Ilona Amos: Missing high climate goal better than no ambition

It may be small in stature but Scotland has earned a reputation for bold moves when it comes to tackling one of the biggest threats facing mankind today '“ climate change. Our nation has the toughest green goals in the world.

Whitelee Windfarm. Picture: John Devlin

Current targets demand that greenhouse gas emissions are slashed by at least 42 per cent in the next five years, with an 80 per cent reduction required by 2050. European ambitions seek a 40 per cent cut by 2030 while the UK’s goal is for 35 per cent by 2020.

But now it has emerged that the SNP plans to raise the bar further if they hold on to power after the election next month, setting a new national aim for emissions to be reduced by more than 50 per cent by 2020.

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The SNP is often pilloried for its stance on the environment and drive for renewable energy, accused of trashing the countryside with trillions of giant windmills that are sucking up subsidies and failing to keep the lights on. It also gets flack for consistently missing its own lofty climate targets.

Many opponents of green policies are heard to cry that there is no point in our wee country trying to save the planet single-handedly. They say any efforts from Scotland are but a drop in the increasingly acidic ocean, and behemoth emitters like China and the US should be leading the charge. Then there are those who claim there’s no need to do anything anyway, since the scientific community can’t agree on the question of whether man-made global warming is actually taking place at all.

But whatever your political leanings or personal views on some of the more controversial measures aimed at limiting global temperature rises, surely nobody could argue that limiting emissions and operating in an environmentally friendly fashion can only benefit the earth and all life on it. It’s better to have high ideals and narrowly miss them than to have no ideals at all.

A recent US study found there is a 97 per cent consensus among academics that climate change is caused by humans. And if the outcome of negotiations at the Paris climate summit is anything to go by, world leaders appear to agree. In December, 195 countries unanimously agreed to reduce their carbon output and work to keep global warming to “well below” 2C over pre-industrial levels in the hope of avoiding catastrophic consequences.

With 2015 claiming the title as the hottest year on record and 2016 looking set to knock it off the podium after March pipped February as the warmest month in recent history, the need to curb temperature rises is becoming more widely accepted and increasingly urgent. So it’s good to know Scotland is stepping up on to the world stage, ready to shoulder its climate responsibilities. The new emissions goals echo the sentiments of many Scots, who are genuinely fearful for the planet’s future.

The other parties also seem to think green policies will play an important part in their success on 5 May, so much so that they signed up to a ‘climate day’ debate in the capital. At the time of writing, representatives from the five main parties were facing a grilling over their plans to address concerns such as heating the nation’s 1.5 million cold homes, improving low-carbon travel networks and tackling waste.

The event, organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, could be an eye-opener for climate sceptics. And if not, at least it shows politicians are realising they can’t bury their heads in the sand on this issue for ever.