Sarah Boyack: Leading role to tackle climate change

More must be done to encourage sustainable forms of transport such as cycling. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
More must be done to encourage sustainable forms of transport such as cycling. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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EDINBURGH has a big opportunity to play a leading role in forging a greener future, says Sarah Boyack, so let’s take it

The Committee on Climate Change has warned that backtracking on renewables by the UK Tory Government will put meeting our climate change targets under threat.

And last month the SNP Government failed to meet its annual climate targets for the fourth year in a row.

I welcomed the fact that we have made progress on creating greener energy and joined colleagues last week to call on the UK Government to repair investor confidence by giving the green light to new green jobs in the renewables sector.

But there’s also much more we can do across Scotland and locally. There’s still no real progress on transport, agriculture and housing. The Scottish Government needs to do more to invest in sustainable travel and support our councils to do more on walking, cycling and public transport.

Acting now on making our housing more energy efficient is a no-brainer. At a stroke we’d not just reduce our emissions but would go a long way to tackle the fuel poverty that nearly one third of Scottish households are trapped in.

We need a national infrastructure programme to invest in our ageing housing stock. We’d need to increase access to training and finance to get such a scheme going, but we need that action now – not in the future.

In December world leaders will meet in Paris to discuss what action they will take on climate change. Limiting the amount of damaging climate emissions will need bold action. But the consequences of failure would be unthinkable.

Last week doctors warned that 50 years of advances on public health would be put at risk if we don’t act now on climate change.

And the recent Encyclical on Climate Change from Pope Francis gave a new energy to campaigners putting pressure on governments across the world. He highlighted the intrinsic value of nature and that governments need to act in the interests of people.

We have to see the new investment that comes from acting on climate change as an economic opportunity to modernise and to make better use of scarce resources.

Edinburgh has a big opportunity to play a leading role in tackling climate change.

With the work being carried out in our universities, our legal and banking sectors and the Green Investment Bank in particular, there’s a lot of expertise in the city.

The Harlaw Hydro Community Co-operative scheme is now under construction and this autumn sees the launch of Edinburgh’s new Solar Co-operative which will see people being able to invest in new solar panels on council buildings.

But we’re not making fast enough progress on community heat, one of the solutions to high energy costs common across other European countries. With the new Local Plan now being discussed new solutions need to be found.

The UK and Scotland have previously led the way on climate change, making the case for global action. We now need to live up to that ambition by action across our communities. Our future depends on it.

• Sarah Boyack is a Labour MSP for Lothian and shadow cabinet member for rural affairs, food and the environment