Five steps to save the world

Cli­mate change is one of the great chal­lenges fac­ing hu­mankind, and what to do about it is even more of a co­nun­drum. How­ever, Pro­fes­sor Kevin An­der­son has a plan ... and it has fair­ness at its heart

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS -

LAST week, MSPs were de­liv­ered a hard-hit­ting re­port by a cli­mate change ex­pert. It said what we are do­ing now, and what is planned by the Cli­mate Change Bill go­ing through Par­lia­ment doesn’t go far enough in mak­ing our fair con­tri­bu­tion to global emis­sions re­duc­tions. We need, says its au­thor, Pro­fes­sor Kevin An­der­son, deputy di­rec­tor of the Tyn­dall Cen­tre for Cli­mate Change Re­search, is to cut harder and faster. We also need to ac­knowl­edge that this is an equal­ity is­sue – and that much of the cuts in emis­sions should be borne by those who are now the high­est emit­ters.

An­der­son’s re­port fol­lows rev­e­la­tions by the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel On Cli­mate Change re­port last month, which warned that the world is on track to have warmed by 1.5C by be­tween 2030 and 2052, and pro­posed 1.5C as the new tar­get to avoid global dis­as­ter, rather than the cur­rent 2C set in the Paris Agree­ment. What An­der­son rec­om­mends is an ur­gent strat­egy for Scot­land, a Mar­shall Plan-like project for wide­spread, in­dus­trial-level change, which would in­volve phasing out North Sea oil and gas, chang­ing the way we build and power homes, re­for­esta­tion, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and ac­cel­er­ated de­vel­op­ment of re­new­ables.

Among the crit­i­cisms that An­der­son has of tar­gets con­tained within the Scot­tish Bill is that that the “slice of the pie” of global emis­sions that Scot­land as­sumes it can have are too great. An­der­son be­lieves the best route to solv­ing cli­mate change is to see it as an equal­ity is­sue. Some peo­ple, he says, in­clud­ing those in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, but also more de­prived pop­u­la­tions here in Scot­land, will need to con­trib­ute more emis­sions, and some dras­ti­cally less.

For in­stance, the 10 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion who are the high­est global emit­ters create half of global emis­sions. “Imag­ine,” he says, “we had reg­u­la­tions that forced those top 10 per cent of emit- ters to the av­er­age Euro­pean level, while the other 90 per cent do noth­ing – the re­duc­tion in global emis­sions would be one third.”

Eq­uity “is the ab­so­lutely piv­otal cen­tral is­sue”, he says. “We are not go­ing to solve cli­mate change at a global level or in­deed within a coun­try like Scot­land un­less we ad­dress is­sues of in­equal­ity. That’s mostly be­cause we’ve left it so late that poor peo­ple don’t have any emis­sions to squeeze out of.”

An­der­son’s cal­cu­la­tions sug­gest that Scot­land will ex­ceed its 2C com­mit­ment in less than 10 years if we pro­ceed at cur­rent lev­els, and that we need to de­liver a CO2 mit­i­ga­tion of 10 per cent each year, start­ing now – and that’s not even con­sid­er­ing what it would take to keep to 1.5C.

Nev­er­the­less, in global terms, the planned Scot­tish cli­mate pol­icy is quite am­bi­tious. On many lev­els it seems like land­mark leg­is­la­tion. The Bill plans to set a tar­get of 55 per cent down on 1990 lev­els by 2020 and 90 per cent down by 2050. “Our Cli­mate Change Bill,” said a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son, “means Scot­land will have the tough­est cli­mate leg­is­la­tion in the world. The UN In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change said last month that the world needs to be car­bon-neu­tral by 2050, which is ex­actly what the tar­gets in the Bill mean for Scot­land.”

Nev­er­the­less, An­der­son be­lieves we need to go fur­ther, that 55 per cent by 2020, given we have al­ready al­most halved our re­duc­tions from the 1990 level, isn’t a dras­tic enough cut.

In par­tic­u­lar, we need to look at se­verely cut­ting our emis­sions from en­ergy use. He says: “Most of the emis­sions in Scot­land, around three-quar­ters, come from the use of en­ergy, and ... we should be look­ing at re­duc­ing those en­ergy-re­lated emis­sions by about 80 per cent by about 2030 and then at be­ing vir­tu­ally zero car­bon en­ergy by about 2035 to 2040.” His vi­sion of how we do this en­tails the wealthy dras­ti­cally re­duc­ing their emis­sions, while those liv­ing in poverty in­crease theirs by a small amount.

“Let’s be clear: lots of peo­ple in Scot­land need to be con­sum­ing more en­ergy and more ma­te­rial goods. The poor, and that in­cludes peo­ple work­ing in low-paid jobs, are peo­ple I’d like to see con­sum­ing more. But it does mean that con­sump­tion has to be re­duced sig­nif­i­cantly by pro­fes­sors and by jour­nal­ists and se­nior peo­ple in our so­ci­ety who have done very well out of the sys­tem.”

An­der­son’s re­port was com­mis­sioned by Friends Of The Earth Scot­land, as an at­tempt to draw at­ten­tion to what they felt were the in­suf­fi­cien­cies of the Cli­mate Change Bill. Caro­line Rance, Friends Of The Earth Scot­land cam­paigner, ob­serves: “The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s Cli­mate Bill fails to de­liver the ur­gent ac­tion needed to tackle the cli­mate cri­sis. It does next to noth­ing ex­tra be­fore 2030, in­stead push­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity on to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“In­stead of cal­cu­lat­ing Scot­land’s fair

Let’s be clear: lots of peo­ple in Scot­land need to be con­sum­ing more en­ergy Prof Kevin An­der­son

share of global ef­forts, the Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed tar­gets are based on pes­simistic guess­work about what tech­nolo­gies we’ll be us­ing in the decades to come.”

On the whole, An­der­son is broadly pos­i­tive about the way Scot­land is en­gag­ing with the is­sue in the cur­rent Cli­mate Change Bill, and also of the ap­proach of Roseanna Cun­ning­ham, Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for En­vi­ron­ment, Cli­mate Change and Land Re­form, to the is­sue. “For in­stance,” he says, “when the UK min­is­ter Claire Perry asked the Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change for some ad­vice in re­la­tion to the Paris Agree­ment, she said to them you must not con­sider any­thing be­fore 2032. But the Scot­tish min­is­ter has come along and quite ex­pressly said to the com­mit­tee you can con­sider ev­ery­thing on through to 2032 and be­yond.”

This, he says, is promis­ing. In­deed, he iden­ti­fies Scot­land as a coun­try with po­ten­tial to show great lead­er­ship on the global stage in this is­sue. “It seems to me that in Scot­land you’re more open to an agenda of rea­son and fair­ness.”

Pro­fes­sor Kevin An­der­son wants the ap­proach to cli­mate change and emis­sions re­duc­tion to have equal­ity at its heart

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