Church seeks more ambitious climate goals

The Church of Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to set more ambitious targets in its climate change plans.

Earth photographed by NASA

Responding to the government’s proposed climate change bill, which sets out how Scotland should go about reducing carbon pollution, the Church urged moving toward a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Long-term pollution from oil, gas and coal is believed to be responsible for raising the temperature of the globe causing a range of climate problems including: rising seas; flooding and more severe storms.

“The Paris climate agreement of 2015 shifted the direction of policy globally towards a low carbon future,” says Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society council.

“In order to meet the Paris targets, Scotland and other industrial countries around the world will have to reduce their net emissions of greenhouses gases to zero.It is therefore right for the Scottish Government to take this opportunity to set new and ambitious targets for decarbonising the Scottish economy.”

Dr Frazer points to the impressive progress made since 2009 when a 42% reduction in carbon emissions was proposed.

“The target was met with resistance from Scottish Government ministers who, following advice from civil servants, believed that it would be impossible to achieve,” Dr Frazer explains.

“The eventual outcome was surprising and encouraging. Decarbonisation of the Scottish economy has made more rapid progress than was ever thought possible and the target was achieved in 2016, four years before the 2020 deadline.

“From this we conclude that it is important to set a challenging target even if the means to achieve the target are not yet in place. Rising to the challenge is both an act of faith and a stimulus to innovation.”

In response to the government’s targets the church recommends that by 2020 Scotland should reduce its carbon emissions by 56% and by 2030 we should achieve a 77% reduction. By 2050 Scotland should be aiming for zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Moving from an economy that uses coal, gas and oil to a low carbon economy can bring new opportunities for business and development, Dr Frazer adds.

“The transition to a low carbon economy must not be to the detriment of those living in poverty; rather the reverse, it should be an opportunity to rethink the economy in a way that reduces inequality, both globally and in Scotland.

“The transition to a low carbon economy is a huge challenge but offers opportunities for new businesses in the renewable energy and other sectors.

“For example, national and regional governments in Germany have substantial experience in promoting low carbon housing , including the development of ‘passivhaus’ standards that would help achieve net zero carbon emissions from housing in Scotland.

“We could learn from this experience to encourage new business opportunities in refitting Scotland’s exiting housing stock to make it much more fuel efficient, reducing energy use and addressing fuel poverty.”