Climate legislation amended following SCELN’s seventh gas campaign

Climate legislation amended following SCELN’s seventh gas campaign

Dr Thomas Muinzer

On 2 February 2023 the UK government passed the The Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse 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 (CCA 2008) and close a significant gap in the governance of greenhouse gas emissions between national and devolved legislation.

The campaign started when founding SCELN member, Dr Thomas Muinzer, director of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Energy Law, identified that the CCA 2008 only covered six greenhouse gases whereas seven were governed under corresponding Scottish and Welsh legislation, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

The awry molecule was Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3).

In global action on climate change, NF3 was added to the list of targeted greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015 and duly incorporated into Scottish and Welsh legislation.

NF3 is increasingly concerning in the fight against climate change due to its prevalent use in electronics, and demand for the synthetic substance is expected to increase in the coming years. With an atmospheric lifetime of 550 years, the gas has the potential to have 17,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, according to the 2008 Yale study that brought NF3 onto the climate agenda.

After several years of campaigning to amend the CCA 2008 and incorporate NF3, involving legal and scientific briefs by SCELN and atmospheric scientist Professor Javier Martin-Torres to the BEIS Secretary, a complaint to the European Commission and correspondence with numerous MPs, including Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, the gas has been incorporated.

The Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse Gases) Order 2023 amends sections 24(1), 25(1) and 92(1) of the CCA 2008 to designate NF3 as a targeted greenhouse gas. It also brings NF3 into the reporting remit of Occupational Pension Schemes, effectively extending the impact of the amendment to the finance and investments sectors.

The amendment closes a gap in greenhouse gas reporting that is essential for meaningful climate change reporting and work towards Net Zero.

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