Plat­form

Tougher tar­gets on re­duc­ing emis­sions are good for us, ar­gues Richard Dixon

The Scotsman - - Perspective -

Last week brought the good news that Scot­land had met its lat­est cli­mate tar­get, with real emis­sions of green­house gases 3 per cent lower than the year be­fore. This is great progress and shows that we are firmly on track to meet our 2020 cli­mate tar­get of re­duc­ing emis­sions by 42 per cent from 1990 lev­els.

This tar­get and the tar­get of 80 per cent emis­sions re­duc­tion by 2050, were agreed unan­i­mously by the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment as the right fig­ures to en­sure Scot­land made a proper con­tri­bu­tion to the fight to keep global tem­per­a­ture rise be­low 2C.

Cru­cially, in 2009 no-one knew how we would reach that 42 per cent tar­get, and the first ac­tion plan listed poli­cies that would just about get us there – but only if there was a very sig­nif­i­cant tight­en­ing of Euro­pean rules on power sta­tions and fac­to­ries. Those changes never hap­pened, yet here we are on track to meet or even beat the 2020 tar­get be­cause of the suc­cess of Scot­land’s re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor as well as im­prove­ments in home in­su­la­tion and how we deal with waste.

This is an im­por­tant les­son to take into set­ting new tar­gets, as we are promised in a new cli­mate bill due soon.

The First Min­ster has spo­ken strongly sev­eral times about Scot­land mak­ing its con­tri­bu­tion to meet­ing the tar­gets in the UN Paris Agree­ment. That means aim­ing for well be­low 2C of warm­ing and mak­ing ef­forts to­wards 1.5C to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble low-ly­ing na­tions and is­land states.

In an­nounc­ing the lat­est cli­mate re­sults, the Scot­tish Govern­ment also an­nounced its plans to aim for a 90 per cent emis­sions re­duc­tion by 2050. This is an im­prove­ment from the cur­rent 80 per cent goal but we and the Stop Cli­mate Chaos coali­tion want Scot­land to aim higher, with an end to all cli­mate emis­sions by 2050. This would be an iconic sig­nal of in­tent and 2050 is so far away that tough tar­gets will be met by tech­nolo­gies and tech­niques we haven’t even thought of yet.

Just as im­por­tant as the mid-cen­tury tar­get, the new tar­get for 2030 will be the one that will drive ac­tion to re­duce emis­sions in the im­por­tant next decade. Scot­land al­ready has a draft cli­mate change plan with ac­tions set out to 2032 but it is pre­dictably dis­ap­point­ing on trans­port, agri­cul­ture and forestry.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment asked their of­fi­cial ad­vis­ers what Scot­land should do to help de­liver the Paris Agree­ment. Cru­cially the UK Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change didn’t an­swer this ques­tion, they just came back with what they thought we can do, not what cli­mate sci­ence says we ab­so­lutely need to do. And their ver­dict? Do noth­ing ex­tra at all up to 2030 and then try a bit harder af­ter that.

Quite clearly, do­ing noth­ing ex­tra for the next 13 years isn’t be­ing more am­bi­tious nor mak­ing any kind of ef­fort to­wards the Paris Agree­ment goals. To de­liver on the SNP’S prom­ises, and to be the kind of good ex­am­ple we were when we agreed the 2009 Cli­mate Act, we need to be aim­ing higher. That means an end to all cli­mate emis­sions by 2050, and 2030 and 2040 tar­gets that drive strong ac­tion con­sis­tent with well be­low 2C of warm­ing as a very min­i­mum.

Tougher tar­gets are good for us. They mean warmer, health­ier homes, bet­ter trans­port op­tions, less air pol­lu­tion and greener agri­cul­ture. Let’s have those re­wards and do our bit for the global fight on cli­mate at the same time. l Dr Richard Dixon is di­rec­tor of Friends of the Earth Scot­land

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