Gail Wilson: Let’s help those harmed by climate change

The people of Rwanda are in danger again ' this time from climate change. Picture: Getty Images
The people of Rwanda are in danger again ' this time from climate change. Picture: Getty Images
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WITH THE election now over, Scotland must take urgent action, writes Gail Wilson

Election fever has now passed and we all now look to the new Scottish Government to get down to business.

An important part of its job is to implement the obligations set in Scotland’s Climate Change Act. We should be proud of many things achieved so far, but to ensure the world avoids the devastating effects of climate change, greater and bolder action is needed.

One of the previous Scottish Government’s flagship policies was to double its Climate Justice Fund. This is something Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and its members campaigned hard for. The reason is simple – it helps people living in countries worst affected by climate change, who most often have done nothing to cause it.

One of the countries benefiting from the fund is Rwanda. After the genocide in 1994 the country has moved on, cut poverty and maintained peace among its communities.

But now the people of Rwanda are in danger again – this time from climate change. Around 70 per cent of people rely on farming to survive. However, in recent years rising temperatures and more frequent and severe floods and droughts have made it harder for families to grow food and earn an income.

Farming communities can no longer rely on expected rain patterns and struggle to know when to plant their crops. Poor water management systems, a growing population and changes in the weather leave many families without sufficient water or food.

With the assistance of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), which is a SCCS member, Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund has helped by building water tanks to capture rain so farmers can irrigate crops in dry periods.

One who has benefited is Berthilde Mukarutabana who can now water her crops and provide her family with clean drinking water, even in unpredictable dry periods.

Rwanda and other developing countries have taken the lead in calls for international action to tackle climate change. While the Paris Agreement, signed at the United Nations by 177 world leaders, marks an important step, poor nations now demand action from wealthy countries, who created the problem through reckless consumption and large-scale burning of fossil fuels.

The help given to Berthilde Mukarutabana is vital if countries like Rwanda are to move on from widespread poverty to development and success. With its ambitious Climate Change Act and Climate Justice Fund, Scotland has taken important steps to tackle climate change and to support developing countries. But with more poor people around the world struggling to cope with climate change, bolder action is needed.

To make sure Scotland continues to stand in solidarity with the poorest in the world, it’s crucial that our politicians keep climate justice at the top of the agenda.

It’s up to industrial nations to lead the way in cutting back on emissions, and Scotland should increase its ambition with tougher climate change targets and action to move away from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.

It’s the richest, not the poorest countries who have caused climate change, and we owe it to developing nations to support them. Scotland must continue the vital work of the Climate Justice Fund, helping our brothers and sisters abroad to cope with the impact of irreversible climate change.

• Gail Wilson is campaigns manager at Stop Climate Chaos Scotland