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Big change starts with small steps


Earth Hour is one of the first in a calendar of events in 2015 targeting climate change, and is unique in its call for citizens all over the world to come together and take one collective action. This year it will be crucial for world leaders to similarly cooperate and finally take meaningful steps to addressing climate change.

Last year’s international talks in Lima failed to establish binding targets on emission reductions for developed countries. Further discussions are scheduled to take place in Paris at the end of 2015 and there’s a risk that we might see the same lack of progress. It isn’t that world leaders don’t know how to address climate change – the real problem is their refusal to do anything about it. Developed countries continue to prioritise economic growth in the face of overwhelming evidence of the disastrous impact of climate change.

It is painfully frustrating to see such stunted progress on an international scale. But even here in Scotland, despite consensus on the principle, the Government’s failure to see the contradictions between its economic and climate policies makes progress painfully slow. Climate targets now look more than likely to be missed for a fourth year running.

Falkirk Wheel © Maverick/WWF ScotlandFalkirk Wheel © Maverick/WWF Scotland

I welcome any steps that the Scottish Government makes towards combatting climate change. Indeed following Green pressure they recently pledged £20m more towards energy efficiency, one of the most important ways to make progress on climate change and fuel poverty.

Sadly the scale of action is still way below what’s needed. Action on this scale won’t be enough to fix the problems of fuel poverty or alleviate suffering households, and the increased funding for cycling infrastructure isn’t anywhere near enough to make our towns and cities realistically cycle-friendly, like other European countries. This budget is a perfect example of the lack of political will to make any serious commitments to tackling the problems of climate change.

Obsession with GDP growth obscures any discussion on the harmful impacts of industries like aviation and fossil fuel, which results in these concerns being ignored. The Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking is welcome, but they have not yet committed to a full ban, and are keen to support other forms of fossil fuel extraction. This is all the more shocking in light of robust conclusions that significant amounts of known fossil fuels should remain in the ground, deemed as ‘unburnable’. Using these reserves would risk a rise in global temperature beyond the internationally agreed limit. The Scottish Government needs to make serious long term commitments to achieving a low-carbon society. The Scottish Green Party and I will continue to press the case for consistent action not just from the Climate Change Minister, but from all parts of Government.

People having fun at Earth Hour © Jeremiah ArmstrongPeople having fun at Earth Hour © Jeremiah Armstrong

I’ve spoken about climate change here on an international level and a national level. But action by individuals will be vital in achieving both practical and political impact; keep raising awareness of the urgency of climate change and turn off the lights on 28 March 2015.

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