Climate change: Scottish government needs to drop ‘can’t do’ attitude towards global warming – Scotland’s Climate Assembly


The Scottish government needs to show a greater sense of urgency on measures to tackle global warming, says Scotland’s Climate Assembly (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

We commend the Scottish Parliament for establishing our assembly, and the Scottish government for its considered response to our 81 recommendations.

The Scottish government must act with a sense of urgency. It needs to think less about what it can’t do and instead demonstrate a positive attitude, thinking hard about enabling change.

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Members overall are disappointed the government’s response fails to recognize the urgency of our report. There are many pledges to “consider” and “explore”.

We would like a clearer roadmap, with more ambitious targets. We want the government to commit to more specific actions, targets and timescales and report back to us, so we are able to hold them to account.

We think the allocation of funds to address our recommendations should be separate, specific and ring-fenced. It also seems to us that impactful ‘quick wins’ were rejected. For example, the government could lead in public catering procurement and education on sustainable diets.

We still believe that, for consumers to make informed choices, carbon labeling is vital. The Scottish government should encourage the UK government to consider this and demonstrate good practice themselves.

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Regarding our goal for more sustainable land use to reduce emissions, there is too much description of activity already underway and not enough commitment to new and ambitious activity.

The Scottish government should engage proactively with farmers, other land users, and those who know about and work in the marine environment, to inform a better response to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

We are pleased government acknowledges the circular economy offers an enormous opportunity for Scotland. We believe greater ambition and investment here will contribute to education and behavioral change, and build healthier and happier communities.

We acknowledge positive elements in the response to our recommendation on community land ownership reform. But since land use planning is returned, we expected more ambition in this area. To address the climate emergency, we need to give communities more control over Scotland’s underused land. Government should further increase the Scottish Land Fund.

We are concerned that the Scottish government’s response to our goal of retrofitting homes across Scotland to reduce carbon emissions will push more people into fuel poverty. We need to see greater detail about how low-income families, including the working poor, are protected when decarbonizing homes.

We believe the government’s response to a just transition needs to be more practical. Scotland should use local taxation powers to create the finance needed.

Overall there needs to be more urgency and creativity, introducing new sources of public funding to deliver a just transition.

We acknowledge the government is making good progress on work and volunteering. Government needs to increase awareness of green training and apprenticeship schemes and explain how success will be measured in cooperation with local groups and authorities.

Air travel is a major source of emissions and we are disappointed by the lack of engagement on frequent-flyer and air-mile bonuses. We need to raise the air departure tax, especially for frequent flyers, and the government must work with airlines to label emissions at point of purchase.

We are also disappointed in the response to banning single-use plastic and non-recyclable packaging, in particular banning plastic bags as called for by the Children’s Parliament.

We feel the response to our recommendations to reduce the cost of public transport and increase usage don’t go far enough. We welcome free transport for older and young people, but we would still like to see an ‘oyster card’ in Scotland to help low-income families access discounted transport.

Transport providers should be more integrated, provide services that better reflect local needs and improve the fleet to reduce carbon emissions, for example by upgrading to alternative fuels.

The assembly is not content with the frequent comment, “we don’t have the powers”. We believe the Scottish government has failed to test how far existing powers could deliver change.

Government must prioritize the most damaging climate issues first, guided by expert advice, and increase public engagement on climate issues to help drive political will, working across political parties.

We want government to create a ‘Scorecard for Scotland’ with ten key performance indicators (decided by independent experts) with measurable targets based on impact. Bi-annual reporting, in an accessible one-page format, should include “leading” areas, for example, figures on wind farms, heat pumps, public transport usage etc, and “lagging” areas such as vehicle emissions and air-miles. The report should show positive change and where targets have been missed.

We want government to be bold and take an innovative approach to policy development. We are concerned different levels of government don’t communicate effectively with each other.

We want local councils, communities and climate experts to work towards shared goals and targets. We also want greater collaboration between the three returned nations to put pressure on the UK government and for more powers to be returned to Scotland to address the climate emergency and to uphold our COP26 commitments.

We would like Scotland to lead work to tackle the global climate emergency, both within the UK and around the world.

Education is a key priority for our collective mission in Scotland to tackle the climate emergency. Current understanding of our climate impact among adults and businesses is insufficient.

Finally, to enable the important work of the assembly and Children’s Parliament to continue, we collectively agree it is essential to have an ongoing and sustained dialogue between the government, the assembly and the children.

We strongly believe the Scottish government can upscale their current commitments to meet the ambitions of our recommendations and shorten their current timescales. Going forward, we expect the government to ensure we can hold them accountable via an annual review.

Scotland’s Climate Assembly was designed to have a broadly representative sample of the population

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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