Alison Johnstone: People power can turn tide

Fracking protests.
Fracking protests.
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Last Saturday, Edinburgh came together to call for urgent, decisive action to tackle climate change, one of the greatest threats our society faces. I took part in two grassroots demonstrations – first, the People’s Climate Rally on The Mound, and later on, Scotland Against Fracking down at Holyrood.

Saturday’s events proved that concerns about our impact on climate and on our local environments concern people from all walks of life. Both rallies attracted a varied range of speakers and participants, young and old, showing how the concern over the catastrophic impact of climate change is growing in our communities. The 30 years leading up to 2012 were the warmest three decades was the warmest in the last 1400 years. Our seas are getting warmer, higher and more acidic. Ice sheets are melting at an incredible rate and this water is flowing into our oceans at speeds never previously recorded.

The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that all the warming that has occurred in the last 50 years is due to our behaviour. To me, that is also a clear signal that if we want to, we have the power and the ability to halt the dangerous path we’re on.

The big businesses that make their money from drilling oil and fracking for gas would have us think that we have to choose between cutting back on emissions and building a prosperous economy – according to these corporations, there is no real alternative to the fossil fuel industry. But people in Scotland are starting to realise that they are bluffing. The oil barons are simply trying to secure profits for themselves, while pretending that they’re doing our society a favour.

There is an immense wealth of economic opportunities beyond fossil fuels; renewables, decommissioning, sustainable forestry, home insulation – the list goes on. There are also plenty of ways in which our government could support people to tackle emissions in their daily lives, through policies that tackle climate change, for example.

By grasping those opportunities, we would secure growth, jobs, a safe climate and better health for people. Yet, our political leaders are struggling to pluck up the courage to move away from business as usual. The SNP still can’t make up its mind about fracking and Underground Coal Gasification, and Westminster is pouring in billions of pounds to subsidise failing oil companies and short-sighted nuclear power projects.

Nearly half of Scottish adults think that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem – that means tackling emissions should be at the top of our decision-makers’ agenda. This December, 195 countries will come together in Paris to discuss how to keep global warming within a rise of 2C. It was clear to me on Saturday that people in Scotland recognise the opportunities and solutions we have to tackle climate change, and are ready to do all they can to secure a safe, prosperous society for the next generations. I hope the UK Government won’t let us down, and will take our vision for a better future to the negotiating table in Paris.

Alison Johnstone is the Green MSP for Lothian