Climate change: what action is Scotland taking to curb it and what are its environmental policies?

Despite hosting the recent COP26 climate summit, is Scotland a leading country in curbing climate change or does it need to take more action?

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Scotland recently hosted the COP26 climate summit, branded as the world’s last chance to turn the tide on climate change.

It shone a spotlight on the country, with it being the first time a COP conference was held there.

But, is Scotland a leader in tackling climate change? What are its environmental policies?

Or, is it yet another country with much more action to take?

NationalWorld spoke to environment charities to understand whether or not Scotland is leading the way in climate change.

Is Scotland a leader in climate change?

Scotland has set a very ambitious target of reaching net-zero by the end of 2045, with a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

This is a much better target than countries such as India which promised net zero by 2070 and China announcing carbon neutrality by 2060.

England, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have net zero pledges by 2050.

Dougie Peedle, Scottish Wildlife Trust’s head of policy, praises the Scottish Government for showing “leadership by setting ambitious targets.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has decarbonised more quickly than any G20 country, as recognised by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, halving our greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 and we continue to out-perform the UK as a whole in delivering long-term reductions.”

The spokesperson also highlighted the “policy package of our updated Climate Change Plan” which “already provides a clear and credible pathway to meeting emissions targets out to 2032.”

Scotland is also leading the way in peatland restoration.

In under 10 years Scotland has funded the restoration of around 30,000 hectares of peatland and created over 32,000 hectares of new woodland in the last 3 years.

The country has pushed the launch of ‘Net Zero Futures’, an initiative uniting states and regions with a net zero target, and consistently contributes to the Future Fund, enabling governments from the Global South to participate in climate events and better tackle climate change.

Helen Clarkson, Climate Group CEO, advocates Scotland as a climate leader highlighting its role as “the European Co-Chair of the Under2 Coalition of states and regions for the past year” where they have “used this role to push for greater action on the climate crisis.”

What are some of Scotland’s environmental policies?

By the end of 2021 Scotland will have allocated over £1bn since 2009 to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency, according to a Scottish Government spokesperson.

This Parliament is investing at least £1.8 billion to decarbonise how we heat our homes and other buildings, reducing emissions while creating good, green jobs.

The Scottish Government has also introduced legislation for free bus travel for under 22s and will introduce at the end of the year a route map to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.

The Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund, a world first, is doubling to £24m over four years.

Why is Scotland not a climate leader?

While Scottish Wildlife Trust’s head of policy commends the Scottish Government on its efforts in restoring peatlands, Mr Peedle points out how “Scotland needs to focus on its seas as well - with this being a way of cutting emissions.”

He said: “More carbon is stored in the top 10cm of Scotland’s seabed than in our peatlands.

“There has to be much greater recognition of the role protecting and restoring Scotland’s seas can have in addressing climate change.”

Mr Peedle wants the Scottish Government to “focus on native woodland in forestry plans, and bring nature into urban areas by improving greenspaces, planting street trees and installing green roofs.”

In order for Scotland to “truly be a climate leader we need to see rapid cuts in emissions across society, particularly in transport, heating, agriculture and business,” he added.

Throughout COP26, Scottish ministers were “keen to talk up their climate leadership” but “the reality is that this exists mostly at the level of rhetoric,” Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of Earth Scotland, said.

What about the Cambo oil field?

The UK Government’s plans for the Cambo oil field north-west of the Shetland Islands has been strongly opposed by climate activists, branded as hypocritical after the country hosted COP26.

Nicola Sturgeon has recently voiced her strong opposition to the oil field plans.

Despite this, Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance, points out the role Scotland still has in allowing the Cambo oil field to go ahead.

“The question of who exactly is responsible for the Cambo decision makes this murky as the UK Government issues oil licenses, but it’s impossible to imagine new oil being extracted over the Scottish Government’s objections, given the question of a second independence referendum,” he said.

Mr Benton praises Scotland as a “climate leader” but says it “has an Achilles heel - the Cambo oil field.”

He added that the “new oil extraction at Cambo, when even the International Energy Agency says this isn’t compatible with climate targets, would undermine Scotland’s reputation and delay its impressive transition to net zero.”

How can Scotland become a future climate leader?

The Scottish Wildlife Trust pinpoints Scotland’s new Economic Strategy and the next Budget as opportunities to “deliver a step-change in unlocking finance for nature so that we can deliver nature-based solutions at the scale and speed required.”

Opposing the Cambo oil field and working to stop the plans is also important for Scotland to become a climate leader.

Mary Church from Friends of Earth Scotland said the Scottish Government needs to “work with the UK Government to urgently phase out oil and gas production as part of a just transition that protects the livelihoods of workers and communities.”

She added: “By ending its obsession with road building and investing instead in affordable public transport and safe walking and cycling the government can enable people to leave the car behind and cut toxic pollution.

“It must also massively scale up renewable energy and retrofits to ensure that every home is warm, through these measures the creation of decent green jobs and a more equal society.”

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