Over 17,000 call for Scotland to lead on climate change
20th September 2017

Over 17,000 people across Scotland have responded to a Scottish Government consultation urging them to raise their ambition in tackling climate change. The respondents called on the Scottish Government to aim for zero climate emissions by 2050 at the latest, and to implement a range of policies to help deliver a cleaner, healthier, greener Scotland. The Scottish Government is currently proposing a 90% cut in emissions by 2050 and is not planning to include any major new policies within this Climate Change Bill.

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change Roseanna Cunningham today (20/9/17) accepted 1500 postcards. They were presented by children from Sciennes Primary in Edinburgh. Pupils from the Eco-school had previously met with the Cabinet Secretary in June 2017 to discuss air pollution. Another 15,500 people have responded to the consultation online.

Free, print-quality pictures are available here

Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland commented,

“Climate change is the greatest problem of our time. People want Scotland to be at the forefront of the global effort to overcome that challenge. The ferocious Atlantic hurricanes, deadly floods in South Asia and the ongoing drought in East Africa show that we have no time to waste. 17,000 people have backed the First Minister’s call that Scotland should live up to the commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time a strong new Climate Act will create jobs, improve health, and reduce poverty.

“The Scottish Government’s announcement that it will phase out fossil fuelled cars shows it is listening to our campaign and the many people who want Scotland to lead on climate action. We now need to build on that ambition with a target of net-zero climate emissions by 2050 at the latest. That ambitious goal would provide certainty, respect what climate science tells us we need to do and help guide decisions and choices for the coming decades.

“The children who met the Cabinet Secretary today will be turning 40 when Scotland should reach its proposed zero emission target in 2050. The choices made now will shape the type of country they grow up and grow old in.

“We hope all Scotland’s political leaders hear our campaign and deliver a Climate Bill that commits to zero emissions and action for warmer homes, healthier transport options and a thriving, efficient agricultural sector.

Gordon Maloney, 38 degrees Campaigner (Scotland) commented

“People across the country want the Scottish Government to take bold action on climate change. Scotland has shown strong leadership on climate change in the past, and it is clear today that thousands of people will be expecting that to continue, and watching closely to make sure it does. It is our own futures at stake, and we know that there can be no excuse for inaction or for doing the bare minimum.”

The consultation closes on Friday 22 September and the Government will analyse responses before introducing a Bill in 2018.

Tom Ballantine urged everyone to respond to the consultation by visiting www.act.foe.scot/sccs-climate. He commented,
“We want as many people as possible to send a message to the Scottish Government – don’t delay, now is the time to act for our future.”

Climate Bill blog: Engineering a Zero Carbon Future?
by Gina Hanrahan, WWF Scotland

Both are fantastic feats of Scottish engineering but which do you think is lower carbon - the new Queensferry Crossing or the re-opened Borders Railway?

It has to be the railway, taking all those cars off the road, rather than a new road bridge encouraging more traffic, right? Well, wrong. Kind of wrong that is. Wrong if you’re the Scottish Government deciding how to spend hundreds of millions pounds worth of taxpayers’ money. That’s pretty counter-intuitive!

At the moment there’s a weird legal loophole that means when Ministers and officials are trying to figure out what gives the lowest carbon bang for your buck they currently only count the concrete and steel used to build new infrastructure rather than looking at all the long-term consequences of putting in place that infrastructure. But of course if we looked at the full picture rather than just the building materials, we’d get a very different carbon calculation.

That’s why we want to close this loophole and make sure the Scottish Government shows us the money when it comes to meeting our climate change targets. When it’s deciding how to spend its budget – our money – we need to know that it’s strategically investing in our zero carbon future. We can’t afford to be short changed.

So what needs to change to bring our budgetary decisions in line with our climate change targets and invest for #OorFuture?

Show us the money
First, they need to show us the money. We need greater transparency about spending decisions in their budget and their emissions impact. Instead of a short-term assessment of things like building materials, we need to see accurate, transparent and comprehensive information about the carbon consequences of spending decisions over the full lifetime of those decisions.

