17 January 2009

Will to tackle climate change gives politicians opportunity to act

By Mike Robinson, The Hearld, January 17 2009

The Scottish Government's Climate Change Bill, that proposes to cut Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, must be welcomed. Scotland can set an example to other countries and encourage them to take tough decisions to prevent catastrophic changes to global weather patterns.

But the Bill needs to be strengthened and it is vital we do not see it watered down as it passes through the parliamentary process. While the Scottish Government seems to have set off with the best of intentions, it is crucial that we don't lose momentum.

The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition is calling for the Scottish Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 3% each year from the very beginning, not from 2020 as proposed. Given that many would argue that an 8% or 9% annual reduction is needed to prevent irretrievable changes to global weather patterns, a minimum of 3% does not seem unreasonable. The Bill must continue to commit to a minimum 80% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 (based on 1990 levels) and also commit to a 50% reduction by 2020 as opposed to 2030 (as outlined in the Bill). We cannot credibly propose cuts if we exempt high-polluting sectors such as aviation and shipping from the calculation.

To ensure MSPs from across the political spectrum are aware of the breadth of public feeling on the issue, SCCS is running a series of public meetings to encourage the public's sentiments to be turned into political action. We need the public to stand up and be counted. A Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund poll last year found that 90% of Scots believe Scotland should do its fair share to tackle climate change. The science is overwhelming and compelling - we have to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, promptly. We cannot risk the collapse of our life-sustaining natural system, because no amount of bailing out afterwards will help.

Climate change remains the greatest threat to our societies. Arctic sea ice is melting beyond the point of no return, atmospheric CO2 keeps rising and more people in developing countries are suffering from natural disasters and increasingly see climate change as the root cause.

We need to see clear and consistent action from the government, backed by the public and cross-party support. Only by having a strong, binding and complete Climate Change Bill will this be achieved. Scotland's MSPs of every political persuasion must sign up to this. By taking a lead to solve this problem, there are great national and international opportunities to create new jobs and businesses in wave power, solar energy, buildings, transport, design, planning, food and many other sectors.

In December, the world's governments will meet in Copenhagen to agree a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. This is probably the world's last chance to put in place a concerted international agreement in time to have a real impact. Scotland's Climate Change Bill can be an inspiration to other countries at this decisive time. These are opportunities that none of us can afford to miss.

Mike Robinson, Chairman, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Dunedin House, 25 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh.
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