“Irony” as climate change target success welcomed but government calls for greater oil industry subsidy


Campaigners say that further fossil fuel extraction incomptaible with climate change targets

NEWS THAT Scotland has surpassed its climate change targets has been welcomed, but comes just as minister pushes for greater fossil fuel subsidy.

A 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been met early by the Scottish Government, new figures show. 

Emissions have fallen 45.8 per cent since 1990; several points higher than the target of a 42 per cent reduction. Scotland has also outperformed the UK and is leading in Western Europe for emission reduction. 

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed Scotland's “outstanding” progress in cutting emissions and insisted her government was not "complacent" when it came to tackling climate change. 

However the new figures come on the day that an oil and gas conference in Aberdeen discussed how to continue extracting fossil fuels during the industry downturn. 

“Transport remains the Scottish Government's weak spot, with road traffic back to where it was in 2007.” Mark Ruskell MSP

Friends of the Earth Scotland director, Dr Richard Dixon, called the contrast “ironic” and criticised the Scottish Government’s call for greater subsidies in the oil and gas sector. 

Dixon said: "Climate science tells us that 80 per cent of coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees, while last years' Paris Agreement highlights the gravity of even 1.5 degrees warming.

“The Government and industry are missing an opportunity to put Scotland on a path of rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels. We know that the change to clean, renewable energy is well underway across the world and by co-operating with workers, communities and unions we can manage that transformation in a way that is fair to those affected.

“Scotland’s Business Secretary Keith Brown is calling on the UK Government to provide further subsidies to the oil & gas industry to encourage yet more exploration, whilst his cabinet colleague Roseanna Cunningham is rightly lauding Scotland as a climate leader in other sectors. It's simply not credible for the SNP to keep trying to ride both these horses at once. The bottom line is that going after billions of barrels more oil and being a climate leader are mutually exclusive positions.”

Others have noted that factors such as warming weather and the decline of heavy industry in Scotland since 1990 have have played a large part in the emissions target success, rather than government policy per se. 

Jim Densham, speaking for campaign group Stop Climate Chaos, welcomed the results but said more action was urgently needed on climate change, noting that the fall in emissions was largely down to "the loss of heavy industry, warmer winter weather, our changing share of European emissions credits" as well as "some government policies". 

Densham noted that little or no progress had been made in regards to transport emissions and housing efficiency and called on the Scottish Government to introduce "an ambitious plan and budget" to tackle the sectors. 

 The Scottish Liberal Democrats’ environment spokeswoman Christine Jardine also highlighted the problems around transport emissions and housing stock. 

Jardine said: "We cannot base our green policy on the basis of mild winters and boosting the energy efficiency of our housing stock needs to be a priority. We also need urgent action to cut emissions from transport, where there has been no meaningful progress since 1990. 

"These are two key areas where the Scottish Government has the power to act and that starts with scrapping plans for a tax cut for airlines that experts say will increase emissions from aviation by 60,000 tonnes per year."

Meanwhile Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell, the party's climate change spokesperson, said that in 2014 transport produced 12.9 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents; only a very slight change on 1990's figure of 13.1 megatonnes. 

"Climate science tells us that 80 per cent of coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees.” Richard Dixon

Ruskell said: "The real test of action on climate change isn’t how figures get fudged from year to year; it’s whether people across Scotland have real choices to live in warm efficient homes or a transport system fit for the 21st century. That requires funding and action from the Scottish Government.

"Today's figures show we've moved in the right direction with the closure of incredibly polluting coal power stations and the shift away from using landfill and instead reducing and recycling waste. But transport remains the Scottish Government's weak spot, with road traffic back to where it was in 2007 and the hugely polluting aviation sector doubling its impact."

The Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year bound signatories to ensure global average temperature would not increase beyond 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. It is widely considered by scientists that warming of 1.5°C will be fatal. NASA climate scientists James Hansen called the agreement “worthless words”.

2016 has already broken global temperature records, with February recording of 1.34°C above the 1951-1980 average. 

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Picture courtesy of Joe Brusky