Tories should be aware dropping green policies may have political consequences, not just environmental ones - Angus Robertson
In recent days, wildfires, which are made more likely by hot dry weather perpetrated by climate change, have engulfed the islands of Rhodes and Corfu. Evacuations are underway.
Thus far, the world has already warmed by around 1.1 degrees centigrade. We know that temperatures will keep rising until more meaningful action is taken by governments the world over to prevent it. Experts predict, at this rate, we may not be able to prevent a two degree rise, let alone the global target of 1.5 degrees.
With the pictures of raging infernos sweeping across lands worldwide; with populations either leaving cities due to heat as in Madrid or even being forcibly evacuated like in Rhodes and Corfu; with the evidence of climate change so unavoidably visceral; the need to continue our commitments to tackling climate change remains irrefutable. If we do not better ourselves, every year may become the hottest on record, along with ever-increasing environmental destabilisation.
I – along with, I suspect, many readers – can’t quite fathom why, in recent days and weeks, UK political parties have started criticising climate-tackling policies and backing down on climate commitments.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed out of his commitment to invest in renewables. Following electoral defeat in Uxbridge, UK Labour leader Starmer, also challenged Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ditch the “ultra-low emission zone” (ULEZ) policy he is proposing for London.
Unsurprisingly, Rishi Sunak, whose own environment minister quit recently due to the Prime Minister’s lack of interest in tackling climate change, joined Keir Starmer in voicing concerns about the ULEZ policy. Policies like these are fundamentally necessary if we are to get control of this. But let’s be clear: the evidence of climate change has been with us for decades. Any new financial burdens of implementing urgent climate change-tackling policies are because of government inaction on climate change.
Furthermore, Sunak’s government is rolling back on what Tory right-wing darling Sir Jacob Rees Mogg called “unpopular and expensive” green policies, such as requiring landlords to make adjustments to properties to make them more environmentally friendly and banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
But the public as a whole isn’t buying the Tories’ climate-denying nonsense. We know that failure to act now will incur greater costs later. Polls show pursuit of net-zero targets is overwhelmingly supported by the public. In fact, 40 per cent of Conservative voters think the government is not doing enough to meet net-zero targets. Labour and the Tories should be aware that dropping green policies may have political consequences, not just environmental ones.
In Scotland, evidence shows we are on the way to meeting our world-leading target of meeting net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the UK Government target.
The Scottish Government remains firmly committed to investing in renewables and other green technologies, as well as helping existing polluting sectors to transition to green alternatives.
In the run-up to the next general election, the climate will, rightly, be one of the big questions. We each must ask ourselves whether our vote is cast for a climate-conscious party or one which will ditch the planet’s well-being when things get politically uncomfortable.
Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary