Scotland's net-zero task is daunting but we must resist Jacob Rees-Mogg's call for return of coal – Scotsman comment

Scotland has a case for help from the UK Government in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions

The news that the Scottish Government needs to spend more than £1.1 billion a year until 2050 in order to meet its net-zero commitments may prompt some to agree with former Conservative minister Jacob Rees-Mogg that climate targets should be postponed “indefinitely”. Complaining about “this green obsession”, he insisted “we should have gas and we should have coal”.

However anyone attracted by this defiantly old-fashioned politician’s views should pause for thought. For Professor Graeme Roy, chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission, which produced the cost estimate, also warned: “Doing nothing, not responding to the challenge of climate change, will be far more expensive and damaging to the public finances than investing in net zero… it is simply not an option.”

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Scotland’s bill amounts to £207 per person, per year, compared to £149 per person across the rest of the UK. This is because Scotland contains about a third of the UK’s land mass, but less than a tenth of its population, and has about half its forests and 70 per cent of its peatland, both of which play a vital role in absorbing, or releasing, carbon.

With £1.1 billion representing 18 per cent of the Scottish Government's capital budget, the SFC said that the “scale of investment required to meet its targets is expected to create a fiscal pressure for the Scottish Government”, with a choice between spending cuts, raising revenue or using “non-spending levers”.

It is a situation in which Scotland has a case for help from the UK Government. But this will only happen if the two are able to work together effectively on what is a complicated problem that will only get harder the longer we put it off.

However, with the whole world needing to make the same transition to net zero, getting ahead of the game means we stand to reap the rewards of being ‘first to market’ in a host of areas. Conversely, if our courage fails in the face of this daunting challenge and siren calls to turn the clock back to the Steam Age prevail, future generations will pay a high price for our profound economic mistake.



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