TACKLING climate change is fundamentally a matter of justice. The historical responsibility for causing climate change lies with western countries, including Scotland.
As we industrialised, we improved our standards of living, our health and our wealth. But our high-carbon lifestyles have created increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which are causing global temperatures to rise.
While the predicted direct effects of climate change in Scotland include increased likelihood of flooding and more frequent storms and heavy rain, the impacts in other parts of the world will be far more profound.
For many of the world’s poorest people, from Malawi to Bangladesh, Niger to Haiti, the impacts of climate change already mean the difference between life and death.
The injustice is that those people most affected by climate change have done the least to cause it.
Scotland has already committed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with internationally agreed scientific advice. That commitment must now translate into year-on-year emissions reductions and a genuine move to the low-carbon economy we have all been promised.
Scotland must also play a part in helping people in other parts of the world adapt to the changes they are experiencing as a result of global warming. We know that “climate adaptation” techniques can help people cope with changing weather patterns and environmental emergencies. For example, changing agricultural practices in favour of drought-resistant crops and improved irrigation, or plants which can act as a barrier against flooding. But these techniques require support, above and beyond our existing overseas aid commitments.
Even in these tight economic times, it is a matter of justice that we repay the historic debt incurred by our industrialisation, pollution and over-consumption of natural resources. So today, we welcome the launch of the Scottish Climate Justice Fund as a good first start to help to right that wrong, which should be a source of pride for people across Scotland.
• Tom Ballantine is Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland