COP26 delegates from the US praised Scotland for showing how they fight climate change without allowing partisan politics to get in the way of necessary action, MSPs have heard.
Talk to Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, Professor David Reay said that Scotland should be “proud” of how politics had been largely sidelined to instead focus on “the fact that we need to deal with the climate emergency”.
Reay, the executive director at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute was speaking to MSPs regarding the results of the COP26 climate summit which concluded earlier this month.
He pointed to a meeting held at the UN summit with a “congressional delegation from the US, their climate crisis committee”.
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The American house select committee on the climate crisis includes politicians such as Republican Kathy Castor, the group’s chair, Democrat Veronica Escobar, and Republican Dan Crenshaw.
Reay said the American delegates had praised Scottish and UK-wide action on climate change “saying it’s such a breath of fresh air to see that politics isn’t getting in the way”.
“Some of you might disagree with that, but from their perspective they see it as such a partisan issue, climate change.”
Reay (below) went on: “Hopefully by continuing on that line we can show other nations that you can do this and you can do it in a cross-party way, rather than just winning political points.”
He said that politicians had to make “courageous” and perhaps unpopular decisions, especially in the context of the pandemic and electoral cycles, in order to deal with the climate crisis.
The committee also heard submissions on the topic ecocide. LabourMonica Lennon, MSP, stated that she hopes to bring forward a bill from a member on the issue.
Ecocide, which is generally defined as mass destruction or alteration of nature that could cause ecological catastrophe, is a crime in many countries around the globe, including Ecuador, Vietnam and several former Soviet countries like Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Lennon inquired if there was room for Scotland to bring an Ecocide Bill to Parliament and lead on the issue.
Mike Robinson, the chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, said that was “100%” the case.
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He said that as well as the raft of new commitments from Government, the fight against climate change would “start to see the teeth kicking in”, with both financial and legal punishments for damaging the natural environment.
Robinson said that preserving the environment had typically been “perceived as a cost, and it never cost them to destroy the environment, so we absolutely have to change that somehow, either through financial mechanisms or legal”.
He said that the momentum from COP26 was “almost reaching a tipping point” and that “having a law of ecocide, sitting alongside genocide and war crimes, really would absolutely give certainty that this is not an acceptable way to behave, and I think long overdue”.