Climate debt news
Scottish pioneers of climate justice
Here in Scotland there is a lot of pride amongst parliamentarians over our climate change act, considered one of the most ambitious pieces of climate change legislation in the industrialised world. Of course, as climate change campaigners, we realise the challenge lies in its implementation, but we have been watching with interest the gusto with which the First Minister Alex Salmond travels the world (carbon emissions from aviation aside!) promoting Scotland’s climate change act. In January, at a renewable energy conference in Abu Dhabi, Salmond argued that 2012 should be the ‘year of climate justice’. And the international focus continued this month with a debate in the Scottish parliament on climate justice. Apparently, Holyrood’s debate was the world’s first ever parliamentary debate on the issue (and about time too).
Led by Stewart Stevenson, the climate change minister, MSPs of all parties agreed that climate change is at its heart an ethical issue, affecting the human rights of the poor in countries that bear little responsibility for the problem in the first place.
As SNP MSP Marco Biago said: “I am drawn to the World Development Movement’s phenomenal statistic—which I have no reason to doubt—that the UK emits more carbon dioxide in one year than Bangladesh has emitted in its entire history. When we have spent 200 years polluting our way to prosperity, the issue becomes not noblesse oblige—helping because we can help—but helping because we caused or contributed greatly to the problem, so we have an obligation to help.”
Politicians also recognised Scotland’s historic responsibility as one of the countries that created the modern world, with its reliance upon coal and oil for fuel. The image of the Scot as pioneer of old who ‘in coffee shops and taverns up and down the Royal Mile... put together the ideas that underpinned the modern world and the industrial revolution’, and who should now become a pioneer of climate justice, was a nice one promoted by Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie.
And as the Labour MSP Neil Findlay put it: “Scotland has been a world player in so many fields in past centuries, and I hope that over the next ones we will be seen as pioneers whose actions have environmental justice as a core philosophy, unhindered by balance sheets, corporate greed and further exploitation.”
Importantly, Neil Findlay also picked up on WDM’s concept of climate debt, saying:
“The World Development Movement argues that we in the west have accrued an adaptation debt because of our contribution to climate change internationally. It is calculated that our share of that debt is £22 billion over 40 years. I am not arguing that we immediately write a cheque to settle that, but it is morally right that we develop policies that try to repair some of the damage that we have inflicted. We should provide expertise and capability to assist countries in the developing world.”
The debate was also an opportunity for Stewart Stevenson to announce a new ‘climate justice fund’ that will help people in poor countries to adapt to climate change. The amount of money the Scottish government will put into the pot is yet to be announced – but we’re pretty sure it won’t be anywhere near £22 billion over 40 years.
Following the announcement of the new fund, WDM put out a comment pressing the Scottish government to be generous in its reparations for climate change, considering the historic responsibility recognised by the parliamentarians involved in the climate justice debate that day.
Jane works in WDM's Scotland office in Edinburgh as a campaigns assistant.