Face facts, the Greens were right about climate change danger – Andy Wightman
Last month I was delighted to spend a Friday morning speaking to thousands of young people who had rallied at the Scottish Parliament to voice their concerns about the climate crisis, writes Andy Wightman.
They formed part of a global climate strike movement that has been galvanised into action by the leadership and inspiration of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl whose speeches to world leaders are now being eagerly watched by millions of young people across the world.
Greens have argued for decades that global warming is an existential threat, but it is only in recent years that the urgency and extent of the challenge we face has become clear to governments.
The latest assessment by global scientists makes clear that we have a little over a decade left in which to ensure that the planet does not warm beyond the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above which our chances of averting climate breakdown are significantly diminished.
It was heartening to hear from schoolchildren across Edinburgh about why this matters to them. Their over-riding concern was one of justice, both for themselves as a generation who will be most affected, for the billions of people across the world who are already experiencing climate breakdown in some of the poorest societies on earth and for the wildlife that is already threatened by changes in climate.
Their sense of urgency is still too often lacking among decision makers. Last week Scottish Greens held a debate in Parliament in which we recognised the climate emergency, commended the 1.4 million young people who took part in the climate strike and called on the Scottish government to agree that a policy of extracting every last drop of oil and gas is incompatible with halting runaway climate breakdown.
In 2015 scientists concluded that a third of all oil reserves, half of all gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves need to stay in the ground if global warming is to be kept below two degrees.
Inviting other parties to agree on this point was simply to ask that they agree with the scientific consensus. Shockingly none of them did so.
The Scottish government’s Climate Bill, which is currently receiving scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament, is not strong enough and fails to respond to the latest science coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
That is why the Scottish Greens have called for a Climate Emergency Bill, which would ensure that radical emissions cuts are made across our economy, protecting Scotland’s future.
We know that public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of taking stronger action. It is time for the Scottish government to listen to the evidence, listen to the public and act in a responsible manner in the face of the climate emergency.
Across the world it is cities and municipalities that are leading the way in practical measures to decarbonise transport, energy and plan for a fossil-free future.
Edinburgh has the science and the know-how to be a world-leader and that is why I was delighted when my Green colleague, Cllr Steve Burgess successfully tabled a motion that led the council to declare a climate emergency.
It is just a pity that no other party in the Scottish Parliament felt able to follow this leadership.