From devastating droughts to catastrophic floods, the impact of the spiralling climate crisis could not be clearer, and those with the least responsibility for causing rising global temperatures are facing the most severe – and deadly – consequences.
A climate emergency was declared by governments in 2019 in response to years of campaigning and the massive upwelling of public concern, with one high profile example of this being the school strikes. Although this declaration raised awareness throughout society and business, it resulted in very little tangible new or accelerated action or policy by governments. For this emergency to be taken truly seriously we require a step up in action across every sector and at an accelerated scale and speed, with agreement around the solutions, public support for their implementation and more skills and expertise in specific sectors.
Relatively stretching national emissions reduction targets are in place after successful campaigning by SCCS and others in the lead up to the 2019 Climate Bill, and Scottish Government policy mentions climate change to the degree that it is in almost every other consultation. However, during the pandemic the climate emergency was very much on the back burner, and the ‘green recovery’ never materialised, resulting in only halting progress made since 2019. Where emissions have fallen, this has not been fast enough, and some sectors have barely seen any reductions since 1990 levels, leading to a series of damaging missed annual targets. Now the political focus has swung behind the cost of living crisis – brought about by dependence on the current fossil fuel energy system, a decade of austerity and the war in Ukraine – we risk further delays to delivering climate policies, at a time when their co-benefits would also address the cost of living crisis.
Yet, globally, scientists have sounded the alarm with ever-increasing urgency. Worryingly, at the same time, the independent experts charged with advising the UK and Scottish governments on their response to the climate crisis, have lambasted their lack of urgency and failure to deliver.
We need to recapture the focus on climate action as a priority. It is vital we embrace and accelerate action sooner rather than later, as investment now is essential if we are to achieve targets, and is also significantly more cost effective than delaying action (which the experts say could be up to 20 times more costly in purely financial terms).
As Lord Deben, the outgoing chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has said: “our children will not forgive us if we leave them a world of withering heat and devastating storms where sea level rises and extreme temperatures force millions to move because their countries are no longer habitable. None of us can avoid our responsibility. Delay is not an option.”
As a climate movement, we must ourselves find ways to confront the scale, complexity and ubiquitous nature of the challenge. How do we drive rapid progress in every sector in a way that is fair to all? How do we add weight to our asks of governments at all levels? And how do we win over members of the public to the necessary change, to create the political space needed to implement the actions that are required at scale and at speed, while financing them in ways that are fair?
In short, how do we play our part in this crucial chapter in the journey towards net zero and beyond?
Only by being as consistent and as joined up as possible can we hope to succeed. We need to use our collective voice, backed up with our collective knowledge and know-how, as impactfully as possible. Whilst we have ambitious national targets, in order to deliver against them we need to push for action in every sector and at every level.
This manifesto of ideas is a contribution to that. It is our best attempt to bring together positive actions across the whole of Scottish society, which would help to deliver this necessary transition. The policies within it have been identified at speed and they will undoubtedly evolve and deepen. New ideas will emerge. But it is an attempt to get firmly on the front foot. To identify what we think needs to happen. To empower everyone within the climate movment to make their voices heard. In doing so, it is a chance to regroup, to refocus and to re-energise our diverse movement for change so that, together, we confront this existential challenge. Now is the time to double down, not water down.
Chair, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland