Friday, 1 February 2008

Too many examples of climate chaos to ignore

By Rob Gibson MSP
Published: 01 February, 2008
John O'Groat Journal
in association with the Caithness Courier

ALL over Scotland residents, businesses and public bodies are being urged by the SNP Government to decide what they can do to help our nation achieve ambitious plans to tackle climate change.

This week my colleague John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, announced that he was launching a consultation on Scotland's first Climate Change Bill that includes the proposal for a statutory target to reduce Scottish emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

As I wrote in my Holyrood Diary on January 4, I have been deciding how my own home can be climate-proofed. So, along with many of you, I will be delving into the government proposals that include robust annual scrutiny and reporting of progress; a framework of carbon budgets for Scottish emissions; and the publication of transparent and independent advice on when, and to what level, cuts in emissions should be made by us all.

John Swinney said: "Climate change is having a major impact on the world we live in. As a society we are at a crossroads, and we must now choose which world we will pass on to our children."

The Scottish Government is determined to play a leading role in action on climate change. Indeed actions taken today could bring clear and tangible benefits to Scotland now and in the future.

How will we go about moving to a low-carbon economy? Can we really create new jobs and improve local environments as part of our drive to generate sustainable economic growth?

I hope that you, dear readers, will agree that government, business and all of the people of Scotland must be ready to rise to the challenge of climate change. Your views on these proposals are crucial to ensure that we have the right framework to inform our actions for the next 40 years and that we build the right future for Scots to enjoy.

As a member of the Parliament's Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee I will be finding ways to make these ideas work. But I am conscious that people still say: how can my little effort help? That's why this is the most exciting time to be in politics. Scotland is moving towards greater decision-taking powers and we are asking all who live in our beautiful land to commit their actions to ensure it has a bright future.

Already pressure groups such as Stop Climate Chaos have welcomed this landmark bill. Their spokesperson Jess Pepper, of WWF, has agreed that it is a great opportunity for Scotland to become a world leader in tackling climate change.

More than 30 of Scotland's most respected organisations campaigning on climate change have greeted it with enthusiasm. They agree that the consultation is a good start and are encouraged by the Scottish Government's acknowledgement of the two degrees Celsius global-warming danger threshold and the need for policy to reflect the most recent science.

But they warn us that to meet overall targets it is essential that there is a commitment to annual reductions of at least three per cent per year. Without it, the SNP manifesto commitment can't be met. Stop Climate Chaos wants emissions from international aviation included in the SNP targets, a subject that will be hotly debated. But it is correct to see this as vital so that the Scottish Climate Change Bill is seen in a global context.

TV pictures from the Pacific and Indian oceans show low-lying islands in danger of succumbing to rising tides and changing weather patterns. This surely must lead all of us in Scotland to acknowledge that poor people around the world are already feeling the real impact of climate change, as atolls we thought were idyllic holiday destinations actually face an increased risk of disasters threatening the very lives of their inhabitants.

There are too many examples of climate chaos to ignore. You can imagine how frustrated I felt when Newsnight Scotland last week focused on a saga in Bearsden where Lib Dem councillors wanted to have bin collections every second week and Tory councillors routed them at the polls last May. The piece signally failed to show any hint of a change in behaviour that people have to make in something as simple as regulating what you put in your bins and when.

If you look at the Scottish Government website it shows 10 simple ways to reduce climate-change impacts right away. But be prepared – much more will be needed each year from all of us.

THIS week's debate on the importance of Scottish history in our school curriculum was a landmark event. Only three years ago the then Labour Minister was suggesting that any history taught could be covered in Secondary 1 and 2 as part of social subjects, not as a discrete and central part of every child's experience. Shamefully, some schools around Glasgow had already ditched the subject totally from the curriculum.

Today, Learning and Teaching Scotland, HM Inspectorate of Education, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, academics and the main teaching union the EIS all show willing to make history an experience throughout pupils' school careers.

We all want to emphasise that Scottish history delivered through local examples is needed before young people can appreciate the world around them. It's about successful learning, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors as the Curriculum for Excellence insists.

I was proud to take part in the debate and look forward to fighting for enough resources for our schools to deliver a broad sweep of history rooted in our own country but outward-looking as ever.

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