Blog by Mike Robinson, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland
(a version of this was published in the Scotsman here)
Recent weeks have seen some pretty stark headlines:
“Climate change played a significant role in Libya’s floods”;
“Antarctic ice at mind-blowing low levels”;
“UN calls for radical changes to slow warming”;
The International Climate Ambition Summit opened in New York with countries lining up to make stronger commitments; and then, on the same day, the UK Government announce a withdrawal from green policies, which rightly draws criticism from most of industry and civil society. What a state we are in.
It feels like we are in a new era for tackling climate change. The impacts could not be clearer, with increasing ocean temperatures, heat records, drought, wildfires and intense floods. Every where you look in the world, the impacts are there to see. And yet, the evidence of government and organisations doing more to tackle the issue is in perilously short supply. The spotlight has moved on for many people and we have lost much of the positive momentum from 2019, when there was a real determination across every sector of society to step up, and deliver net zero. The actions we need to see now will impact how we travel, how we build and heat our homes, how we farm and manage land, and whether we keep subsidising actions that are undermining human life on the planet. The stakes could not be higher. So how do we get the momentum back?
Firstly, we need to prioritise action, this is after all a crisis. We need to agree the key solutions and work together to deliver them – problem solving constructively, to scale up our efforts, target our investment and drive innovation. Our impatience should be channelled towards driving positive solutions. When this is successful it is amazing what we can deliver – look at the progress in solar panel effectiveness, in electrification of transport, in renewable generation that we have seen in the past twenty years. Imagine what we could do if we all understood and worked collaboratively towards other similar goals. And we need to. It is not acceptable for organisations to maintain business as usual – simply awaiting future carbon capture technologies, or trying to offset the bulk of its emissions by planting trees. And it is not a plausible business model either – climate change by its ubiquitous nature, is not ‘optional’.
Rather than resist these changes, we should champion and celebrate them – this is not just about making society and our economy more robust, it is about making all of us safer, healthier and addressing inequality and injustice. It is morally and ethically the right thing to do, and we should wear this proudly, and not be dissuaded by one or two loud but ill- informed naysayers. However, to do this we have to keep a perspective. We need to celebrate progress, not just perfection, or we will forever be frustrated, and alienate many of those who are actually taking positive steps. We are, after all, at different points on a journey to net zero and beyond. We need to encourage, guide and inspire that progress, not
simply demand it.
And finally, we need to finance this change. We have collectively acknowledged the absolute importance of the climate and nature crises, but we are reluctant to fund them, and seem to all be hoping that somehow someone else will make it happen. Meanwhile we continue to accidentally or otherwise be subsidising many of the activities we know we need to end. Fossil fuels still continue to receive significantly higher subsidies globally than renewables, so there are important sectors where we are distorting the market in completely the wrong direction.
The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition has brought diverse organisations to campaign together for action to address the climate emergency for nearly 20 years, helping drive commitments to international climate justice and domestic legislation, and pushing Scotland to become one of the world’s most ambitious nations in tackling this global issue. Whilst Scotland has strong (cross-party) national commitments, we need to maintain the pressure to deliver them. But we also need to help win more public support for change in every facet of society, and help work out how we collectively deliver these targets. As a result, civil society across Scotland has been working together through SCCS, to gather together 120 positive actions into a Climate Manifesto, highlighting what is needed to reduce emissions and help other countries to deal with climate impacts, whilst at the same time securing sustainable jobs, improving health and wellbeing and reducing inequality.
From farming to transport and from energy to our seas, this manifesto is civil society’s best attempt to show what is needed to deliver the transition to a low carbon, fairer Scotland. These will undoubtedly evolve, and new ideas will emerge. But it is an attempt to get firmly on the front foot. To identify what we think needs to happen and gain widespread public support. To empower everyone to make their voices heard and confront this existential challenge together. It isn’t perfect, and we will continue to review it as we make progress, but it does bring together for the first time a detailed set of proposals we believe need to happen if we are going to really make a difference.
Coming out of the hottest summer ever recorded, we must recapture the focus on climate action as a priority. Even as the UK Government seems to be going backwards, it is vital we embrace and accelerate action sooner rather than later, as what we do now and over the next three to five years will largely determine whether we hit our future targets.
Scotland might be a small country, but it has the opportunity to have a big influence on the planet’s biggest crisis. We urge decision makers at every level to support and implement the policies in the Climate Manifesto so that, together, we can address the climate emergency with the urgency it requires.