Scottish councils escape climate change criticism

Scottish city councils have been credited for taking action on tackling climate change by scientists. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scottish city councils have been credited for taking action on tackling climate change by scientists. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCIENTISTS have criticised councils across the UK for failing to take action on climate change in a new report published yesterday.

• English and Northern Irish city councils criticised by scientists for failing to take policy action on climate change

• Scottish city councils - Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen - who took part in survey praised by researchers as they cite SNP-led legislation as reason behind progress

The damning study of 30 cities by experts at Newcastle University found that although every local authority acknowledged that climate change was a serious threat many had done little or nothing to turn their strategies on reducing carbon emissions into reality.

However while cities south of the border and in Northern Ireland came under fire, all three Scottish councils included in the survey were praised for putting their policies into practice.

Study authors said progress north of the border was ‘clearly’ driven by the SNP’s world-leading legislation on climate change - but environmentalists warned that even more work was needed after the first two nationwide targets on reducing carbon emissions were missed.

Dr Oliver Heidrich, senior researcher at the university’s School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, warned that the analysis had uncovered a “postcode lottery of preparedness” across the UK which needed to be addressed.

He said: “Of the 30 cities we assessed, all of them acknowledged that climate change was a threat and all except two had a strategy or policy in place to reduce emissions and also adapt to cope better with future weather patterns, in particular flooding.

“But a plan is only any good if you implement it and then assess it to see how effective it has been, this requires a long-term investment in the strategies.

“We found that in many cities this wasn’t happening. In some cases, plans were in place but nothing had been done about them...[and]

very often, no-one was monitoring to see whether [any action had] made a difference or had actually made things worse.

“The aim of this research is not to name and shame cities, but if we are to be prepared for the increased occurrences of floods and droughts then we do need to make sure that our climate change policies are in place, that they are working and that the consequences of implementing these strategies are being checked.”

Commenting on the improved situation north of the border, he added: “Clearly the three cities in Scotland - Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow - are well prepared and following up their climate change policies which is very good, [and] obviously that comes from the legislation in Scotland [under which councils have to play their part in meeting tough national targets on reducing carbon emissions].”

The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, focused on 30 cities selected from a European database to provide a representative sample of urban areas across the UK.

Authors gave each city council a rating from zero to three (with zero being the least prepared and three being the most prepared) on how ready it was to tackle climate change in four key areas - assessment, planning, action and monitoring.

Results revealed huge variations across the UK with London and Leicester achieving the best scores for their efforts on adapting to climate change and mitigation work, while Wrexham and Derry in Northern Ireland were rated the lowest.

Edinburgh was among the cities with definite goals for reducing carbon emissions, which the council aims to cut by 40 per cent by 2020 before achieving a zero carbon economy by 2050.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said while it was good to see the Scottish capital highlighted for good performance, it was “vital” that targets were supported by clear city-wide policies on transport, waste and energy to deliver the agreed cuts in pollution.

The Scottish Government has set itself a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.

The first two annual targets were missed but the SNP has stressed that its progress is still the best in Europe.

A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh Council said it was working hard to meet local and national targets on reducing its carbon footprint through actions such as increasing recycling rates and reducing traffic emissions.