Time to turn commitment on climate change into concrete policies
AN emergency requires an emergency response. Scotland was the first nation in the world to declare that the climate crisis has reached such a point that it now represents an emergency of planetary scale. The show of leadership was followed by countries, cities and organisations across the world making similar declarations.
Scotland should also now lead in its response to the climate emergency.
The Scottish Government has made welcome commitments to action on climate change, legislating for a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2045, planning to create a Green New Deal for Scotland, and a commitment that next week’s Programme for Government will have climate at its core.
The Climate Emergency Response Group of civic and business leaders was formed to use our expertise and influence and support the Scottish Government by setting out what we believe are some of the key actions that are urgently needed to take to translate commitments into concrete policies.
The climate emergency requires urgent practical leadership, with new and accelerated policies, initiatives, regulation and investment.
Today our group published its recommendations. These are steps that can immediately be implemented, are equal to the scale of the climate crisis and will help make Scotland a better place to live and work.
With most buildings in Scotland still heated by fossil fuels and many of them leaky and inefficient, changing how we heat our homes is a key next step for Scotland’s journey to net-zero climate emissions.
A heat pump sector deal should be created to accelerate the adoption of electric heating from modern, efficient heat pumps and to maximise the opportunities for economic growth found in manufacture and installation.
Between now and 2045 we need to retrofit the vast majority of our existing buildings to make them zero-carbon. This means accelerating the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency programme, using regulation and public funding to improve our leaky and draughty buildings.
Unbelievably, we are adding to this retrofit task every year, by putting up new buildings that are not zero-carbon, despite the technology being available and the costs being marginal.
From now on, Scottish building standards should ensure that all new homes are zero-carbon rated, and that buildings undergoing any major refurbishment have their carbon emissions improved.
These policies will mean people living warmer, more comfortable lives with lower fuel bills.
Scotland’s land has a vital role to play in our climate emergency response.
Regional land-use plans can ensure that every part of Scotland’s land contributes, whether that is through the recovery and restoration of natural habitats, the replanting of forests, or through efficient and climate-friendly productive agriculture.
Our farmers need a helping hand with this vital role. Grants, loans and funding for training opportunities should be increased, helping farmers purchase new machinery and equipment that enables them to be more efficient and precise in bringing about a climate-friendly modernisation of Scottish agriculture.
Public guidance on diets that are sustainable, climate-friendly and healthy should provide us all with expert advice that helps us reduce our impact on the climate.
Achieving all these changes to our lives requires investment and we should begin by harnessing what the public sector already spends.
Every year, the Scottish public sector spends £11 billion, which should be mobilised to develop demand for new climate-friendly products, business and services.
Similarly, the new Scottish National Investment Bank should have the climate emergency in its DNA – its project investments must be consistent with Scotland’s climate goals.
Climate change should be at the heart of Scotland’s economic strategy.
A new set of Green City Region Deals can fund the infrastructure that will enable the transformation of our cities, increasing productivity, making them healthier, more attractive and more liveable. Signalling that Scotland’s city centres will be vehicle-emission free by 2030 will drive the market for zero-emission vehicles, while also supporting public transport, walking and cycling.
A focus on establishing Scotland as a global centre of net-zero industrial expertise will provide our best chance of competing in global industrial markets – and our group has recommended the establishment of a public-interest company that can develop the necessary infrastructure for commercial carbon capture and storage as a first step.
These are our recommendations. They respond to the climate crisis and they are actions that will benefit the economy and people of Scotland.
More will be required, but transformative actions like these are needed now. We are already witnessing the effects of climate change around the world and here in Scotland.
The International Panel on Climate Change has said we have just 12 years to get ourselves on a pathway that avoids breaching 1.5 degrees of warming – which would be a disaster for people and for nature.
That’s only 2,000 working days, an extreme timescale that must massively accelerate action. It is achievable, and it can be an opportunity. The time to act is now.
Elizabeth Leighton is project manager at the Climate Emergency Response Group