By Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland
These last few months have felt like a possible turning point for climate change here in Scotland and around the world. We’ve seen growing public concern and energy for action, from the school climate strikes to Extinction Rebellion, calling for more urgency across all aspects of our lives.
At the same time, the consequences from the preceding years of inaction have become increasingly severe. The devastating loss of life in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe caused by Cyclone Idai being the most recent example of a long list of climate linked disasters, suffered worst and first by the most vulnerable and least responsible in the world.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a crisis starts to make a difference in our minds, shaping our conversations with family and friends or changing the decisions we make as individuals. It is absolutely clear however, that last year’s UN climate scientists report was something of a watershed moment around the world.
The report painted a bleak picture of this planet if rises in global temperatures go above 1.5 degrees, a point of no return leaving nowhere untouched. It also spelled out the scale of change needed to avert this catastrophe.
It was a stark warning and one which we at Stop Climate Chaos Scotland have encouraged our politicians to heed and act upon. As a coalition representing the breadth of Scottish civil society, we have always wanted to listen to, and act on, the science on climate change. And as a nation that got wealthy from fossil fuels we have a particular historical responsibility to do our fair share to fix this problem.
Back in 2016, the Scottish Government announced their plan to update Scotland’s climate ambitions in light of the Paris Agreement. Scotland’s new climate law will set our country’s ambition for the next decade and beyond. Fast forward to the UN scientific report in 2018 and the landscape changed significantly, the consequences of our current trajectory have been spelled out in no uncertain terms – irreversible and devastating.
While the impact of continuing at our current levels of action have been made clearer, we have also recently seen mounting evidence from across the UK that there are credible and achievable pathways to ending our contribution to climate change sooner than previously thought. Not only that but those pathways can bring economic and other benefits to Scotland.
The latest scientific evidence means we should be achieving net zero emissions – where climate emissions taken in by forests, peatlands and other sources are greater than those emitted – by 2045 or earlier. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland had previously called for the new climate law to commit Scotland to achieving this by 2050 at the very latest. We now know we must act faster.
The science shows that accelerated action in this next decade is critical. We also know that action is going to cost less than inaction. We need to build on the good progress made to date and implement policies now that will enable us to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2030.
The Scottish Parliament’s Environment committee have also recognised the increased urgency following the UN 2018 report, and the need to limit warming to 1.5. We have the capacity and potential to do far more, far quicker and the growing public support shows that people in Scotland are ready for that.
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland calls on all political parties at Holyrood to push for more ambition in the new Scottish Climate Bill, including a reduction in emissions of 80% (on 1990 levels) by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. That new legislation must also provide assurances of transparency in how public funds are spent to contribute towards emissions reductions and commit to policy change to give warm homes, cleaner travel and support for greener farming.