Scotland: Towards a Carbon Neutral Future

Scottish Parliament

Photo Scot Gov

While the news has been dominated with Brexit particularly this last week it should not be forgotten that other legislation has been going through both the UK and Scottish Parliaments. Debates have taken place on a range of issues. Many of these issues will  affect us long after the Brexit chaos has subsided.

On Tuesday 15th of January the Scottish Parliament debated ‘Securing a Just Transition to a Carbon-neutral Economy’ .

Scotland, of course in the past had a very successful coal mining industry and today is an oil rich nation. The real threat now of the effects of climate change not just on Scotland but for the whole planet means we need to do things differently.

The Just Transmission Commission chaired by Professor Jim Skea was set up last year by the Scottish Government.

” the purpose of the Just Transition Commission is to advise Scottish Ministers on how to apply Just Transition principles to Scotland”

The GMB union has already voiced its discontent with the Just Transition Commission referring to it as a ‘good intentions committee‘.

GMB Warns MSPs against ‘playing fast & loose’ with the livelihoods of workers across the energy sector

Others feel the Scottish Government is not going far enough.

Mark Ruskell MSP, Scottish Greens said:

“The science is really clear that we can’t achieve the Paris climate commitments unless we leave most of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Sadly, the SNP and other parties ignore that evidence when they continue to back multi-billion pound tax breaks for the oil and gas sector.

“That does a huge disservice to the communities whose livelihoods depend on these dying industries. They deserve to hear the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.  We need both an urgent and credible response to global climate emergency, which learns from the past and leaves no one behind. It’s a real shame that Scotland’s other parties either can’t see this yet, or are too afraid to speak it.”

During the Scottish Parliament debate much was made of the oil and gas industry however, Alexander Burnett MSP, Conservative pointed out that the agricultural sector was the third largest producer of carbon emissions in Scotland. He wanted more support for farmers.

Alexander Burnett said:

If we do not support the industry now, we will continue to face problems with achieving a carbon-neutral economy, and any targets that are currently proposed are unlikely to be met if we do not engage with every single industry proactively.

“NFU Scotland has outlined its vision for future agricultural support in its document “Steps to Change: A New Agricultural Policy For Scotland”. It includes giving farmers and crofters the time and tools to adapt and become more resilient by putting the agricultural perspective at the heart of all measures from design to implementation.”

For more on changes which have already affected carbon emissions in agriculture: Arrangements in Orkney when On-Farm Burning of Plastics Ends

Many homes in rural Scotland and across the islands rely on oil to heat their homes and community facilities. Those areas also suffer the most from fuel poverty with older houses in particular being less energy efficient.

Scotland has a Climate Change Bill currently proceeding through Parliament. An Agricultural Bill is also to be announced which will hopefully deal with many of these issues. The Scottish Government has committed funding towards supporting and developing initiatives which would enable the reduction of carbon emissions.

  • £40 million to 16 low-carbon capital projects
  • £20 million energy investment fund
  • £60 million low-carbon innovation fund

There will also be established a Scottish National Investment Bank with a central mission to support a ‘ transition to a carbon-neutral economy.’

The Scottish Parliament passed the motion on the Just Transition Commission with the support of all political parties except for  the Conservatives who abstained.

The Motion As Agreed

environment“That the Parliament supports the application of just transition principles in Scotland, acknowledging the need to plan, invest in and implement a transition to carbon-neutrality in a way that is fair for all; believes that implementing a circular economy strategy for Scotland is an effective and sustainable way to bring about this transition, and further supports the just transition process through giving further consideration to the establishment of a statutory, long-term just transition commission, which should be well-funded, independent of government and accountable to the Parliament, building on the work of the present non-statutory commission.”

You can watch the full debate here:

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. Since attending the Islands Deal workshop at the Picky in December, I have been mulling over how this would best serve Orkney, Shetland and The Western Isles. The UK Government seems fixated on three thousand new jobs across the Isles in ten years. I would rather have investment in making our Island economies as circular as possible, thereby cutting the importation of goods and energy resources. given the right investment and encouragement our Island groups could be exemplars of how to live well, whilst transporting and using less of the planetary resources, at the same time providing opportunities for our well educated youngsters to apply their talents on home turf..

Leave a Reply