It is obviously a fantastic achievement that Scotland has hit its climate reduction targets so far ahead of schedule. Reducing emissions by 42 per cent is very good news and those who say that it does not matter what a country the size of Scotland does are missing the point.
The target has not just been achieved, but has been achieved six years ahead of schedule, with statistics this week showing that the 2020 targets had been reached by 2014.
Scotland’s targets were already well ahead of many other countries – most notably ahead of the rest of the UK and the European Union, which have their own targets. It is also a far more ambitious target than that of the US.
What is important to remember is that the longest journey starts with a single step and if everyone – and every government – did their bit, climate change would be under control. It is up to world leaders to find the most effective way ahead, but we have to take our role seriously, however small Scotland’s part may be in global terms.
But what is at the heart of the matter here is how the figure was achieved. Are we aware of attitudes changing, and our behaviour now contributing to a fall in emissions? We would love to say yes, but in reality, we would be kidding ourselves. A lot of the reduction has come from circumstances rather than intent.
Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham yesterday claimed that a reduction in residential emissions “may have been due to people turning down their heating”. If she is right and that did happen, it would probably be possible to count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who did this for the good of the planet. Most probably turned their heating down because they did not need it. Over the period, we experienced mild weather.
A government minister should be able to point to far more convincing evidence, if this is a clear government target – which it is.
The danger is that if we do not really know why something happened, we cannot say whether the stats represent a variation or an enduring trend, and next year – or the year after – the figures could revert to where they were.
There is also the argument, expressed by pressure groups and political opponents, that the closure of heavy industry is largely responsible for any positive shifts in emissions. Again, this is not a sustainable strategy. We cannot and will not go on closing industry forever. We have to work out a way that industry can continue, providing a strong boost to Scotland’s economy – but do it in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
We also need to find other ways that emissions can be cut. Road traffic is not reducing in volume and the aviation industry continues to grow, although recent world events are seeing demand for air travel wane slightly, a trend which could continue.
At the moment, for Scottish targets things look good, on paper at least, but behind the headlines there is a different story.
Uefa dropped the 2016 ball
Russia’s suspended disqualification from Euro 2016 is undoubtedly a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
It is a classic football fudge – to look like the authorities are doing something, but in reality, they are hoping the problem will go away.
However, it is unlikely that it is going to. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, acting as a flashpoint for hooligans from other countries hoping to get Russia thrown out of the tournament.
The scenes after the England v Russia match last week show that security is poor – that sort of situation should never be possible in a football stadium in this day and age.
In addition, the tournament planning is also at fault. A hard core of Russian fans – and their English equivalents – have a reputation for this kind of behaviour and the tournament schedule could have been better, ensuring that they did not meet unnecessarily.
Bad planning means fans will inevitably bump into each other again this week, when Russia face Slovakia in Lille and England play Wales in Lens.
The French authorities’ instructions issued last night for fans without tickets to avoid both towns are sensible, but perhaps impractical at this late stage. A ban on buying off sales alcohol or drinking in public will also help.
Yet, in a country the size of France, where the stadiums are scattered as far apart as 1,000 miles between Lille and Marseilles, this could – and should – have been avoided and the fans kept apart. In short, it is clear Uefa has made a mess of this. Meanwhile, firefighting at this stage may not be enough to prevent what is supposed to be a celebration of football turning into a daily security nightmare.