Allan Whyte, Parliamentary Officer, reflects on the Scottish Government's commitment to address climate change.
Act won, seen nothing
It’s hard to imagine a city more alive than Edinburgh is in August. Every year the festival descends upon Auld Reekie and ferments in an explosion of culture, attracting people from all over the world. Tourists arrive in their hundreds of thousands expecting all the cultural kitsch that is Scotland: tartan, the castle, whisky, shortbread, bonnie wee lassies, bagpipes and, of course, the weather.
Al fresco evenings can be whittled away, swathed in the summer balm, sipping on cool Gorgie-Brewed IPA; then, the next day, you are an umbrella in a sea of plastic, Saltire-emblazoned ponchos.
Typical Scottish weather: reliably unreliable.
The Scottish year in weather is a kaleidoscope of flood warnings, road closures, drought, sunburn and snow drifts. It seems like every year the media reports record-breaking rainfall, record-breaking high temperature and record-breaking low temperatures. Is this a prolonged freak weather pattern or is it, as science suggests, climate change?
A Met Office report shows that over the past decade there have been a series of weather extremes and, since 1960, temperatures in the UK have risen. This is already affecting the wildlife and wild places we love – and will only get worse.
Arctic terns and other seabirds are feeling the effects of climate change (Photo: Kalil Zibe).
In 2009, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act was given Royal Assent making it law for the Scottish Government to meet its own targets and proactively tackle climate change head on. This was a revolutionary piece of legislation that, after years of campaigning, showed that Scotland has the ambition to be a world leader in the race against the clock to slow down the effects of human induced climate change.
So, we have the act. What’s changed?
Not a lot really. The Government has introduced some schemes to tackle climate change but the most recent emissions results for Scotland were published last month. Not only did Scotland miss its targets, but emissions have actually gone up. Ironically, the Government blamed this failure on bad weather.
There is a danger that the Climate Change Act will become lip-service legislation and that climate change will not be treated as the serious issue that it is. We need a strong Government to step up and deliver real emissions reductions. Perhaps, when we live in a society obsessed by conventional economic growth, climate change and its effects on nature are never going to be high enough up the political agenda.
To help address this, you can do something! You can make politicians aware that you care about nature and climate change and you want them, as your political representative, to make changes.
Politicians aren’t just people you read about in the news; they provide a service which needs to be utilised to improve society. You can write to your MSPs or call them to arrange a meeting at their office, or you can join others for a mass lobby at Holyrood.
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), of which RSPB Scotland is a member, is organising an event in October at the Scottish Parliament where you can attend and speak to your local MSP about climate change and what you want the Government do about it. The event is called Get Your Act Together - Details of the event are available here on the SCCS website. We’ll also post more information on our social media sites, so look out for it.
This is one great opportunity to let those who represent you at Holyrood hear what you have to say about climate change and what you want done about it. If you’d like to continue to help RSPB Scotland in our campaigning work after October, please get in touch.