Legal Move on Climate Change Announced

Ruskell says the new law would go a long way to tackling Scotland’s poor record on climate pollution and would help improve Scotland’s reputation worldwide as a responsible member of the world community.

The Green legislation is in support of a new campaign being promoted by Radiohead front man Thom Yorke and Friends of the Earth called the ‘Big Ask’. Launched in advance of the G8 – the campaign is seen as a crucial step in getting politicians to take the issue of climate change seriously.(1) Already it has been revealed that G8 countries meeting in July are considering watering down action on climate change. (2)

A similar Bill proposal has already been proposed and backed by Labour, Libdem and Tory MPs at Westminster – including former government Ministers Michael Meacher and John Gummer as well as Libdem Environment speaker Norman Baker – and the Scottish Greens say that their ‘Big Ask in Scotland’ proposal would set Scotland onto the right track if those same political parties got behind the idea here. (3)

The ‘Big Ask’ argues that with the technology and policies available to reduce emissions by around 3% every year – politicians should be legally accountable for making sure action is taken. Currently, according to a parliamentary inquiry report published last month, Scotland pollutes way above its fair share and is set to fail existing targets with current policies.(4)

Mark Ruskell MSP, who argued for the parliamentary inquiry into climate change as Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee, said:

“The eyes of the world will be on Scotland this G8 summer and we have to show a better example to the rest of the world of how to tackle climate change – our record so far has been lamentable. Scotland has to be part of the solution to climate change, not the problem. This bill sets a challenge to Ministers and all politicians – if you say you are prepared to act, are you also prepared to be held accountable for your promises?

“Support for this bill would also send a strong message to Blair and Bush, that politicians of every hue have to take responsibility. Some may well argue that a law is not needed – but we say that is not good enough and leaves too much room for excuses; it avoids the responsibility to lead and to be held accountable.

“It might be a Big Ask but I’m asking MSPs of all parties to get behind this new bill to ensure we get real action by Scottish Ministers to tackle climate change. Climate change targets cannot be avoided and failure to tackle the problem is unthinkable.”

The Bill would mean that by law Scottish Ministers would have to set targets for reducing climate changing pollution in Scotland, using the full range of powers available to the Scottish Executive such as planning, transport, energy, housing, education and agriculture to reduce pollution levels to reach the legal target.(5) The Bill proposal and consultation paper has been submitted to the Parliament’s Bill’s unit and the consultation paper will be circulated widely.

Ministers would have to regularly report, probably on an annual basis, on their progress towards meeting those targets. A full analysis would be required and if particular policies were leading to the failure to meet targets then changes would have to be brought forward by Ministers for scrutiny in Parliament. The Greens’ consultation document invites alternative suggestions from anyone interested in getting to grips with the problem.

The current UK target is voluntary not statutory and the UK government has been moving the goalposts. Also there is not even a voluntary Scottish Executive target for reducing climate emissions. Scottish Ministers have said they will make an ‘equitable contribution’ but haven’t said what this actually means and emissions reductions in Scotland have been shamefully poor.

Notes to editors

(1) For more information about the ‘Big Ask’ campaign go to: www.thebigask.com

(2) A leaked document prepared by G8 countries for the summit in July made no commitment to targets or schedule for action and was widely criticised. For more information go to: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/site/id/4625/title/G8_SUMMIT_SET_TO_AVOID_MEANINGFUL_ACTION_ON_CLIMATE_CHANGE.html

(3) The Climate Change Bill is supported by former environment minister Michael Meacher (Labour), with the backing of former Environment Secretary John Gummer (Conservative) and Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker, and a coalition of organizations.

(4) A parliamentary inquiry report into climate change published on 18th May slated the Scottish Executive for its failure to take radical action to tackle climate change – and criticised the fact that Scotland lags behind the UK in reducing climate change pollution, stating that “….. the current rate of progress in reducing emissions in Scotland is inadequate to meet both short and long-term targets.” Other comments in the conclusions of that report:
“…progress to date in Scotland has been disappointing. There are significant worries that emissions from major sectors such as energy and transport are still rising.”
“Significant development of political leadership is required if climate change is to be addressed in a robust, coherent and equitable way which can take account of other social and economic objectives. Failure to achieve this would risk leaving Scotland struggling to meet ever more challenging obligations and failing to exploit fully the benefits and opportunities which may arise.”

(5) The Green MSP draft consultation the ‘Big Ask in Scotland’ is available by email from the Press Office.

Contact: 0790 99 33 074.