Will 2019 be the year that Scotland sets a path to zero climate change emissions?


12 February 2019

“It’s not possible” they kept telling us.  “We need to be seen as credible” they said.  That was ten years ago when the first climate change bill was going through the Scottish parliament and, along with other members of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, we were lobbying for a target of reducing Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Reducing our emissions by 80% was what the science then told us was needed to avoid serious climate breakdown.  So we argued that politicians needed to do what was necessary, not what was politically possible.  And people power won: we got that target into law.

Ten years later and a lot has changed.  For a start, Scotland has reduced emissions by nearly half already, and met its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 42% six years early.  But in that time the climate science has also moved on and shown that we need to make further cuts in emissions, and soon.

Taking that, and adding to it the need for rich countries like Scotland to do its fair share then,  as a new climate bill goes through the Scottish parliament,  we’ll be arguing for Scotland to set a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and for the need for urgent action in the next ten years to make that happen.   

Rich countries like ours, and corporations around the world, grew wealthy from burning coal and oil – and continue to consume more fossil fuels and emit more greenhouse gas emissions than poorer countries.  Add to this, continued lobbying by big business and an economic system that puts profit before people and the planet and the problem can only get worse.

So, in a world with a limited capacity to absorb carbon emissions, and where we’ve already used more than our fair share, then things need to change - and putting a zero greenhouse gas emissions target into law is a vital part of ensuring that things do change.

As in 2009, we’re being challenged by politicians who question whether our proposed targets are credible or possible. Again we’re arguing for what is necessary (and we do also happen to think they’re credible and possible). But they will surely only be possible with political leadership.  And that's what we expect of our politicians.

As the new Scottish climate change bill makes its way through parliament, it’s vital that MSPs hear from their constituents.  The bill will be debated for the first time by all MSPs sometime at the end of February or beginning of March, so there’s still time to write to them or, better still, visit them.  You can find all the details you’ll need to help you do that here.

People power got us on track with the 2009 Scottish climate act – people power must now win us strong targets in 2019’s new climate act.

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