - is discussed in this chapter.
3.3 The paper notes that EU membership has provided a framework for monitoring, measuring and reporting on environmental outcomes, supported by the sharing of information and the collation of consistent information within the EU. Many of the reporting requirements are statutory, with analysis and preparation of the reporting undertaken by EU institutions and data often aggregated at a member state level.
3.4 Consultation respondents were asked to provide their opinions on potential impacts on monitoring, measuring and reporting by responding to the following question:
Question 5: What do you think will be the impact of the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting?
Overall nature of response
- There were 91 responses to this question. Three respondents left comments to the effect of 'no comment' or 'I cannot answer this' in response to this question; leaving 88 substantive responses for analysis.
- Almost all of the comments described the impact of the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting as negative.
- Some respondents believe there will be no impact, or that the impacts are unclear of the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting.
- A small number believe the impact of the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting will be positive.
Reference to current arrangements
3.5 The most common theme in the discussions was reflections on the value of current EU monitoring, measuring and reporting arrangements.
3.6 Most of these were detailed comments calling for current arrangements and requirements to continue post EU exit. There were also suggestions that Scotland should seek to retain membership of specific EU agencies such as the EEA.
3.7 Some respondents suggested that there should be continued international and EU coordination and cooperation in regard to monitoring, measuring and reporting arrangements and requirements, but did not refer to membership of specific agencies.
3.8 A small number shared general comments that post EU exit, there should be the same level of monitoring, measuring and reporting as currently exists.
3.9 The second most prevalent theme in responses was concern that the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting will result in generally lower standards. The concerns included:
- Harm to the environment due to lower standards of monitoring, measuring and reporting
- A fear that lower standards will become the norm
- Lack of scrutiny (discussed further in responses to question 7)
- Weakened enforcement in relation to malpractice
- That Scotland will fall behind in the application of environmental legislation.
Loss of knowledge, expertise, networks, collaboration, benchmarking or learning
3.10 Another common theme in responses was reflections that loss of engagement with the EU could impact negatively on Scotland's ability to participate in networks and / or collaborative working. Discussions in this thread included suggestions that in the longer term this would hinder access to knowledge, expertise and learning.
3.11 Several respondents made general comments indicating concern about loss of knowledge, expertise, networks, collaboration, benchmarking or learning. Some respondents reiterated the importance of maintaining collaboration and contact with the EU and noted that consideration will need to be given to how to facilitate this. A small number of respondents discussed the loss of Scotland's ability to contribute to international efforts to address environmental problems.
3.12 Many respondents suggested measures that could be implemented by the SG to mitigate negative impacts of the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting. Within these comments there was a common thread of discussion that re-joining the EEA post EU exit would mitigate potential negative impacts of loss of EU engagement.
3.13 Some suggested the consideration of establishing a domestic governance mechanism/independent body to carry out the function of existing EU bodies and which considers long-term monitoring, trend analysis, data sharing and encourages a collaborative governance culture.
3.14 A small number of respondents called for continued participation in EU Framework Programmes for research, academic and or NGO networks. A few suggested the SG continue monitoring, measuring and reporting and then sharing data on a voluntary basis, without the need for new legislation or for retaining memberships.
Loss of data aggregation and comparison
3.15 The loss of data aggregation and comparison was highlighted by many as a particularly negative impact of the loss of engagement on monitoring, measuring and reporting.
3.16 Much of this discussion included general remarks to the effect that 'EU exit will result in a loss or lack of data sharing, collection, comparison or measurement'. Some expressed specific concern that access to EU-wide data will become restricted. A small number of respondents identified a need for collaboration and joint working to ensure that, post EU exit the sharing and comparison of data can continue.
Reduced transparency and accountability
3.17 Several respondents expressed concern that there will be a loss of transparency as a result of a loss of engagement with the EU.
International / cross-county considerations
3.18 A small number of respondents discussed reporting and alignment with international treaties such as: OSPAR Convention, the Bern Convention, the Aarhus Convention, the Espoo Convention, the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Another respondent commented that environmental issues are global and therefore data sharing should sit outside of European control. Two respondents discussed intra-UK considerations which are discussed in a more detailed section in Chapter 4.
3.19 Specific examples of impacts resulting from the loss of engagement with the EU on monitoring, measuring and reporting are provided in Appendix 7. A small number of respondents reflected on the illegality of disturbing protected species under EU law, and that if such a disturbance is recorded and a complaint has been made it can be taken to the EU Commission. They expressed concerns that this function will be lost post EU exit.
Loss of funding
3.20 Fears about loss of funding as a result of disengagement from the EU were also identified in comments. For example, a few respondents described uncertainty, post EU exit, around the amount of funding available for monitoring, measuring and reporting.
References to the Roundtable on Environment and Climate Change
3.21 Findings from the Roundtable were mentioned by some respondents in their response to Question 5. This was a panel of experts who were asked to consider potential gaps in environmental governance that may arise should the UK exit the EU. A few respondents noted they shared the Roundtable's concerns.
3.22 A small number of respondents suggested that loss of engagement with the EU will have positive impacts. These comments highlighted less bureaucracy and greater freedom.
Responses to Question 6: Key issues for monitoring and reporting requirements
3.23 The consultation paper notes the importance of providing clarity on the scope and purpose of environmental monitoring and reporting once the requirements of EU membership no longer apply. The Scottish Government proposes a review to rationalise current reporting and monitoring programmes, taking the opportunity to clarify and consolidate reporting requirements.
