Reality check for the Scottish government during First Minister’s ‘year of climate justice’
Last week, the Scottish government published the results of its first annual target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was not good news. The target was missed. In fact greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland had increased by 2%.
This is just a little embarrassing for a government that views itself as a climate change ambassador, promoting its ‘world-leading climate legislation’ across the industrialised world as an example of best practice, and calling for 2012 to be the ‘year of climate justice’. As these results show, without action, Scotland’s climate act and all First Minister Alex Salmond’s talk of climate justice become just empty rhetoric.
The launch of the Scottish climate justice fund this May, and the debate on climate justice at the parliament that preceded it, showed cross-party understanding that Scotland owes a ‘climate debt’ to countries in the global south because of our historic greenhouse gas emissions as an industrialised nation. But paying this debt must first be about reducing our emissions here and now, by a transition to a low-carbon Scotland.
The ambition to do this was articulated in the Scottish climate change act, which had massive public backing. The act gave the Scottish government a public mandate to make the right decisions to tackle Scotland’s emissions; by prioritising sustainable transport over new road projects for example, and phasing out fossil fuel use. But so far this mandate has not been taken seriously. In the last budget funding for new roads increased, while funding for sustainable transport was cut. Meanwhile, despite making great progress on renewable electricity, the Scottish government has failed to produce any long term plan to phase out fossil fuel use across the board.
However, there is still time. Failing the first climate test must be a wake-up call to the First Minister and his government. This autumn there is the chance for the Scottish government to heed the warnings of these results, and previous warnings from the UK climate watchdog, when it launches its action plan to implement the changes necessary to cut Scotland’s emissions. A strong plan, backed by a budget to implement it, would put Scotland back on track. This is something we must remind the government that they have a public mandate to do. As climate change campaigners, and supporters of the climate change act, we have a responsibility to keep the government on track.
A strong action plan, signalling decisive action to tackle climate change in Scotland, signed off by the end of the year, is what is needed to make 2012 a year of climate justice.
Jane works in WDM's Scotland office in Edinburgh as a campaigns assistant.