Comment: Scottish Government scraps climate targets

Don’t worry about climate targets. They’re just numbers, “nothing more meaningful than a straight line on a graph”, to quote a Scottish Government source this evening explaining away the scrapping of climate goals.

What a way to miss the point. And oh boy, by a long long way.

Statistics are worth being angry about. Numbers tell stories. Today’s news is bleak not because a series of numbers have been published that are bigger than were supposed to be, or that some numbers will have to be swapped out with other numbers. The climate justice movement are not lovers of targets for targets sake. The reason today’s news is bleak is because those numbers represent toxic pollution that Scotland puts into the air, and the failure to cut down on this pollution is an abject failure of Government, first SNP, now SNP-green.

The Scottish Parliament set those numbers. Alex Salmond attended the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference on a wave of smugness about his supposed climate leadership. Sturgeon wore her targets on her sleeve when Scotland hosted the UN in Glasgow in 2021. That same year the Scottish Green party took ministerial salaries to deliver ‘zero carbon homes’ and ‘active travel’. They all got cheered. They all got paid.

We were told, repeatedly, that Scotland’s targets were ‘world leading‘, responding to a ‘climate emergency’. Yet 15 years since the first climate targets and our homes are still freezing and toxic air pollution still chokes our streets. Promises betrayed. The only serious carbon cuts came from the end of the coal industry. This was indeed a major industrial shift, but far from planning for it and planning for its fallout Labour in London and the SNP in Edinburgh actively resisted it. When Scotland’s last coal power station closed the First Minister decried it, blaming the loss of jobs on London rule.

If bold action on climate change had been delivered the targets would be academic. If we had been given programmes to insulate our homes and improve public transport the targets could have been exceeded. They would be a footnote as we instead celebrated practical changes that improved our lives. We have no such progress, just statistics that prove failure, front and centre of the page, a reminder that it is only when they are broken that targets really matter.

There were so many opportunities to change course. When the data showed that Scottish Government action was insufficient this could have been a clarion call to redouble efforts. Instead it had led us to an admission of defeat.

Failures should be counted, and accountable. At a global level there is recognition that cuts must be swift but also born equitably. How can such changes be governed if countries break their promises? Scottish politicians have merrily taken to the airwaves to criticise China and India for increasing emissions and the Unites States for breaking pledges. They did so on the basis that countries who don’t commit to goals don’t commit to action. What credibility do such claims hold now?

There’s no “but the good news is” bit here. I’m angry. And so should you be. It’s been exposed that this SNP-Green Government is totally incompetent on addressing the climate crisis, and that is extremely bad news for all of us.






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