3.24 Respondents were asked to discuss the issues they would like to see included in a review by answering the following question:
Question 6: What key issues would you wish a review of reporting and monitoring requirements to cover?
3.25 This open-ended question achieved 86 responses. Of those, 81 left substantive comments (five left comments to the effect of 'no comment').
3.26 The most prevalent theme in comments was for the review to cover issues around transparency. In this discussion many reflected on public data accessibility, noting it should be published to enhance democratic accountability for the environment.
3.27 Some respondents discussed the need for a transparent and consistent reporting system. A small number called for the creation of an independent watchdog to scrutinise the SG.
3.28 Another common theme in responses concerned resources, costs and efficiency as issues to be considered in the review. The need for adequate financial resources was also referenced in the campaign response.
3.29 Some respondents made general comments discussing the review as an opportunity to ensure requirements are well resourced, efficient and economically viable.
3.30 A few respondents identified the need for access to expertise and adequate resources to scrutinise reports. A small number called for a comprehensive assessment of ongoing and long-term costs to be included in the review, including how funding requirements will be assured.
Upholding existing reporting and monitoring requirements
3.31 Many respondents indicated that all the issues that are currently covered in existing EU reporting and monitoring requirements should be retained.
Data interpreting and reporting
3.32 Data interpreting and reporting were also noted as issues to review. In this discussion a small number of respondents suggested that data monitoring and reporting should be consistent across the UK and EU where possible, with an alignment of reporting requirements to avoid a duplication of requests, which can lead to variations in data reporting. A few left general comments indicating the need for the review to consider data comparability.
3.33 A small number called for a new, simplified system of monitoring and reporting with one noting that specifically councils would benefit from simplified reporting.
3.34 Several respondents discussed data gaps as an issue to cover in a review of monitoring and reporting requirements. Within this discussion, a small number called on the review to identify gaps in existing monitoring, indicating that current data recording is lacking.
Evidence to inform the review
3.35 Several respondents noted evidence that could inform the review and, in some cases, signposted the SG to specific material including existing reports, reviews and evidence to consider. Examples include the SBIF review in relation to transforming Scotland's biological infrastructure when reviewing monitoring and reporting.
Alignment with other monitoring frameworks
3.36 Many respondents called for the review to consider structuring requirements in accordance with other monitoring frameworks. Several specified that they would like to see requirements aligned with other UK jurisdictions, EU requirements and working in collaboration with the EEA.
Issues with current reporting and monitoring
3.37 Current issues and/or problems with current reporting and monitoring requirements were also noted as issues to consider in the review. Some respondents made the point that Scotland has been ineffective so far in terms of monitoring compliance under the EU framework and that the review presents an opportunity to improve regulations. A small number discussed the review as an opportunity to refocus monitoring and reporting requirements on Scotland as some issues will be unique to Scotland.
3.38 A small number of respondents explicitly mentioned data quality as an issue that should be covered in a review of monitoring and reporting. These included suggestions that the review should consider time and other pressures that may affect the volume of data that can be collected, impacting its quality.
3.39 Some respondents discussed data sharing as an issue that should be covered in a review of monitoring and reporting. Points raised in this discussion include the need to continue data sharing between jurisdictions post EU exit, and that there should be no legal issues with this sharing.
3.40 A few organisations offered to contribute to the review and a small number of respondents gave comments which focussed on intra-UK considerations. These are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.
Specific issues to include in the review
3.41 Several respondents highlighted a specific key issue they would like to see covered in a review of reporting and monitoring requirements. A small number provided an identical list of environmental topics to include in the review:
- Biodiversity: species abundance/distribution, etc
- Representativeness, condition and connectivity of protected areas
- Air, water, marine quality standards, light pollution, etc.
- Procedural comparisons: e.g. SEA, EIA, access to justice, etc.
3.42 A few would like a review to cover the role of citizen science as a basis for engaging with the public on the impact of climate change and sustainability.
3.43 Workshop participants were strongly supportive of a review of environmental monitoring which includes identifying gaps in reporting, establishing best practice and promoting innovation in data collection and reporting in Scotland. A number highlighted that it would be helpful to set out the benefits of monitoring and reporting and a number also stressed the importance of ensuring the relevant requirements are cost effective. An additional point not covered elsewhere in consultation responses was considering and developing evidence to support Scotland continuing to be involved with the European Environment Agency post withdrawal.
A sample of illustrative quotes that typify the themes identified in this section:
"This loss, if unabated, will lead to reduced and less effective implementation of environmental laws with the result that our natural world suffers. Monitoring, measuring and reporting are all crucial for establishing how well environmental law is being implemented. These processes allow identification of areas that require improvement and potentially further investigation. They also help us to understand how the environment itself is fairing. Without a clear and detailed picture of the status of the environment, it is impossible to develop meaningful and effective law and policy designed to protect it. (Client Earth)"
"In that respect, it is crucial that in dealing with complex, long problems we do not sacrifice multi-decadal monitoring systems for short-term public expenditure savings, and that we maintain our ability to contribute effectively to pan-European macro monitoring and long-term trend analysis. Review must consider the need for clear long-term targets that are set and do not change with any shifts in government as well as long-term commitment in the form of funding; at the same time, review should consider the outcomes of the upcoming EU fitness check review. Monitoring requires resource, so consideration must also be given to capacity and costs; review should include identifying current gaps in and costs of monitoring. (Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh)"