SCOTLAND'S £1billion renewables sector and reputation as Europe's clean energy powerhouse are at risk when the UK leaves the European Union, it has been claimed.

Campaigners have called into question to what extent the UK will fund wind farms and other forms of clean energy after 2020, when its pledge to adhere to existing EU commitments expires, as well as the future of the carbon tax designed to kill off coal power and meeting British climate targets.

There are also concerns that without European clean air targets to meet the various political administrations across the UK will no longer priorities environmentally-driven policies on areas such as transport.

Currently, the UK is obliged to meet European Union targets on energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change but after Brexit it will be up to Westminster to set any targets on the first two. A new set of targets will have to be agreed with the UN on climate change.

The green energy industry north of the Border has grown significantly in recent years, and now employs more than 20,000 people and delivers around £1bn-a-year in investment.

Writing in today's Herald, the head of Friends of the Earth Scotland said the UK Government would "no doubt try hard to do as little as possible" to meet international climate targets set down by the Paris Agreement when it leaves the EU.

Accusing the UK of being "entirely out of step with almost every other country in the world", Dr Richard Dixon said a change of policy and approach to renewables could do "great harm of a rapidly growing Scottish success story".

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens said that only by retaining European targets on air quality and holding the UK legally responsible for achieving them would sufficient policies and measures be put in place to address the root causes of the issues.

The UK has been seen as an important driver of climate change policy across the EU, with the Scottish Government stating the EU’s climate and energy objectives are increasingly important in reaching domestic targets.

Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow in Energy, Environment and Resources at Chatham House, said: "It is important that the governments in Westminster and Holyrood make clear their energy and climate policy objectives and put forward credible strategies to enable them to be met.

"All parties will need to convey to consumers and policymakers across Europe the mutual benefits and opportunities from a strong energy relationship. They will need to do this as early as possible in the Brexit negotiations, as well as think of new ways to cooperate in a post-Brexit world."

Since the UK voted to leave the EU environmental campaigners have raised a number of key concerns as to how withdrawal will impact across a number of areas. The concerns have intensified since last November and the election of Donald Trump, with many fearing Brexit comes as a time when the EU was standing up to the US president on climate and environmental issues.

As well as how the UK will abide by EU air pollution standards there are anxieties over how it will police and enforce rules on chemicals, wildlife habitats and water quality that have been handled for decades by EU bodies such as the European Commission and courts and how will Westminster and the devolved administrations will replace billions of pounds in EU funding for low carbon infrastructure, managing the countryside and associated research.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell is a member of Holyrood’s environment committee. He believes the issue around improving air quality standards will be one of the biggest issues facing the UK post-Brexit.

He said: “This is an issue Westminster is already dragging its feet on and where the Scottish Government also clearly has a responsibility. The concern is that when Brexit happens we will fail to meet those legal limits set by Europe and this has direct implications for people’s health. In Scotland annually 2500 die where air pollution is a factor. We have 32 areas already breaching European air quality limits and plans for just one low emissions zone.

“Our only hope to deliver the action needed to address our problems is the continuation of European legal targets and not make them or the policies needed to address pollution a matter of political choice. Governments need to be forced into taking the required action.”

SNP MSP Gillian Martin, another member of the committee, said: “The Tories have shown themselves to be no friends of green energy – rushing head first into the disastrous nuclear white elephant at Hinkley Point while slashing support for renewable power.

“European funding has helped drive Scotland’s renewable success story and the UK government still have no answers as to how this will be replaced.

Theresa May’s plan for a hard Brexit will do nothing to create the long-term stability that our flourishing renewables industry needs – and it could be disastrous for research and development.”

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables said: “The UK Government has maintained its commitment to UK climate change targets and the international Paris Agreement, which sends an important signal to the renewables industry. The upcoming Clean Growth Plan is expected to set out how ministers intend to meet these targets.

“The continued growth of renewable energy is not only crucial to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions, but the sector is also key to driving down bills and modernising our energy system while employing tens of thousands of people across the country.

“Renewables are perfectly placed to be at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, driving clean growth and delivering affordable energy across the whole of the UK.”