Dear members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Climate Change,
Having recently attended the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, I wanted to write to you as you prepare for your first meeting of 2015.
While the end result of the talks was disappointing, with a huge amount of unfinished business, there was also a clear recognition that 2015 must be the year in which action on climate change takes significant and meaningful steps forward.
The meeting offered another clear reflection of the public support for climate action. I joined Latin America’s largest ever climate march, 15,000 people on the streets of Lima calling for climate justice and that echoed Edinburgh’s most recent People’s Climate March in September 2014, when 3,000 people joined hundreds of thousands across the world to call for local and international climate action from their elected representatives.
Despite the disappointment of Lima to progress the much needed global climate deal, it did showcase climate leadership from countries around the world who are stepping up and demonstrating commitment to climate action. Since the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 Scotland has been one of those nations – with our internationally recognised story of the Climate Act creating a benchmark for climate legislation.
However, legislation is not a meaningful end in itself. Indeed, the First Minister, speaking at FMQs on 18th December, agrees “there is no point in setting targets if your determination is not to meet them”.
The purpose of our Climate Act is that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and in doing so secure the benefits of a transition to a low carbon economy. If we aspire to be international climate leaders we have to show that we can match our ambition with action and deliver a low carbon economy that benefits Scotland.
While many people across governments and civil society look to Scotland’s example they increasingly want to know about more than the design of the legislative framework. They want to know how this framework will start a transition; the policies we’re putting in place on the ground; and the impact they are having.
WWF welcomed the commitment to creating the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Climate Change as an important step to ensuring ‘every minister is a climate minister’. The Committee are faced with a pressing priority to ensure the Scottish Government presents a bold and coherent policy response to the third missed Scottish climate target. The importance of this was highlighted by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Energy Committee’s letter to the Climate Minister last month. There is urgency to not only correct the emissions path we are on, but to address the costs and impacts of a carbon intensive economy. As Ministers have successfully done so on growing renewable electricity production in Scotland, I believe there are also plenty of options to make the most of the policy levers available to you in other areas – from doing more to improve home energy efficiency, to addressing the fact transport emissions remain around 1990 levels, to pushing ahead faster with renewable heating options.
In Scotland we can be leaders, by transitioning to a low-carbon society and showing the world the benefits those changes bring to our lives – tackling fuel poverty, cleaning up our air and kick-starting thousands of green jobs. It’s now time to identify the policies and decisions that you can take that will realise the benefits of a low-carbon transition, cut our carbon emissions, and show that on the road to the next climate conference in Paris we continue to have a positive story to tell, showing the way for others to follow. As the First Minister also noted, we must “challenge ourselves to lead by example”.
I look forward to hearing what you decide and supporting you in pushing forward policy action to meet our targets and deliver the vast benefits of doing so.
Good luck with your meeting.