Link the budget and the Climate Change Plan
Secondly, we want the new Climate Change Bill to legally require the Scottish Government to link its budget to its Climate Change Plan, which outlines the next steps on the road to a zero carbon future. As things stand, the Government doesn’t have to say how much it’s spending or planning to spend (if anything!) on specific initiatives to help achieve this plan. That means when Cabinet sits down to plan its budget, it’s not obliged to think about the Climate Change Plan. Instead of the Plan sitting on a shelf gathering dust, our proposal would mean that climate change would have to be more of a priority during the budget process and we’ll have more confidence that the Government is investing the money needed to deliver on its own plans.

A new low-carbon watchdog
Finally, we want a new, independent low-carbon infrastructure commission to be set up to advise the Scottish Government on the major projects we need for the future. If Scotland is to stop contributing towards climate change by 2050 at the latest, then we’re going to have to modernise or replace some of Scotland’s existing infrastructure. That means insulating homes in every community in Scotland so they are warm and energy efficient. It means more large scale heating networks, more walking and cycling paths, new public transport infrastructure and investment in charging points for the massive shift to electric vehicles. The low-carbon infrastructure commission’s main job would be to advise the Government on what sort of new infrastructure projects are needed but it would also have an important watchdog role to keep an eye on how Ministers are spending our money to make sure they’re investing in our low-carbon future.

There are so many benefits to investing wisely in carbon cutting policies and projects, from cleaner air, to better health and quality of life, to warmer, cosier homes, to new skilled jobs and economic prosperity.
It should be a no brainer but it isn’t yet. With your help, it could be.

Please add your voice to the thousands across Scotland calling for a strong Climate Change Act. You only have until 22 September, so get signing now for #OorFuture.

Climate Bill Blog: Warm Homes
by Sarah Beattie-Smith, WWF Scotland

In the week that The Queen opened the Queensferry Crossing, it’s a good moment to think about what Scotland’s next great engineering feat will be. Some say we should be building more roads or railways, but the infrastructure investment that would make the biggest positive difference to our economy, environment and health is much closer to home.

Scotland’s homes and buildings are amongst the coldest and leakiest in Europe. In colder countries like Sweden and Norway, fuel poverty barely exists. Yet here, around a third of all households find themselves in fuel poverty, caused by a toxic combination of high prices, low incomes, the way we use energy in our homes and, crucially, poor energy efficiency.

The negative effects of living in a cold home are well known. Cold homes increase the risk of lung disease and other respiratory illness.  There’s evidence of lower educational attainment amongst children trying to do homework in cold, dark houses. And we know that right now, nearly three quarters of a million people are paying for the privilege of heating the air outside their homes because the buildings are too inefficient to keep the heat in. These are just some of the serious social consequences to the slow progress currently being made in improving Scotland’s housing stock.

Poor energy efficiency is also a disaster for the climate. Around 13% of all our emissions come from homes, and the energy used to heat our homes and buildings accounts for more than 50% of all the energy used in Scotland. Minimal and non-existent insulation in far too many homes means that we’re burning fossil fuels to produce heat which simply leaches out of our doors, windows and roofs. Even making the welcome switch to renewables won’t stop that energy being wasted if we don’t seize the opportunity to act on energy efficiency.

So what needs to be done?

We’re calling for the Scottish Government’s new Climate Change Bill to set a binding legal target for all homes to meet at least an Energy Performance rating of ‘C’ by 2025. This would lift hundreds of thousands of people out of fuel poverty, whilst delivering twice the level of carbon savings that would be delivered under the Scottish Government’s current plans.

To make sure that this transformation of our housing stock takes place in a way that creates jobs across Scotland and gets taxpayers and consumers the biggest bang for their buck, we’re also calling for the Bill to set up a new independent public body.

If the Scottish Government delivered on just these two things, the benefits to Scotland would be enormous. Within just a few years, fuel poverty could be all but eradicated, delivering savings to the NHS budgets in Scotland to the tune of £48-80m a year. Getting all homes to a C rating would save a million tonnes of carbon and make a huge difference to Scottish and global efforts to fight climate change. And along the way, investing properly in energy efficiency could create 8000-9000 jobs each year, all across Scotland.

