Scottish Government’s draft climate Bill slated by environmentalists as ‘timid’

DISAPPOINTING. Timid. Just some of the words used to express the complete and utter frustration sweeping through the environmental lobby today as the Scottish Government stood accused of choking over its draft Climate Bill.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced it was aiming for a 90% target in cutting emissions by 2050, with a pledge to gravitate towards becoming 100% carbon neutral.

But a list of respected groups lined up to attack the SNP administration for failing to set a tougher immediate target that would not just require action, but make Scotland and its rich natural resources a world leader. 

Tom Ballantine, the Chair of coalition group Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, was among the first to accuse Cunningham and the government of failure.

“It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to live up to its own rhetoric on global climate change leadership, by failing to set a net zero emissions target in the Climate Change Bill published today,” he said.

“The Government claims Scotland it will be one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions, but the Bill does not commit to that.

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“It sets a target of only a 90 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.”

He added: “By failing to ally with the global momentum towards zero emissions, led by countries like France, Sweden and New Zealand, Scotland is missing a huge opportunity to end its contribution to climate change in a generation, attract clean investment and retain its position as a leader on the global stage.

“We’re now calling on MSPs from all parties to push for stronger targets on emissions – net-zero by 2050 at the latest, 77 per cent by 2030 and the action needed to deliver on them in line with the Paris Agreement.”

The coalition accused the government of ‘disregarding’ the views of all those who had demanded a net zero target, saying it would fail in meeting its responsibilities allied to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP slammed the decision not to set a target of zero carbon emissions.

Greens have previously called for a target of 100 per cent reduction by 2040 to “keep pace, meet international climate science agreements and help drive the transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Mr Ruskell MSP said: “This is hugely disappointing and will shock the many thousands of Scots who fed into the government’s consultation, calling for a net-zero target.

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“This timid decision shows how weak the SNP are on the climate crisis. They’re making excuses but they should be seizing the opportunity.

“Science says we need strong action now.

“Other countries such as New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden have already set net-zero targets in their legislation, thanks to Greens in government.

“Scotland has a chance to drive up improvements in housing, jobs, transport and farming but it seems it’s going to take opposition parties and the wider climate movement to force the SNP to do the right thing.”

While refraining from attacking the government position outright, the renewables  industry expressed its own concerns.

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Countries around the world are looking to increase their climate change targets to deliver the ambition of the Paris Agreement, so it is right that Scotland does so too.

“Renewable energy will play a crucial part in this and the recent falls in cost for offshore and onshore wind in Scotland and the UK show what is possible with the right long-term policies.

Scottish Renewables Green Energy Awards 2017, EICC, Edinburgh, 3
Scottish Renewables CEO, Claire Mack

“While this Bill continues to show Scotland’s ambition, we would urge Ministers and Parliament to set a date for delivering net zero emissions and to remain a world leader in the fight against climate change.”

Despite the intense criticism, the environment secretary insisted Scotland will become ‘one of the first countries’ to achieve a 100% reduction in carbon emissions,

She said: “Our Climate Change Bill sets out our commitment to reduce emissions by 100% with ambitious interim targets which strengthen Scotland’s world-leading position on climate change.

“Our 90% target will be tougher even than the 100% goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally-binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy.

“By 2030, we will cut emissions by two-thirds and, unlike other nations, we will not use carbon offsetting, where other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal. 

“The fight against climate change is a moral responsibility but Scotland’s academic and engineering expertise, coupled with our outstanding natural resources, mean it is also an economic opportunity.”

She added: “Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our age and Scotland’s international leadership means our plans must be ambitious, credible and affordable – which is exactly what the new Climate Change Bill delivers.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: Commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions

IMAGE CREDITS: cc Adrian Kirkby

 

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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