Greek fires show we must double down on Eco policy - Alex Cole-Hamilton
That morning we were awoken by a plane engine, flying far too low over our building for safety. I dashed to the window and as I saw the plane disappearing over the tree line, the whole resort seemed to be engulfed in smoke.
I was certain I’d just witnessed a crash. But at that moment, the resort manager hammered on our door saying we had to leave. The island was on fire, and they were evacuating us to the airport.
What I’d just witnessed hadn’t been a plane crash but rather a fire service aircraft dumping water on the blaze just a few hundred metres from our resort. I remember very clearly the drama of that day. Watching the beach parasols we’d been dozing under just the day before being engulfed in flame at the shoreline, the anxiety of families who’d been separated and the chaos of the airport departure lounge.
So the scenes from Rhodes this week are familiar to me, but the underlying reason for them is very different. Our fire was in 2007 and it was caused by arsonists trying to get round strict Greek planning regulations, but was contained within a day or so. Whilst the exact cause of the Rhodes blaze is still unknown, it has raged beyond the control of firefighters for many days more because of the undeniable impact of the climate emergency.
This is going to keep happening. Earlier this summer huge areas of wild Scotland blazed for days because of it. Extreme heatwaves are returning every year, they leave behind them destruction and scorched earth. The amount of ice lost in the last couple of decades would cover the entire surface of the UK to a depth of 100 metres.
What’s been haunting me in recent weeks is the change in tone from climate scientists who now speak with a kind of inevitability about having to learn to live with a temperature system that is completely out of control.
Sadly the UK government seems blind to the threat that these new climate realities pose. It’s horrifying that the Conservative party are contemplating the abandonment of swathes of climate friendly policies at the next election in the belief they managed to narrowly hold on to Uxbridge at the by-election last week by making it a referendum on Sadiq Khan’s ultra-low emission zones.After missing its climate change targets year after year, the Scottish Government must finally deliver on the promise of green transport, heating and jobs.
At every level, in every aspect of our lives, some meaningful change is going to be needed if this world is going to be inhabitable for our children and grandchildren.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have been and will always be 100 per cent committed to policy that gets us to net zero and phases out the use of fossil fuels, coupled with a just transition for those who work in those industries. The Greek inferno carries a warning that politicians can’t ignore.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is MSP for Edinburgh Western Constituency and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats