Climate change: With SNP/Green government out of ideas, here's how we could kickstart electric car revolution and tackle fast fashion – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

One summer evening, the year after I was first elected, there was a massive downpour over Edinburgh and many houses in my constituency were flooded.

Unlike fast fashion, clothes at Junk Kouture, the world's biggest youth sustainability fashion event, are made from recycled waste (Picture: Antony Jones/Getty Images for Junk Kouture)
Unlike fast fashion, clothes at Junk Kouture, the world's biggest youth sustainability fashion event, are made from recycled waste (Picture: Antony Jones/Getty Images for Junk Kouture)

I made swift representations to Scottish Water who explained that this was a freak of nature, a “one in one-thousand-year storm”.

Well, since that meeting there have been another three of those alleged thousand-year storms, with equivalent damage done. Scotland is developing a monsoon season.

These changes in our climate are unquestionably the result of the climate emergency and when you look at the rest of the world, we’re getting off lightly.

It is now imperative that we radically alter the way we live our lives if we are to reduce emissions and stave off catastrophe. So, it’s disappointing that in the run-up to Cop26, a make-or-break global summit on the climate, to be held in Scotland, that the SNP/Green coalition government seem out of ideas.

So if the Scottish government won’t step forward, then the Scottish Liberal Democrats will.

Since taking over the leadership of my party, I’ve been determined to offer new hope in the fight against the climate emergency. So ahead of Cop26, I’ll be announcing a range of measures that would radically reduce our carbon footprint and boost sustainable living in Scotland.

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That started with a call for the government to switch every public sector vehicle over to electric and to massively invest in our electric vehicle charging network. I also want to encourage more Scottish people to join the electric car revolution.

To do that we need to make it cheaper to buy them, and dispel any anxieties people might have with an entitlement for them to take an EV hire car for a weekend with the government picking up the tab for that.

Today, I’m taking on ‘fast fashion’ – now the dominant force in high street retail. It offers consumers fashion staples like t-shirts, tops and jeans at bargain-basement prices. Consumers then wear these for a few outings before throwing them away.

But textile production is a major contributor to the climate emergency. It produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. That’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Scotland is a significant contributor to the problem, as research shows that here we each buy around 26.7kg of clothing every year, compared to an average 15.6kg for people across other European countries.

That’s why I’m calling for the establishment of a Fast Fashion Commission, to monitor textile waste, set reduction targets and make recommendations for change. I also want to see local councils establish kerbside pick-ups for clothes recycling. We’ve all got used to recycling our domestic waste, if there was an option to recycle clothes as well that would drive a behavioural change.

This is just the start. Over the coming weeks, I will be unveiling environmental policies that cover every aspect of our lives and the world around us, offering some much-needed new hope in the fight against the climate emergency.

Our world is on fire. The impact of humanity on our climate is leading to the loss of biodiversity, changing ecosystems and extreme meteorological events that, in our Scottish monsoon season, we’re now starting to see on our very doorstep.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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