The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sets up the new UK-EU relationship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Our UK-EU series summarises key parts of the agreement and what it means for Wales.
This guide explains the TCA’s environment, climate and energy provisions, which are summarised below:
Many of the areas discussed in this guide were devolved to Wales when devolution began in 1999 and the UK was in the EU. The majority of UK environmental legislation comes from EU law.
Now that the Brexit transition period has ended, the UK can depart from EU-derived environment law if it chooses. However, it must still comply with its international obligations, including UK-EU agreements like the TCA, and other treaties like the Paris Agreement.
The TCA establishes a complex network of new UK-EU forums, explained in another guide in this series. Discussions and decision-making on the TCA’s environment, climate and energy provisions can take place in multiple forums, including the Partnership Council, Specialised Committees and trade committees.
The Welsh Government can attend some meetings as an observer. Senedd Research articles provide regular updates on how Wales is represented in UK-EU relations.
The UK and EU set out their priorities in the TCA’s preamble and recognise:
- the fight against climate change as an ‘essential element’ of this and future UK-EU agreements;
- each other’s autonomy and right to regulate;
- the need for an economic partnership based on open and fair competition in a manner conducive to sustainable development, known as the ‘level playing field’;
- the benefits of trade and investment in energy and raw materials; and
- the importance of supporting cost-effective, clean and secure energy supplies to the EU and UK.
The TCA sets out the basis for UK-EU cooperation in Articles 763-770, which apply to it and future UK-EU agreements. There are two which relate directly to environment and climate:
- The fight against climate change; and
- Global cooperation on issues of shared economic, environmental and social interest.
Article 771 of the TCA says that parts of the TCA and future UK-EU agreements should be considered ‘essential elements’. This includes the ‘fight against climate change’, which can be found in Article 764.
Essential elements have an elevated status in the TCA because a breach can lead to termination of the agreement.
This is the quickest way to terminate the TCA or future UK-EU agreements, in whole or in part, within 30 days. The TCA also says that an act or omission which materially defeats the object and purpose of the Paris Agreement will always be considered a breach.
If the UK or EU considers the other has failed to carry out their essential elements obligations in this or future UK-EU agreements, they can take safeguarding measures against them. The other can respond with rebalancing measures.
The TCA’s trade sections provide that:
- the UK and EU each retain their right to regulate in several areas, including in services and investment, digital trade and good regulatory practice;
- they will cooperate on energy matters, including trade and investment in energy and raw materials, security of supplies, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and cooperation between regulators;
- the level playing field is maintained between the UK and EU for trade and investment to keep competition between them open and fair. This includes specific rules for environment and climate; and
- sustainable development is taken into account. Duties are placed on the UK and EU in a number of focused sections on trade and specific environmental areas, such as climate change, biological diversity, forests and marine biological resources and aquaculture.
Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament