Scotland’s climate emergency response plan is ‘good, but could do better’
The Scottish Government has been praised for taking opportunities to accelerate action to net-zero as part of a green recovery to the impacts of COVID-19, but a year ahead of COP 26, the country needs a plan of action to go with its world-leading targets to show global leadership, according to a group of civic and business leaders.
In its interim report on the Scottish Government’s progress against its proposals for Scotland’s climate emergency response, the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) has given the country a “good, but could still do better” rating.
Since First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency in spring 2019, the report said there has been positive progress, with action on most of CERG’s proposals, though few have been met in full. It is fair to expect some delay due to the global pandemic, but at the same time, the CERG said it has seen new opportunities arise to accelerate action as part of a ‘green recovery’ to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
CERG made 20 proposals for action. For 33% of these, the Scottish Government’s response gets a green rating, for 57% its response received an amber rating, with a red rating being awarded for only 10%. The group calls on the Scottish Government to use its Climate Change Plan update and budget, expected in the next few months, to improve these ratings and makes recommendations on how this could be done.
The report highlights positive commitments by the Scottish Government including:
- Support for green jobs, apprenticeships and skills
- Increased funding to give buses more space on roads, to cut emissions from homes and buildings and build more cycling and walking infrastructure
- Scottish National Investment Bank with a primary mission to tackle climate change.
The report then identifies specific policies and funding gaps which if filled, would lead to an ‘excellent’ report card.
- Set out flagship policy and funding for zero emission mobility in our cities by 2030 – with an ambition for four city or town transformation plans in place by 2022
- Double funding and scale of Government energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes and set a target that all homes have to reach Energy Performance Certificate band C by 2030
- Plan to build a pipeline of projects to double the number of buildings connected to heat networks by 2025
- Help farmers plan and invest by saying now that from 2024 rural subsidies will encourage climate friendly practices
- Ensure that the climate emergency is a material consideration in planning decisions.
The two CERG proposals where the Scottish Government response received a ‘red’ rating were on mobilising public procurement for the climate emergency response and developing guidance on sustainable, climate-friendly diets. The government is indicating that it remains committed to both and progress can be made with:
- Strong targets with timescales for procurement – for renewable energy and energy storage, food, reused/recycled content and zero emission estates
- guidance on sustainable, climate-friendly, healthy diets and linking this to the Local Food Strategy and procurement.
Mike Thornton, chief executive, Energy Saving Trust, said: “We are pleased the Scottish Government has made a clear and sustained commitment to a green recovery and is responding to the climate emergency. This commitment is now beginning to be delivered through substantive policies and funding. The building blocks are coming together but we need to apply the same ‘laser’ focus and urgency we have applied to the global pandemic. We know now how quickly and effectively society and business can act with the right leadership.”
David Reay, professor of carbon management, University of Edinburgh, and executive director of Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, said: “The Scottish Government’s commitments on green jobs and skills are hugely welcome. With money so very tight and so many livelihoods at risk this is exactly the time to super-charge investment in the creation of green jobs, and in the low carbon training and skills they require. These proposals are ‘shovel ready’ and can create jobs, starting today, all over Scotland.”
Hannah Smith, director, Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “The forthcoming Climate Change Plan Update, supported by the Scottish Budget, can and must set an exciting net-zero pathway with flagship programmes, bold targets and smart public investments to realise a greener and more inclusive economy.”
Fabrice Leveque, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “We welcome the steps the Scottish Government has taken to tackle the climate emergency, but more needs to be done. Nature can provide vital solutions and so it’s important that we start to reform our food system and protect our carbon rich habitats. A year out from crucial UN climate talks, the forthcoming Climate Change Plan is an opportunity for Scotland to show global leadership by producing a clear plan of action.”