Only climate action can tackle extreme weather - Lorna Slater

It has been heartbreaking to see the terrible impact of droughts on our European neighbours. Reservoirs and rivers have run dry, crops have been decimated and ferocious wildfires have raged across the continent.

A shell at the dried-up bed of Lake Vekeri near Debrecen in eastern Hungary
A shell at the dried-up bed of Lake Vekeri near Debrecen in eastern Hungary

With an unusually dry spring followed by a blisteringly hot summer, scientists are now warning that the effects could be with us for months. Some are saying that it could be the worst drought we have seen for 500 years.

Last week's announcement that drought conditions have reached the UK was symptomatic of our terrifying new climate reality.

My thoughts are with all of the farming communities, workers, hospitals and emergency services who are all trying to adjust to the kind of challenges which would once have been thought impossible.

These kinds of extreme weather events are becoming more common here in Scotland and around the world. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency warns that we face “warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers with more extremes".

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We will have to adapt. Our society is not prepared for, or built for, the weather we are seeing. In Leith, where I live, we are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, with a study by Climate Central warning that parts of our community could be flooded in the next 30 years.

With Greens in government we are working to improve our climate resilience and build a greener future.

We have delivered record investment in renewables as well as wildlife, nature and recycling. I am currently consulting on a circular economy Bill that I am introducing to transform our relationship with waste, and this time next year I will be launching a world-leading deposit return scheme to recycle the billions of bottles and cans that are thrown away every year.

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We have also led the UK with policies like free bus travel for young people and record funding for walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure. These are cutting carbon emissions while helping household budgets.

These are important changes, but, as long as the main economic levers lie in Downing Street, we also need to see big changes from the UK government. That is one reason why the First Minister has rightly called for an emergency summit of government heads across the UK, something that the Prime Minister has ignored. Whoever replaces Boris Johnson will need to treat it with a far greater urgency than he has.

That means stopping all further exploration in the Cambo oilfield and the Jackdaw gas field. But it also means a far greater support for the vital green technologies that we desperately need if we are to have a just transition away from the fossil fuels that are driving up bills and destroying our climate.

There are some who will fight such a transition every step of the way. The oil and gas companies are making obscene profits. The last thing they will want is for those to be undermined. But we can't fall for their hot air, especially not when we consider the damaging role they have already played in funding misinformation and lobbying for business as usual.

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We have to get it right. It needs a global effort, but that's not an excuse for inaction from individual governments. Every fraction of a degree matters if we are to mitigate the impacts and give future generations a more livable planet.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity