Alistair Dutton: Scotland leads in protecting our common home – but climate action must be strict

A child carrying a baby outside a flooded house in Zambia
A child carrying a baby outside a flooded house in Zambia
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Throughout the world ­millions of people are being pushed further into ­poverty by extreme weather caused by climate change. It is an injustice that those who have done least to cause the problem are suffering the most.

SCIAF sees first-hand the huge impact this is having. Many ­families don’t know when to plant their crops any more as the once predictable rains are erratic or may not come at all, while more frequent and severe storms, droughts or floods can wipe out their homes and harvests ­overnight.

Alistair Dutton is the Director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

Alistair Dutton is the Director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

With support from Scotland, including money from the Scottish Government, we’re working tirelessly to help vulnerable families cope with climate change. Progress is already being made.

Many communities are now ­growing better crops which are more able to withstand floods and drought, and diversifying their income by starting up new small businesses means they’re less ­vulnerable if their crops are destroyed. New technology such as solar power is helping many families to develop without damaging our planet.

But we all need to do more to stop the problem getting much worse.

Pope Francis has highlighted the urgent need for action to address the climate crisis. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ (Our common home) the Holy Father teaches us that we all have a responsibility to one another and to our environment, explaining: “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” Pope ­Francis believes action is needed at every ­level in society and has urged political leaders to show courage in tackling climate change.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has committed Scotland to the ­Paris Agreement set out at the ­United Nations climate change summit in 2015. This committed countries around the world to reduce their emissions to keep global temperature increases well below two degrees and pursue efforts to limit increases to 1.5C.

Now a new Climate Change Bill has been introduced to the Scottish ­Parliament which will decide ­Scotland’s ambition for years to come. In the Bill we welcome the Scottish Government’s desire to achieve net zero emissions but are concerned that the Bill does not set a target for doing so. Vulnerable ­communities suffering the impacts of climate change cannot wait.

We also welcome the commitment in the Scottish Government’s ­Programme for Government to establish a Just Transition Commission – to oversee the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

We must also address Scotland’s consumption emissions – that’s all the emissions generated for the goods and resources we consume.

To do this the Scottish Government must be obliged to address emissions associated with imports of goods and services – without doing so Scotland could be accused of ‘outsourcing’ its emissions. Scotland can be proud of its record in having had some of the strongest climate change legislation in the world. Now, we can all play our part in making sure the new climate bill is equally ambitious and delivers on our international commitments.

Together with others in the Stop ­Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, we’re urging people to ask their MSPs to ensure the Bill includes a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 at the latest, with emissions reductions of 77 per cent (on 1990 ­levels) by 2030, and that future finance budgets are consistent with our climate targets.

We need to cut emissions from buildings so all homes have at least Energy Performance Certificate rating C by 2025, to help cut emissions, tackle fuel poverty and ­create jobs across Scotland.

To help reduce ­emissions from ­agriculture as soon as possible the Bill should also include a commitment to create a Nitrogen Balance Sheet for Scotland with nitrogen reduction targets introduced by 2020 to help reduce climate pollution from nitrogen-based fertilisers.

Working side by side with ­other nations around the world, ­Scotland must have the courage to put in place the strong legislation that is needed to ensure we meet our international obligations under the Paris Agreement and help prevent climate change getting worse.

This will help us to care for our common home and reduce the ­suffering of vulnerable people who are already struggling to cope with the changing climate.

To sign up to SCIAF’s Scottish Climate Change Bill campaign visit

Alistair Dutton is the director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).