Tom Ballantine: Can't rest on our laurels over emissions

Scotland is doing great, but we still rely on fossil fuels too much, writes Tom Ballantine

Were still releasing thousands of tonnes of harmful gases into the atmosphere every year. Picture: Getty Images

There’s no doubt that Scotland has achieved a significant amount in reducing climate emissions. Indeed earlier this month new figures showed that in western Europe, only Sweden has done better.

So, job done? Unfortunately not. While good progress has been made in some sectors on reducing emissions, there has been little or no improvement in others. We’re still releasing thousands of tonnes of harmful gases into the atmosphere every year and the impacts of climate change are already being felt at home and abroad. So while we’re right to acknowledge how far we’ve come, it’s vital we continue to look forward and do more.

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With that in mind, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) is bringing together people from across the country to meet their MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on 29 September to talk about climate change, why it matters to them and why we all need to take action.

With 56 new MSPs elected in May, we’ll be taking the chance to remind them of the thousands of postcards sent to the First Minister last year asking her to protect the things they care about from climate change, and the huge crowds that took to the streets of Edinburgh to join Scotland’s Climate March in November. We’ll also be highlighting the global commitment made in Paris last December, to pursue efforts to limit the 
temperature increase from global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Scotland has already made fantastic progress in producing electricity from renewables, but we still rely too heavily on fossil fuels to heat our buildings. In fact heating is responsible for about half of Scotland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings will mean we need to burn less fuel to keep them warm, reducing not only our emissions but also energy bills, lifting almost a million people out of fuel poverty.

Investment in low carbon travel is also overdue, with emissions from transport remaining unchanged for 25 years. Improved public transport and creating safe, joined up routes for walking and cycling would make it much easier for people to leave their cars at home. It would also bring benefits for health and reduce pollution.

2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record. It is likely to bring even more extreme weather, like the floods many communities experienced last winter. Across the globe, climate change has exacerbated devastating droughts. Those droughts have had an impact on places such as Malawi, where the current food crisis has seen 6.5 million people going hungry. Climate change is already affecting our weather, our wildlife and our farmers, and we must act now.

If you’re unable to join us on 29 September you can still make your voice heard. Write to your MSPs, email or tweet them, or arrange to meet them in your constituency. Tell them why you care about climate change, and ask them to tackle climate change now.

• Tom Ballantine is Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland