On Wednesday, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP, will announce his draft spending plans for 2014-15. For WWF, this is a test of the priority and urgency the Scottish Government gives to securing the transition to a truly low carbon economy.
Will the budget support greater efforts to tackle fuel poverty and improve the condition of Scottish housing?
Will it support investment in cycling and walking that would help tackle climate change, improve air quality and address Scotland’s poor health record?
Or will it continue to back a high carbon road-building programme that drives an enormous truck through our climate law?
Or possibly signal support for continued extraction of fossil fuels regardless of how much they contribute to climate change?
Despite the ambition to be a ‘world leader’ on tackling climate change, Scotland’s recent track record (renewables aside) is falling well short of this standard. Legally binding climate targets have been missed. Consumption emissions are on the rise. And there are no firm policies in the Government’s Climate Action Plan to reduce transport emissions.
However, we have high hopes for the forthcoming budget.
In June this year, Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP revealed that the Scottish Cabinet had agreed that the draft budget would contain additional funding for climate change action.
This was a significant and welcome commitment which gives encouraging signs that the budget for 2014-15 would provide that ‘step change’ in effort called for by the UK Committee on Climate Change. We – alongside many other organisations – are asking the Government to re-double its efforts on tackling climate change: doubling the current budget for home energy efficiency and doubling the current budget for active travel.
Not only would this be good for the climate, it would be good for Scotland, providing win-win benefits for us all.
Doubling the investment would still mean that cycling and walking would only receive less than 3% of the total transport budget – a long way short of the levels of support seen elsewhere in Europe. However, it would be a clear change in ambition and go someway to securing the benefits of reduced congestion, improved air quality and improved health – and also help to tackle climate change.
Scotland’s housing sector saw an increase in funding last year, but we still have a long way to go. Less than half our lofts have enough insulation to stop heat (and money) escaping through the roof.
One third of cavity walls still need to be insulated and there has been little more than a 2% increase in solid wall insulation since 2007. Doubling the amount spent on home insulation schemes could help create up to 10,000 jobs, save millions in fuel bills, and help lift people out of fuel poverty.
Scotland’s draft budget will be presented just a couple of weeks before the publication of the latest scientific statement on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Not only will this report provide the latest in-depth scientific review of our understanding of climate change, it will also serve to remind us of the gap between the science and global action on climate change.
Together, we need to close the gap between the science evidence and policy action. The promise of increased funding to tackle climate change gives me hope that this budget will help put us back on track to match the ambition of our Climate Change Act.”