Press release: Polluters must pay to finance climate justice in Scotland and globally 

  • 02 Oct 2022
  • Press Release

Leading global campaigner on climate-induced loss and damage backs coalition’s call for First Minister to “bolster” Scotland’s climate leadership ahead of COP27 

A coalition of more than 60 civil society organisations is calling for policymakers to urgently accelerate investment in climate action in Scotland, while addressing the cost-of-living crisis, and to fund Scotland’s contribution to international climate justice.

The call has been echoed by Professor Saleemul Huq, a world expert on climate change driven loss and damage.

It comes as Stop Climate Chaos Scotland releases a new report, which was commissioned to better understand how the generation and use of public finance can do more to support the delivery of Scotland’s climate ambitions. 

Financing Climate Justice: Fiscal measures for climate action in a time of crisis‘ examines how public revenues should be raised, and ways it could be spent to help deliver Scotland’s emissions targets, while supporting global climate justice. It examines how current fiscal measures can be used better, for example, to provide for warmer, better insulated homes as well as free public transport. The report also considers potential new measures to help drive and enable the public and businesses to change behaviour to reduce emissions. 

Importantly, the report highlights how richer countries’ emissions are driving repeated climate catastrophes in low- and middle-income countries with lives, homes, livelihoods, and land being lost, draining their national budgets.

The report, written by the independent environmental consultant, Dr Richard Dixon, a former Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland and WWF Scotland, acknowledges the deep financial pressures created by the cost-of-living crisis and argues that actions to tackle it can and must complement those required to avert even deeper climate chaos. 

Scotland is making progress in cutting emissions, but it has missed three out of the last four legal annual targets and the Committee on Climate Change warns that future targets will be “very difficult to meet” and says the focus must be to “deliver against the commitments that have been made”. This requires urgent and sustained new investment.  

The report makes recommendations to raise more revenue, incentivise and enable behaviour change by polluters, and to increase investment in activities within the sectors in the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan. Some could be implemented immediately or quickly; others would need more detailed consultation and analysis. 

A key conclusion is that the climate crisis is of such a scale and urgency that measures to address it should be funded from general taxation, with this complemented by environmental taxes primarily aimed at changing behaviours.  Critically, the report adopted the ‘polluter pays’ principle – meaning that those who are responsible for climate emissions should pay for the cost to society – and also considered the speed with which the measures could be implemented, and the importance of ensuring those on low incomes are protected.

Mike Robinson, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “If we are serious about tackling the climate emergency, we must use our tax and spending powers to drive faster change, while increasing the finance available.  

“This is clearly a tough time financially, but the climate emergency hasn’t gone away and if we don’t ensure we increase the funding spent on tackling it, we are taking a huge gamble with our future, and risk simply lurching from one short-term crisis to the next. 

“All countries, particularly rich industrialised ones, like Scotland, share this challenge, and we must act sooner rather than later, and, crucially, there are profound benefits to the climate, society and all of us, if we get this right. 

“We don’t claim to have all of the answers, but these proposals must be urgently considered and acted upon to deliver on Scotland’s climate ambitions and to fulfil our moral obligations to those facing deep climate impacts.” 

The report, which includes recommendations for the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as local authorities, comes on the eve of COP27 in Egypt, where low-income and climate vulnerable countries will push for increased financial support from rich, high-polluting nations to help them deal with deep and spiralling climate impacts.  

In a briefing flowing from the research, SCCS says the Scottish Government should now make an immediate and explicit commitment that it will identify new and additional sources of finance, using a polluter pays approach, and establish a short-life, independent working group to report to Ministers on the ideas and principles in the report. 

It says this will bolster the climate leadership shown by the Scottish Government at COP26 when, despite not being a formal party to the UN talks, it became the first government in the world to commit money to address climate-induced loss and damage. SCCS is urging the First Minister to make this commitment before the Government’s international conference on loss and damage in Edinburgh (Oct 11-12) and her expected attendance at COP27.  

The call is now backed by Professor Saleemul Huq, a leading global campaigner who praised the First Minister at COP26 and held talks with her at Bute House. He says that Scotland can again set a powerful example for all rich nations as they face pressure to use COP27 to establish a new finance facility to address loss and damage. 

Prof Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said: “Scotland showed climate leadership at COP26 on addressing climate-induced loss and damage and I urge it to now bolster this example by showing it is also prepared to make polluters pay for the damage they are causing.  

“All rich, high-polluting countries must generate the finance needed to slash their emissions much more quickly – but that’s no longer enough: too many lives are already being lost and homes destroyed by this climate crisis.  

“The task ahead may seem hard but identifying new sources of finance in climate just ways is essential and by taking this step, Scotland can show it stands in solidarity with communities suffering from rich countries’ emissions.” 

The call comes amid increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events, including drought and floods in East Africa. Meanwhile, Pakistan estimates that losses and damages from recent devastating flooding are in the region of $30 billion. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called for all developed countries to use COP27 to treat loss and damage from the climate crisis with the “seriousness it deserves”.  

Veronica Fadzai Zano, Programme Advisor on Extractive Industries for Oxfam in Southern Africa: “The countries who created this crisis, of course, have an overwhelming duty to ensure they stop making this crisis worse and that means using every lever available to them to reduce their own emissions, including making polluters pay.

“However, communities on the frontlines of a climate crisis created and made worse by the excessive emissions of the world’s richest countries simply cannot keep waiting for the financial help they so badly need to cope with increasing climate impacts.”

Overall, SCCS says the UK and Scottish Government, and local authorities, must use their fiscal powers to:  

  • incentivise emissions reduction, including by enabling behaviour change while protecting those on low-incomes; 
  • increase the overall funds available to spend on activities which accelerate emissions reduction, in a socially and climate just manner, to ensure, as a minimum, that Scotland’s legal targets are achieved; 
  • raise current and additional funding to deliver climate justice at home and globally by making polluters pay, including acknowledging that higher emissions are linked, on average, to an individual’s level of wealth.  

SCCS warns that delaying action at scale and speed means that more emissions’ targets will be missed and that the cost of meeting future targets will grow, alongside our responsibility to impacted communities in the global south. 

SCCS is also calling for the UK Government to significantly increase taxes and remove tax reliefs on the extraction and production of fossil fuels, with the revenue invested in measures to reduce demand for them and to support a faster and just transition. Local authorities should also speedily progress with schemes to discourage car use and review public sector pension schemes to ensure investments are consistent with a just transition to net zero. 

Dr Richard Dixon, who will outline his findings at an SCCS-hosted event in Edinburgh on Wednesday 5th October, said: “Meeting Scotland’s legal commitments to cut emissions to 75% of their 1990 levels by 2030, means they must fall three times faster than the reduction over the past 30 years, so dramatically increased action is essential. 

“We must raise the money needed by targeting polluters, incentivising them to cut their emissions, while also ensuring those revenues, as well as currently committed public finance, fully support Scotland’s climate ambitions.  

“A cost-of-living crisis is exactly the time to redirect subsidies and tax breaks, and adopt progressive tax measures so that we can invest in the solutions – like insulating homes, changing heating systems, building up renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels – which will help people out of the current crisis and avoid similar crises in the future. 

“The need for such actions – particularly by rich, developed nations – is very urgent.”