Scotland should lead the way in producing a climate of change

Alistair Dutton: Scotland should lead the way in producing a climate of change

El Salvador - La Tirana Mangrove Swamp, 13/08/2017. From left are Pablo Ramirez, Pedro Rivero and Nuhem Diaz, pictured in the remains of the mangrove swamp, now devastated by the encroaching sand and rising sea level.
El Salvador - La Tirana Mangrove Swamp, 13/08/2017. From left are Pablo Ramirez, Pedro Rivero and Nuhem Diaz, pictured in the remains of the mangrove swamp, now devastated by the encroaching sand and rising sea level.

We in SCIAF are compelled to tackle this crisis because the families we work with in Africa, Asia and Latin America constantly tell us how life has become an even greater battle for survival because of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather.

The new Climate Change Bill is a crucial chance for the Scottish Government to help stem the tide of growing climate crisis and save the lives of our brothers and sisters in poor communities around the world. To do this we should set ourselves the target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, instead of the Government’s proposed 90 per cent target.

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SCIAF has just launched our campaign, urging the First Minister and her ministers to go even further in their forthcoming Bill and calling on the Scottish public to back our calls for bolder targets. In our detailed policy report, Scotland’s New Climate Change Bill – Providing Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty, we set out the importance of climate justice for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world, and specific policy recommendations. It is vital we take this chance to play our part and really show them we care, for them and our common home. Scotland is already respected worldwide for taking the lead in climate legislation. SCIAF has campaigned for climate justice for many years and helped shape our world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, as part of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition.

Alistair Dutton - SCIAF Director

Not only do we want the Scottish Government to commit to zero emissions by 2050 in its forthcoming Bill, we want ministers to: commit to a 77 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; make sure its spending supports these targets; outline clear actions to reduce emissions from housing, transport and farming; and explore options to tackle Scotland’s consumption-based emissions.

I have just returned from El Salvador, where I met all the Caritas members in Latin America. We reflected on Pope Francis’s stark words on climate change and saw first-hand how climate crisis is devastating lives in poor communities. Pope Francis has called for urgent action on climate change, describing man’s destruction of the environment as a sin and accusing mankind of turning the planet into a “polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth”. He said: “This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heartrending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact. ”

One of the people we met outside San Salvador, Pablo Ramirez, told us: “The change in the mangrove forest has really affected our lives. We used to catch 12 dozen large crabs a day, but now we only get two dozen. Due to the change in the mangroves, the large crabs are dying out. As a result, locals have suffered a significant loss of income. They used to sell and eat the crabs. Their livelihood is dying out, and they can no longer send their children to school.”

Dr Ricardo Navarro, Director of CESTA, a SCIAF-supported charity in El Salvador, says climate change is already killing people and he too is urging Scotland to drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions to try to stop climate change running out of control.

Alistair Dutton - SCIAF Director

During our visit, Navarro told us: “This area, La Tirana, used to be a mangrove forest – now it’s a beach. It used to be a larger area but, due to a rise in temperature and melting of polar ice, the sea level has risen. We’re very concerned because the impact of climate change has really been felt here. These people are not responsible for raising the level of the sea; they are not the ones who have been emitting a lot of greenhouse gases. It’s been people from other parts of the world. We want people to know that climate change is having a very serious impact all over the world. This is just one of them.”

Scotland has a proud history of standing up to injustice wherever it occurs in the world and this is no different. We can’t sit back and do nothing while our brothers and sisters suffer the most. It’s our moral responsibility to care for the planet and our people. We must grab this chance to have our say with both hands.

Please join us in asking the First Minister and her government to seize this opportunity to honour the commitments she made in Paris, and put people and planet first.

Alistair Dutton, Director, SCAIF