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Climate change: Scottish government still needs to up its game to cut carbon emissions – Tom Ballantine

Climate change: Scottish government still needs to up its game to cut carbon emissions – Tom Ballantine

The message from the experts remained consistent: this is an emergency, we need to deliver massive change by 2030 and there will be catastrophic consequences if we don’t act. Now, in Scotland we return to the long-term challenge and opportunity of how we respond.

Last week, the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) released a report on Scotland’s progress in reducing emissions. This body provides non-political expert advice to the UK government and Scotland. Its report is a great starting point for assessing where Scotland is in relation to climate action.

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The CCC report had two straightforward and compelling ‘big picture’ messages, and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – a diverse coalition of over 60 organisations campaigning together on climate change – agrees with them.

First, Scotland has long-term goals: By 2030, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and by 2045, our emissions should be net zero. Achieving those targets would be a “strong contribution” to global efforts to keep any temperature rise for the world to 1.5C, the point from which the bleakest outcomes become more and more likely.

Scotland needs to have better plans and be more proactive in the medium and short-term to reach these goals. As the CCC report says, for the period up to 2030, we have a “broad set of policies and proposals”, but we need more than that.

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We need a “comprehensive, detailed policy framework” for decarbonisation in Scotland. That would allow us to focus on “implementation and delivery of real-world progress in reducing emissions at the necessary rate”. It is important to establish the framework as soon possible.

During an event at the United Nations’ COP26 summit on climate change, Alok Sharma, Conservative MP, and Nicola Sturgeon spoke. (Picture by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images).

Looking at the CCC’s report in more detail we, like the committee who wrote it, welcome the Scottish government’s prioritisation of faster action on reducing traffic and increasing walking and cycling; the use of public transport; improving energy efficiency; changing the way we heat our buildings; and moving to low-carbon agriculture.

We also note and support the committee’s proposal that the Scottish government can and should go further and faster on restoring peatland, fostering healthier diets and reducing aviation demand.

We are interested in supporting measures that support the achievement of these two goals, such as lower rates of tax for climate-friendly travel. On that front, there is no possible ‘climate emergency’ rationale for making the tax regime on aviation lower than the tax for more climate-friendly forms of travel.

As the CCC report stresses, most of the key policy levers to achieve our climate goals are in the Scottish government’s hands. The Scottish Budget 2022-2023, presented last week, was the first chance since COP26 to see how the Scottish government intends to use financial levers to increase its climate action.

The budget addresses climate change as one the three main priorities. It also includes a number of positive steps.

A commitment to spend £1.8 billion on buildings and energy efficiency over the course of the parliament is encouraging – although the portion of that in this year’s budget, £336 million, is hardly a strong start.

The trend is in the right direction for budgets for walking and biking, and for electric buses. We welcome free bus passes for those under 22. We will keep an eye on future developments in transport, particularly to see if they can deliver the 20% reduction in car mileage.

The nature recovery fund will provide money to help restore peatland and plant woods. It is important and encouraging. However, there appears to be no progress in reforming agriculture policy.

The Scottish government must still address a variety of issues and challenges. As the CCC report commented, “the focus must now shift to ensuring that rapid emissions reductions are delivered with no further delay”.

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This means that we need to see real and rapid changes made in transport and agriculture and less reliance on negative-emissions technologies, which remove and sequester carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere.

Climate changeThe worst impact on the most vulnerable people in the globe is the first and foremost. Funding for international climate justice that was announced during COP26 – including reparation for the ‘loss and damage’ that we have caused to poorer countries elsewhere in the world – was backed up with the promised money in the Budget, which is necessary for Scotland to show committed world leadership on climate.

The Scottish government should harness Scotland’s international recognition as the first developed country to commit finance to pay for loss and damage, by developing an effective model for how the money is allocated with international experts, and ensuring that the whole of the Climate Justice Fund is spent in a locally led, transparent and transformative way.

We hope that the Scottish government will partner closely with the UK government, the Under2 Coalition (a global network of state and regional governments) and the UK government to increase access and participation by the Global South at COP27. This UN climate summit will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland believes the Scottish government must reevaluate its climate action priorities and develop a Climate Change Plan next year.

The new plan could better link the government’s work on domestic and international issues, provide a comprehensive policy platform on climate change, as well as recognising the climate impacts of imports and exports.

We will continue to press Scotland’s government to take bold actions to combat climate change. Scotland will deliver its fair share of action as a response to the Paris Agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pact and to climate justice around the globe.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is chaired by Tom Ballantine

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