Scottish minister demands ‘national endeavour’ on climate crisis

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham has called for a "shared national endeavour" to tackle climate change.
Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham has called for a "shared national endeavour" to tackle climate change.
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Scots have been urged to tackle climate change as a “shared national endeavour” as the Scottish Government announced a green summit with businesses and a sweeping review of all policies.

Environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said that responding to the climate emergency “must be hardwired into our national psyche” as the issue was was “not just about government action”.

And she called on on the the UK government to accept the same zero emissions target of 2045, adopted by the Scottish Government last week.

However, despite her pledge that climate change would “be at the core of our next Programme for Government and Spending Review”, the Scottish Greens said they would refuse to back future government budgets if financial decisions were not focused on the environment.

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Campaign group Extinction Rebellion Scotland, also denounced the statement as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”, and demanded the zero emissions targets to be brought forward to 2025.

Ms Cunningham’s statement comes a week after the Scottish Government announced it had scrapped its plans to cut Air Departure Tax in the light of the “climate emergency” - and that its support for a third runway at Heathrow was also being reviewed. It has also challenged opposition parties to back its proposed Workplace Parking Levy as an environmental policy.

It also came just hours after Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, which recommended the 2045 deadline for zero emissions, told MSPs that policies in Scotland needed to “step up to the task” if the target was to be met.

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Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Ms Cunningham said: “We must take this journey together, seize the economic opportunities available to us and redefine what world leadership means, not just as a government but as a country.

“We all have a part to play: individuals, communities, businesses, other organisations. And opposition parties also have a responsibility to look at their own approaches.

“An emergency needs a systematic response that is appropriate to the scale of the challenge and not just a knee-jerk, piecemeal reaction. All Cabinet Secretaries are looking across the full range of policy areas to identify areas where we can go further, faster.”

She added: “To inform our approach... we will be consulting widely over the summer to feed into the update of the Climate Change Plan and let everyone have their say on what needs to happen across Scotland in response to the climate emergency.

“We will co-convene a summit with industry to develop a shared understanding of what needs to be done, how businesses can contribute, and how we can help. And we will be seeking views from key sectors such as agriculture and land use.”

Ms Cunningham also laid down a challenge for critics of the change in the Scottish Government’s focus: “For those saying this is not enough – what is your offer? How will you help to support a fair and just transition for the people of Scotland? Work with us to bring on board those who are perhaps less convinced about the need for action; look closely at your own activities and those of your organisations and see what more you can do.

“For those saying this is too much and too expensive, the evidence shows that the global cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. Future generations will end up paying even more if we fail to take action now.”

But Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the environment could not wait until the next government spending review and said his party “cannot commit to negotiations at the next budget unless it has climate change and a green new deal at its heart.”

Ms Cunningham said that the budget was Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s responsibility, but that the government was committed to “developing budgets which supported climate change ambitions.”

A statement from Extinction Rebellion Scotland dismissed Ms Cunningham as announcing nothing more than “more consultations, summits and goals. An emergency requires an emergency response and this doesn’t even come close.”

Earlier in the day MSPs on the environment committee had heard from members of the Committee of Climate Change who said the 2045 target for Scotland was the "most ambitious in the world."

Professor Piers Forster, a CCC member, said: "Some other countries are considering quite similar targets but I think we can say with confidence that the 2045 target for Scotland we set is currently the most ambitious in the whole world."

And chief Executive of the CCC, Chris Stark, said: "We don't have that much more time to achieve these kinds of targets. The luxury of looking at it, thinking we have decades and decades of time, will soon evaporate.

"So setting a target like this at this moment is quite a fundamental step. This is the moment for us to do as fundamental a piece of work as we can on this so that parliaments up and down the land can make the right decision."

He said the possibility of setting an earlier date for the UK, and for Scotland had been considered but an earlier target would be less likely to be met. "Any date prior to 2050 for the UK and prior to 2045 for Scotland carries a huge amount of risk of failure.

"There are physical and real barriers to achieving it and those things are not easily fixed, even over a time period of 25 years."

But he said that by adopting ambitious targets, Scotland and the UK can have a positive influence on other countries to decide to take similar measures. "A rich, industrialised economy like Scotland, like the UK, setting a target as ambitious as this gives a much stronger platform for the EU to actually set the target that's been proposed by the Commission. I think we can feel much more confident about the world getting on a better pathway if we approach it that way."

In her statement Ms Cunningham said that the UK government also needed to "up its ambition" if Scotland was to achieve its goals. She said she had written to Energy Minister Claire Perry about urgent action required on carbon capture and storage.

"The UK Government must identify funding to deliver its commitment to build the first CCUS facility in the UK by 2025 and must commit to more than one cluster across the UK," she said. "With our North Sea assets and infrastructure, Scotland is the logical location for such clusters.

"I requested an urgent meeting to discuss the CCC advice and the UK Government’s response. There has been no answer to that letter or to my request and I reiterate my call to the UK Government to work with us to deliver the transformational changes needed to respond to the climate emergency."