Rural and Environment
Listening to and acting on the scientific evidence
By Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham
The Scottish Government has declared a climate emergency.
In recent weeks, the next generation has expressed, in growing numbers and with eloquence, sincerity and passion, their heartfelt concern for the planet they will inherit.
Just last week, teenage activist Greta Thunberg accused the UK Government of not listening to the science. WelI, the Scottish Government is listening. Both Greta and the people of Scotland should be assured of that.
Science continues to provide incontrovertible evidence compelling us to take responsibility if we wish to avert a global crisis.
The economic case is also clear. By leading the global shift to carbon-neutrality our businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive. In contrast, not taking action will devastate economies the world over.
Sir David Attenborough’s powerful documentary Climate Change – The Facts, set out the severity of the situation in no uncertain terms, and made it clear why inaction is simply not an option.
The programme was another clear reminder that the role of science is absolutely crucial to both establishing the scale of the escalating threat, and to presenting us with many of the solutions we must implement.
Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a Special Report. The warning contained in this report was stark: the world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050 to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees.
We must all act on the clear, global, scientific consensus that they have provided.
The Scottish Government recognises the urgency of the call to action, and the people of Scotland can be proud of what has been achieved so far. The country’s emissions have almost halved since 1990, while the economy, productivity and employment have grown.
But I want to go further. Our new Climate Change Bill, introduced as a direct response to the Paris Agreement, sets the most ambitious statutory targets of any country in the world for 2020, 2030 and 2040 – plus every year in between. The Bill is based on earlier expert advice from the UK Committee for Climate Change, an independent statutory body tasked with advising us on targets.
The CCC is comprised of experts in climate science, economics, behavioural science and business. In that Earlier advice, the CCC stated that the current targets in the Climate Change Bill were at “the very limit of feasibility”.
But we have asked the CCC to look at this again, in light of the IPCC’s Special Report.
The CCC will present its advice tomorrow. If the Committee advises that it is now credible for Scotland to set a specific date for net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases then that is exactly what we will do.
Like me, all those involved in the recent debate about our targets are eager to see the advice. I call on everyone to accept the recommendations when they are published.
Decarbonising Scotland means that all parts of society need to work together – the public sector, industry, businesses, and individuals. The first step is accepting the scientific evidence base for how far and how fast we must act.
Maintaining our evidence-based approach is vital to balance decarbonisation with our economic and social responsibilities.
It is also worth noting that the reach and pace of Scotland’s ambition is dependent on a number of the policy levers which still lie with Westminster. Decarbonisation of heat, for example, depends on UK Government decisions on the future of the gas network. Faster decarbonisation of transport in Scotland could be achieved by enabling Scotland’s electricity network companies to make different investment decisions than in other parts of Great Britain, which at present is not within our devolved power.
The UK Government will receive advice from the CCC at the same time as the Scottish government. I urge them to commit to act immediately on the scientific evidence presented, just as we have done.
Scotland cannot tackle the global issue of climate change alone. However, we are playing a leading role internationally and will continue to work with others to achieve a carbon-neutral future, at the same time as taking swift, responsible action to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
The Scottish Government is listening to and acting on the scientific evidence. If we are to create a sustainable future for everyone, including future generations, we must all – individuals, organisations and governments alike – support this approach and act now to safeguard our planet.