Climate change: As Glasgow prepares to host UN summit Cop26, Scotland's plans may not actually add up – Stop Climate Chaos Coalition

In 2019, the Scottish government committed to some of the strongest climate targets in the world: to reduce harmful emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2045, compared to 1990 levels.

Protesters march and hold placards as they take part in the Global Climate Strike in Edinburgh in 2019 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Climate Change Plan update, which is intended to set out how to achieve these targets, has just been published and is being scrutinised by parliamentary committees.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland a coalition of 58 organisations campaigning together on climate change, welcomes some of the new proposals included but believes there is a real risk the current plans don’t get us on track to meeting the targets, with too many promises to review, consult and plan, and not enough action.

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There is also a worrying reliance on unproven technologies which might never materialise at the scale required.

The plan also has no mention of commitments to international climate justice issues nor ensuring that we hear the voices of those people most impacted by the climate crisis but who have done least to cause it.

Transformative changes are needed across all areas of life to ensure a recovery from the pandemic that is greener and fairer for everyone and protect and enhance our land and seas.

Here, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland members working in the transport, agriculture and marine sectors share some thoughts on the content of the Climate Change Plan update and outline what it needs to deliver.

Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism, Sustrans Scotland

Sustrans welcomes the broad thrust and objectives of the Climate Plan update, but the real task now is to deliver policies and interventions at pace that have decisive actions, clear timescales and measurable targets.

Sustainable and active travel is mentioned throughout the plan, and we are pleased to see the government aiming to improve the places we live with the inclusion of concepts like the 20-minute neighbourhoods across cities, towns and rural areas. However, the plan’s reliance on the mass-uptake of low-carbon vehicles cannot be a magic bullet.

Instead the government must show bold political leadership by introducing measures that would reduce the short car journeys of 5km or less, which make up 53 per cent of trips by car in Scotland. Measures such as fuel taxation, parking restrictions and speed limits may be disliked by some but are crucial to meet the plan’s ambitious targets and tackle the growth of car use.

Alongside reducing car use, the government must increase investment in making the shift to walking, wheeling and cycling more appealing to the public.

Many local authorities, community trusts and other groups in Scotland want to step up to the challenge. Although Sustrans administers the significant Transport Scotland funding for walking and cycling infrastructure, the investment has fallen behind the need.

We need to build coherent networks in our towns and cities and in our rural areas that are safe and attract people to leave the car behind. Scotland needs continued political leadership, meaningful collaboration across sectors and a coherent national strategic plan to deliver a reduction in carbon in the transport sector.

Keesje Avis, senior policy officer, Nourish Scotland

Food and farming production has come under a lot of scrutiny in the context of the climate and nature emergencies.

It is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and also impacts our water, air and soils. Emissions from farming in Scotland have fallen, but very slowly – not because of farmer negligence but because political leadership has focused on shorter-term issues. This has meant subsidies and policies that encourage either cheap commodities or expensive products for export.

We now have the opportunity to change the focus of our efforts and to produce food that nourishes Scotland – its people, its environment, its future.

The Climate Plan update suggests reducing agricultural emissions by 28 per cent by 2030 – it's an ambitious target but with very little substance of how to get there.

Farmers can and want to be part of the solution to both the climate and nature emergencies, but they need the tools of better advice, clear long-term direction and a budget that matches the rhetoric to be able to produce the results we are all counting on.

Charles Millar, executive director, Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust

The government is currently overlooking the central role our seas have in mitigating climate change.

Each year Scotland’s kelp forests sequester the equivalent of 6.3 million tonnes of CO2, and our marine sediments the equivalent of 28 million tonnes of CO2. These are big numbers: our entire annual national transport emissions are some 14 million tonnes CO2eq.

And this is on top of the marine stores of carbon that are already there. The top 10cm of seabed sediment contains more carbon than all our trees and the top 10cm of all our soils and peat combined.

Despite this the Climate Plan update still has no concrete actions on this central issue. Many of the marine features that are most important to carbon sequestration are highly vulnerable to human activities. They need immediate protection.

Becky Kenton-Lake, coalition coordinator of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

The climate emergency is already here, with people across the world suffering from increased droughts, fires and floods.

Polls are showing that the public are more concerned than ever about climate change and we need politicians to put in place policies to get us urgently on track to a low-carbon, healthier and fairer future for all.In the year that the UN Cop26 climate talks are held in Glasgow, Scotland must show the world that it will fully play its part in tackling the biggest crisis we face. The evidence and expertise are all there. The time to investigate and explore are over. It’s time for action.

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