More progress needed at local level, writes Gail Wilson
Earlier this month the Scottish Government announced it had narrowly missed its yearly target to reduce climate emissions.
I, like the thousands of people who campaigned for the Scottish Climate Change Act in 2009, was disappointed and frustrated at the news. Frustrated because it’s not just about failing to meet a number, it’s about failing to realise the opportunities that creating a low-carbon Scotland offers to us all. A Scotland with better air quality, lower energy bills and healthier lifestyles; multiple benefits based on greater action and transformational policy.
When announcing the missed target the Scottish Government did make a promising commitment to designate energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority. What this means is that this will become a long-term stated priority for the government and, therefore, not subject to year-by-year funding uncertainty. If done right, this will help to cut bills for the 940,000 homes in fuel poverty in Scotland, create new jobs in the insulation sector, lower the number of health problems and winter deaths associated with cold homes, relieving pressure on the National Health Service, while all the time cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
To deliver energy efficiency at the right pace as a National Infrastructure Priority the Scottish Government should put together a comprehensive plan to make more than 120,000 homes a year more energy efficient.
The energy efficiency statement can deliver transformational change. However, the Scottish Government needs to make similar change in other sectors. A high-level Cabinet sub-committee on climate change was established by the Scottish Government a year ago to deliver action. It needs to do just that.
For instance, there is still very little planned action to tackle emissions from transport, which remain depressingly stagnant at 1990 levels. The Scottish Government continues to put road building above choice building. We need to make it easier and more appealing for people to choose to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of their car.
At the end of May, more than 6,000 people called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to lead at home and abroad on tackling climate change. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), a diverse coalition of international development and environment organisations, unions, students, faith and community groups organised a rally outside the Scottish Parliament to hand over those messages. And on 17 June, we joined, with our sister organisation, the Climate Coalition, for a lobby at Westminster when more than 9,000 people from across the UK attended to speak to their newly elected MPs about the things they love that are at risk because of climate change.
This is a big year for climate-change action globally, with the forthcoming United Nations climate conference in Paris. There have been some good news stories in recent months, such as continued renewables growth globally, positive engagement by China and the United States, and the G7 committing to fossil-fuel phase-out this century. Scotland can have a great story to tell this year too – but as we have repeatedly called for: our world-leading climate ambition has to be matched by world-leading action.
• Gail Wilson, Campaigns Manager of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland www.stopclimatechaos.org