Sustainable Scotland: Manifesting climate action to benefit people and the planet
We are in a new era for tackling climate change. The impacts could not be clearer, with record-breaking ocean temperatures, droughts, wildfires and floods across the world. And yet the evidence of government and organisations doing more to tackle the issue is in perilously short supply.
We have lost much of the positive momentum we saw in 2018/19 and the spotlight has moved on to other crises. The stakes could not be higher – so how do we get the momentum back?
Firstly, we need to prioritise action – this is after all, a crisis. We need to agree the key solutions and work together to deliver them, problem-solving constructively to scale up our efforts, target our investments and drive innovation. When this is successful it is amazing what we can deliver – look at the progress in solar panel effectiveness, in electrification of transport, in renewable generation that we have seen in the past 20 years.
Maintaining business as usual, awaiting the possibility of future carbon capture technologies, or trying to offset emissions is not acceptable. Addressing climate change, by its ubiquitous nature, is not ‘optional’.
The actions we need to see now will impact how we travel, how we build and heat our homes, how we farm and manage land, and whether we keep subsidising actions that are undermining life on the planet. Rather than resist these changes, we should champion and celebrate them – this is not just about making society and our economy more robust, it is about making all of us safer, healthier and addressing inequality and injustice.
It is morally and ethically the right thing to do, and we should wear this proudly, and not be dissuaded by one or two loud but ill-informed naysayers.
However, to do this we have to keep a perspective. We need to celebrate progress, not just perfection, or we will forever be frustrated and alienate many of those who are actually taking positive steps.
We are, after all, at different points on a journey to net zero and beyond. We need to encourage, guide and inspire that progress, not simply demand it.
Finally, we need to finance this change. We have collectively acknowledged the absolute importance of the climate and nature crises, but appropriate funding has not followed. Meanwhile, we continue subsidising many of the high-polluting activities we know we need to end, with fossil fuels continuing to receive significantly higher subsidies globally than renewables – we are distorting the market in completely the wrong direction.
The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) coalition has brought diverse organisations to campaign together for action to address the climate emergency for nearly 20 years, helping drive commitments to international climate justice and domestic legislation, and pushing Scotland to become one of the world’s most ambitious nations in tackling this global issue.
Whilst Scotland has strong (cross-party) climate targets, we need to maintain the pressure to deliver them, win more public support for change in every facet of society and agree collectively how to achieve them.
To address these challenges, civil society across Scotland has been working together through SCCS to gather together 120 positive actions into a Climate Manifesto, highlighting what is needed to reduce emissions and help other countries to deal with climate impacts, whilst at the same time securing sustainable jobs, improving health and well-being and reducing inequality.
From farming to transport and from energy to our seas, it is our best attempt to show what is needed to deliver the transition to a low-carbon, fairer Scotland.
These will undoubtedly evolve and new ideas will emerge. But it is an attempt to get firmly on the front foot. To identify what we think needs to happen and gain widespread public support. To empower everyone to make their voices heard and confront this existential challenge together.
It isn’t perfect, and we will continue to review it as we make progress, but it does bring together for the first time a detailed set of proposals we believe need to happen if we are going to really make a difference.
Coming out of the hottest summer ever recorded, we must recapture the focus on climate action as a priority. Even as the UK seems to be going backwards, it is vital we embrace and accelerate action sooner rather than later, as what we do now and over the next three to five years will largely determine whether we hit our future targets.
Scotland might be a small country, but it has the opportunity to have a positive influence on the planet’s biggest crisis. We urge decision-makers at every level to support and implement the policies in the Climate Manifesto so that, together, we can address the climate emergency with the urgency it requires.
Mike Robinson is chair of environmental coalition Stop Climate Chaos Scotland
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