Using the Climate Change Bill to deliver real change in energy efficiency is an opportunity too good to miss

Climate Bill Blog: Too much of a good thing

by Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland and Chair of SCCS' Policy and Advocacy Group

Nitrogen is plant food. Give a dose of nitrogen fertiliser to a field of wheat, an apple tree or a football pitch and it will grow and produce the food we eat or allow a ball to skip over the pitch into goal.

Nitrogen is a good thing, but you can have too much of a good thing, and nitrogen is no different. Nitrogen itself is not a greenhouse gas*; it’s the most abundant gas in the earth’s atmosphere.

The problem starts when we take it from the air and put it in chemical form using an industrial process which burns large amounts of fossil fuel. When in chemical form the nitrogen is ready to use as a fertiliser or for industry, but it is also highly mobile and can easily pollute rivers, lochs and seas. This hidden form of pollution is causing massive environmental problems like algal blooms, and dead zones in the oceans.

When too much nitrogen fertiliser is spread on fields, the surplus can’t be absorbed by crops or plants and breaks down in the soil releasing nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2. It’s a serious issue for farming which is the main source (81%) of this climate pollution in Scotland .

Less than half of farmers in Scotland properly plan how much fertiliser they need to use  but if they did it would easily cut N2O emissions and save them money.  So too much nitrogen is double trouble for the climate because of the CO2 emissions from its manufacture, and when too much fertiliser is spread and lost as nitrous oxide. 

Food waste is also another nitrogen-related problem for our climate. When food decomposes it produces methane, another powerful greenhouse gas. The valuable nitrogen in the food is also lost unless it’s recycled. This waste of food means we are constantly growing too much food, using too much fertiliser, made from too much fossil fuel. It’s time we addressed this vicious circle by creating a more circular and less wasteful society - recycling and composting food and farm wastes, and looking after our soils.  

Understanding the amount of nitrogen Scotland uses is the first step in planning this circular and less wasteful economy, and for cutting emissions from fertiliser manufacture, fertiliser spreading and food waste. To do this, the Scottish Government needs to employ experts to study how much nitrogen we use in Scotland, how it is used, and pinpoint how much ends up as pollution or within waste. 

Ultimately, this better understanding would give Government confidence to design a Nitrogen Budget – a suite of fair policies which help to cut pollution and waste, and national targets for reducing fertiliser imports. A Nitrogen Budget for Scotland can help us cut emissions, make the countryside a cleaner, greener place, and make us more self sufficient in growing our own food. 

Nitrogen is a good thing, but too much is bad for the climate, for our natural environment and for rural businesses. That’s why we in Stop Climate Chaos Scotland are calling for Scotland’s new Climate Change Act to be ambitious and forward thinking and introduce a Nitrogen Budget for Scotland. You can join us and add your voice now at http://bit.ly/SCCSAct  

For more information on our call for a Nitrogen Budget see SCCS member, Nourish Scotland’s, recent blog post.

* A greenhouse gas is a gas in the planet’s atmosphere which absorbs and causes global warming and climate change.  

Photo credit: Cultivating fields in Stirlingshire - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Scotland commits to phase out new fossil fuel cars by 2032

In yesterday's Programme for Government the First Minister committed to phasing out new fossil fuel vehicles by 2032. This is great news for the Act for Our Future campaign - we were pleased to see a target set so close to 2030, and one of the most ambitious transport emissions moves in the world. 

Read the full SCCS response here

Britain is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040

Britain is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxide pose a major risk to public health. Read more

SCCS is calling for the phase out of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in Scotland - join our action here

Friends of the Earth Scotland said "today's announcement is kicking urgently needed action into the long grass" - read the FoES statement.

Sustrans UK has said the Government's plans "lack the necessary government urgency, action or investments to make alternatives to car travel [a reality]" and they "must now provide real solutions with new investments for local travel, such as walking and cycling" - read the Sustrans statement