for Sunday Herald, 24 June 2012
Scotland is in danger of losing its much-lauded world-leading role in cutting climate pollution unless it takes urgent action to reduce carbon emissions from cars and homes, ministers have been warned.
With current policies, the Scottish government is on track to miss its historic climate change targets - agreed three years ago today - every year except one between 2010 and 2022.
And according to a powerful coalition of more than 60 organisations, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), this is because ministers are failing to do enough to curb vehicle exhaust fumes and to save energy in buildings by better insulation.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament on 24 June 2009. It committed the Scottish government to cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
But an analysis for SCCS shows that if the government continues on its current path, the only year in which it will not breach its carbon budget before 2022 is 2013. By 2022 emissions will be more than five million tonnes, or 13%, over the target.
According to SCCS, ministers’ climate policy is now at a crossroads. “They can choose to stick to their current path and miss the targets in the Climate Change Act, risk our global leadership on this agenda and forfeit the many benefits Scotland could enjoy,” said SCCS chair, Tom Ballantine.
“Or they can take action now to put us on the right road to a low carbon future. Our world-leading legislation is still lacking the world-leading policies that we need.”
Colin Howden, director of the transport alliance, Transform Scotland, accused ministers of making “absolutely no progress” on cutting vehicle emissions. “The government needs to get its head out of sand,” he said.
“What is worrying is that the current administration's multi-billion pound road-building programme is certain to generate even more emissions. We instead need to see the government bring forward investment for the range of sustainable measures floated, but left unfunded, in the existing climate action plan.”
Amongst the measures not yet acted on by ministers are car clubs, freight efficiency improvements, better travel planning and tougher enforcement of speed limits. The government has also come under fierce fire from opposition politicians for cutting the budget for encouraging cycling and walking.
“Tackling climate change is not a problem which can be put off until tomorrow - it must be tackled head on now,” said Labour’s shadow climate change minister, Claudia Beamish. She has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for “bold, new action” by ministers.
“Time after time the government has been warned that its spending plans are not aligned with Scotland’s climate change ambitions,” she argued. “It has failed to listen to these warnings.”
The environmental group, WWF Scotland, pointed out that homes accounted for a quarter of Scotland’s carbon emissions while nearly 40% of households lived in fuel poverty. “Only a bold approach to retrofitting homes throughout Scotland can tackle the twin scourges of fuel poverty and climate change emissions at the pace and scale required,” said senior policy officer, Elizabeth Leighton.
The Scottish government described the targets to cut climate pollution as “stretching” but said they were helping to pave the way towards a low carbon economy. “We are almost two thirds of the way to meeting our 42 per cent reduction by 2020 target,” said a spokesman.
“We have invested almost £150 million on fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes over the last three years and are using the Scottish Futures Fund to provide support for emissions reduction measures, with £100 million for warmer homes and future transport over the course of this parliament.”