Scots lockdown exit must deliver new greener future

Scotland must show “ambition and vision” as the country exits coronavirus lockdown to deliver a greener economy, environmental campaigners have warned.

Lockdown exit provides the opportunity for greener future
Lockdown exit provides the opportunity for greener future

There are now demands for the Scottish Government’s economic recovery plan to focus public investment away from fossil fuels, including the scrapping of road-building projects with the cash instead spent on boosting broadband provision to support home working.The prospect of a return to business as usual would “escalate” climate change and see the most vulnerable exposed to future crises, it is claimed.Nicola Sturgeon has stated that the Covid-19 crisis presents the opportunity for a different way doing things with a four-day week and greater home working floated by the First Minister, as well as a new greener economy on the other side of lockdown.But Scots environmental organisations now say it is time of the Scottish Government to ensure this is backed up by action, as MSPs prepare to debate the next steps for the economy at Holyrood this week.Caroline Rance, Friends of the Earth Scotland Climate and Energy Campaigner said: “As we move out of this crisis, we must take action to avert the further disruption and misery that unchecked climate breakdown will bring.“We need ambition and vision from the Scottish Government to create a just and green recovery that will tackle the interconnected crises of climate breakdown, poverty and widespread social injustices.”Councils around Scotland have responded to the massive increase in the use of bikes to get around by creating more space for social distancing by widening pavements and creating pop up cycle lanes.And the homeworking shift which many workers are now adapting to could be pivotal in driving down emissions, Rance added.“The increase in working from home and use of video conferencing could prove to be enduring changes that significantly reduce commuting, air pollution and climate emissions. By investing in broadband instead of spending billions on bigger roads we could address the need for reliable connections and respond to this societal change.”Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament that the country would have to be “brave and bold” as it emerges from lockdown by accelerating the shift towards a greener economy.“We will need a revolution in economic thinking,” Hyslop added.The fact that global emissions are almost certain to fall as a result of the lockdown is scant consolation given the wider public health tragedy.This was described as a “pyrrhic victory at best” by Dr Sennan Mattar and Professor Tahseen Jafry, of the Centre for Climate Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University.“As factories closed, the cleaner air over China was a bittersweet reminder that our high-carbon economies have consequences for the climate and our environment,” they said in a joint statement.“…an economic recovery strategy must recognise that our economic systems cannot ignore the environmental and social cost of business…“This pandemic is a moment of acute clarity that our economies are not independent of the world around us.“The real test will be whether the world’s governments are willing to adopt new approaches to economic management that recognise the social and environmental injustices of high-carbon economic growth – and act with the same level of urgency to address such injustices as they have with this pandemic.”The Scottish Greens have been pressing the case at Holyrood to ensure there’s no return to business as usual and extracted a commitment from ministers that companies based in tax havens will not receive bailouts in Scotland.Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “This ambition to build back better will only be realised if there is a clear economic plan, and the political will to take the bold steps needed.“We cannot have a repeat of what happened after the 2008 crash where the recovery came at the expense of those already struggling.”He added: “We need to see positive action to protect the most vulnerable. That means a guaranteed universal basic income, rent relief and stronger rights for private tenants and easier access to emergency support for those who need it.”The need for recent changes in behavioural patterns to be maintained during the crisis will be one of the key challenges on the road to a sustainable recovery, according to Fabrice Leveque, Climate and Energy Policy Manager at WWF Scotland.“It’s right that as we begin to recover from the Covid-19 health crisis we look at ways to create a greener and fairer Scotland,” he added.“We must learn from the current health emergency and improve our response to systemic shocks, including climate change and biodiversity loss. This means embracing and building on recent changes in our behaviour such as increased cycling and walking, and a renewed interest in locally sourced food.” The change in lifestyles must be driven by government support, according to Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. He suggests a dual approach to tackling coronavirus and climate changed could be adopted.“…a transition to a new way that is fair to all and can bring us good jobs, better health, stronger communities, and a path away from climate catastrophe.“Changes to our lifestyles need to be supported and built on by government – less driving and flying, more walking and cycling; less time in the office, more working from home; less oil, more renewables; less love of things, more appreciation of nature; less long distance, more local, food.“With vigour and determination we can find our way through two emergencies – Covid-19 and climate.”

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