2007 - 2021

Where’s the Scottish Road Map to Net Zero?

The Scottish Parliament has passed a new interim target on carbon emissions reduction of 75 per cent by 2030, after the SNP agreed to back a Labour amendment to its Climate Bill to strengthen the target.

Caroline Rance of Friends of the Earth Scotland has said:

“The law sets a target for Scotland to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. We know that’s too late, but the 2030 target has always been the more important for us, because what we do in the next decade is crucial. Any long term target allows the Government to continue to kick the can down the road, and push more difficult decisions onto future generations.

When the Climate Bill was first published, the Government proposed a weak target of 66% cut in emissions by 2030. Today, all parties in Parliament voted for an amendment – lodged by Labour MSP Claudia Beamish and supported by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur – to cut emissions by 75% by 2030.

While this isn’t as strong as we were calling for, and while Parliament actually rejected a stronger 80% option tabled by Green MSP Mark Ruskell today, it is progress and it will mean that Government immediately have to get to work to implement new action to drive down emissions.”

The new Climate Change Bill commits Scotland to a target of net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045.

This sounds good but critics argue that targets are meaningless without action to meet them, and that the Scottish Government’s Climate Bill has no viable roadmap to get to Net Zero.

Climate Change Minister Roseanna Cunningham said that the government agreed to back the 75 per cent target as “signals matter”, but said they would be consulting the UK’s Committee on Climate Change – which had proposed 70 per cent by 2030 – for “more detailed evidence” on the new target. She said opposition parties backing the new 75% target must understand “how enormously challenging this target will be”.

But the legislation and the process is full of contradictions.

First the Labour Party have done well to force the Scottish Government to amend up from 70 to 75%. For that they will get some credit. But as the Greens Ross Greer pointed out: “Yesterday: Labour conference votes for net-zero emissions by 2030. Today: Labour abstains on Green climate bill amendment for 80% by 2030, backing 75% instead. What’s the point of Labour policy if Labour MSPs don’t support progress towards it the very next day?”

Second although the First Minister talks the talk about a climate emergency, speaks well on “Wellbeing” and praises the climate strikers, the Climate Bill falls well short of the urgent action required to address the climate emergency by transforming the Scottish economy.

It’s ironic that the Scottish Government want to take guidance from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change – while the Greens have argued taking guidance directly from the IPCC.

The new bill sets the Scottish Government on collision course with it’s own anemic Programme for Government.

If you look at Sturgeon’s Programme for Government, it relies on the heavy lifting on reducing emissions to be done by technology that isn’t invented or developed yet – carbon capture and storage, electric planes, affordable electric cars. It all enables maximum extraction of fossil fuels.

This will all come too late to meet the 2030 target, therefore too late to tackle the problem.

The Scottish Greens have said: “The Scottish Government’s Climate Bill, which commits to a net-zero economy by 2045 with no viable roadmap to get there, betrays promises made to the mass movement calling for urgent action to deal with the Climate Emergency.”

Scottish Green climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell said:

“This bill represents progress, but it is progress at a snail’s pace, and as one climate striker last week put it: ‘It’s no good being the fastest snail’ in the face of a global crisis.”

“The lack of ambition on the ten-year timescale demanded by climate science, for example, ignores the demands of the tens of thousands who took to the streets last week.”

“The other parties cannot hide behind targets. Targets are meaningless without action to meet them. To achieve meaningful system change and build a future for all we need the ambition laid out in our Scottish Green New Deal.

“This would mean taking action to phase out reliance on fossil fuels, creating an integrated public transport system to cut car use, meeting warm homes commitments with mass retrofitting and reforesting Scotland to at least the EU average.”

“The Scottish Government has not committed to any of these things today, and we will continue to press them to do so.”

What’s next?

The Government must now publish a new Climate Change Plan within six months from the Bill becoming law. That plan must set out all the action they are going to take in the next decade to deliver on the new 2030 target. That will be the test to see whether there is any political will to make real change.

The truth is no-one knows how to operate at this scale.

Professional politicians are used to relentless compromise and short-termism. The most disappointing thing about today’s actions at Holyrood was seeing climate crisis policies still being treated like an opportunity for political point-scoring. All the talk of being “world leading” is meaningless in a world staggering towards ecological catastrophe.

Cunningham’s comments about “how enormously challenging this target will be” are telling, as if facing up to the reality of the climate crisis could be anything but challenging.

Government’s and politicians are still treating the climate crisis as something that can be resolved by some policy tweaks and innovations, rather than realise that we will be required to transform the entire nature of the economy in order to survive.




Comments (9)

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  1. Hugh Loughlan says:

    The challenges required to meet these targets are immense. Radical changes in the way we produce and consume are required right now. The current political set up works against setting radical and far reaching policies. Political parties are trying to score points from each other rather than dealing with the huge societal issues we face. It seems to me that we should be trying to depoliticise the climate crisis. Everyone needs to work together to produce a long term solution. The Scottish Parliament could set up a cross party group to work full time on this looking at the economic and social impact of new greener policies and engaging with business and the wider electorate to ensure that we can implement new strategies quickly and effectively. The current approach isn’t going to deliver.

    1. I agree completely – and while I am criticizing these politicians I realise we have no experience of ever working on this scale and none of our institutions or customs are created for this task. I also realise that we are all part of this economy and this society that has led us to believe that our lifestyles are endlessly sustainable. Leadership must come from many places.

  2. Joe Erasmus says:

    I’m doing some work on the influences of direct democracy and ecofeminism in Rojava, and other than a small number of people (yourself Mike, Robin McAlpine, Alasdair Macintosh and Sarah Glynn et al) no one is really talking about the radical solutions required to make the kind of changes that might, just might, save the planet for future generations. It’s almost as if Rojava doesnae exist, nor the auld Murray Bookchin who underpins their entire system of thought. (?)

    Here’s a wee Murray Bookchin archive from the Anarchist Library that some of your readers might like to peruse. (maybe it’s the word ‘anarchist’ that’s the problem? I don’t really like it too much either tbh)

      1. Joe Erasmus says:

        Ah! So you did. I was aware that you had written about him, but didnae know you were lucky enough to know the man. This link works https://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/aug/08/guardianobituaries.usa

        1. Oops – don’t know what happened to the link, sorry. Yeah he oversaw my masters.

  3. @squirreltowers says:

    It would help immeasurably if Energy policy and transmission wasn’t controlled in Westminster….sigh

  4. Stephen Ferguson says:

    Great tweet today (from Yeb Saño)…

    “Just STOP the net-zero emissions rhetoric. It’s simple math. If you aim for mere net-zero, that means you are just going to church on sundays but doing bad things the rest of the week. To address the #ClimateEmergency, we need actual emissions reductions. #ClimateActionSummit”

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps the state should withdraw its insurance underwriting for any activity that threatens these targets. So people flying abroad, for example, can no longer be bailed out by the taxpayer if their travel company goes bust and private/industry insurance fails. Apparently fossil fuels are given huge subsidies by just this kind of state underwriting of risk.

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