ENVIRONMENTALIST and opposition politicians are calling on the Scottish Government to take more action to halt climate change, claiming the existing policy proposals are “not an adequate response” to the threat posed by global warming.

Their calls come ahead of Tuesday’s debate on the Climate Change Bill, which has prompted activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) to hold a five-day Rebel camp outside the Scottish Parliament from today to “focus the minds” of politicians as they debate measures to cut emissions.

In April Nicola Sturgeon announced a climate emergency – one of the XR asks – with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham subsequently putting in amendments on the Climate Change Bill that would see targets on achieving net-zero emissions by 2045 instead of 2050.

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Yet the Sunday National heard widespread consensus that although the target is five years ahead of the UK’s Government, it is not ambitious enough. While Scottish Green policy is for targets to be set at 2040, earlier this month Finland lowered its target to 2035. Friends of the Earth Scotland said that the key thing was to ensure that drastic action was taken – rather than just policy set – within 5-10 years.

Caroline Rance OF Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The First Minister has declared that there is a Climate Emergency but this Climate Change Bill is not an adequate response. 

The National:

“Much of the discussion so far has centred around the net-zero target of 2045, but to really tackle the climate crisis we need to see much greater, more urgent action that will bring down emissions within the next 5-10 years. The Government has restricted the focus of this Bill to concentrate on setting targets, but those targets aren’t yet strong enough to deliver Scotland’s fair share.”

She said the Government must widen the remit of the law to include action on a range of policy measures focussed on bringing down emissions.

“Instead of relying on unproven technological fixes, we need serious action to reduce our use of fossil fuels,” she said.

“That means an end to new oil exploration and a plan to replace North Sea oil jobs with clean energy jobs, it means investment to make our energy-wasting homes more efficient and replacing oil and gas home heating with renewables, and it means spending transport money on walking, cycling and public transport instead of things which encourage people to drive even more. We know how to do so much of this already, and we know it will bring benefits to millions of people, so it’s time to get on with it.”

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John Hardy, one of five XR campaigners who locked themselves to the outside the Scottish Parliament, earlier this month in a protest against inaction on climate change, said: “I’m really angry that our politicians are failing us. A target of 2045 is ecocide – we cannot afford to wait that long to end carbon emissions and the longer the politicians try to continue with business as usual, the worse the impacts will be in Scotland and on the Scottish people. No-one will thank them for passing a weak bill when we can’t grow food, water supplies are destroyed and we are being choked by wildfires. They need to commit to a zero carbon target of 2025 and take the radical actions needed to meet this, such as moving investment from motorways and airports to trains and cycling, reforesting Scotland’s estates, ending all support for the oil and gas industry.”

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According to last year’s IPCC report drastic action is needed to keep global warming below 1.5C, after which systems will go into irreversible meltdown. Last month Breakthrough – an Australian think tank, released a “scenario report” which claims if nothing is done to halt emissions a billion people could be displaced by 2050. The World Bank has given a far lower estimate of 140 million.

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said an important window was currently open in Scotland: “In the face of this climate crisis, the Climate Change Bill gives Parliament an opportunity to show that it is willing to take the urgent action that is required,” he added.

The National:

“Missing these more ambitious targets would mean an uncertain future, a risk of even greater biodiversity loss and even more disruptive weather events. A failure to do our fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also heap even more pressure on developing countries.

“The Scottish Government has declared a climate emergency, but their failure to act calls into question what this actually means. Ministers seem obsessed with new road building projects, locking in transport emissions which are already rising. It’s one thing setting these ambitious targets, it’s quite another meeting them.”

Claudia Beamish, Labour MSP and member of the Climate Change Committee, who has placed several amendments to the Bill said a financial memorandum was needed to accompany it, enabling more costly changes at the future date. “The Climate Change Bill is an enormous and important opportunity for Scotland to play it’s part in the global effort to limit rising temperatures,” she added. “The Bill will make significant change, and I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has eventually come to agree with Scottish Labour that we need a target for net zero emissions.

“However the fair delivery of this ambition rests on my amendments. Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face, and for the sake of future generations, affected workers, and those in the global south, we cannot let this Bill pass with cut corners and missed opportunities.”

While activists have been grabbing much of the attention around calls to address climate change, many more established organisations have also been raising the alarm. At an Edinburgh lecture last month Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) chief executive, Francesca Osowska, warned the apocalypse was a reality by 2030 unless adequate action was taken. She cited a landmark UN study which suggested a million species risked extinction.

She told the Sunday National: “We know that decisive action now to protect and restore nature is a vital part of the solution to the climate emergency. Scotland can be a beacon for the rest of the world through deploying the very best of its science and enterprise. I support the Scottish Government’s swift action in lodging amendments to the Climate Change Bill, so that we can have zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. But we certainly need to keep up the momentum of recent events. The idea that the world only has a short time to get onto a low carbon pathway to avoid dangerous climate change is all around us in the news. Some of these is alarmist, but there can be no doubt that this is a critical moment for nature and the environment.”

Working with nature – including restoring peatlands with store carbon – was a crucial part of the response, she added. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s Bill proposes some of the most ambitious statutory targets anywhere in the world and will end Scotland’s contribution to climate change within a generation.

“It reflects the highest possible ambition for Scotland according to the UK Committee on Climate Change and means Scotland will reach net zero before the rest of the UK and before any of the world’s leading economies.”