As I write this I’m about to head for the UN climate conference in Marrakech, where countries are supposed to be agreeing on the actions that will deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement, signed last December.
A key focus for us at this conference is to get urgent action in the period before the Paris targets come into force in 2020. Despite all the back slapping and tears of joy at last year’s conference, early emissions reduction is something that the Paris meeting completely failed to stimulate. (It would be churlish to mention that it was a UK Government minister who was given a key role in trying to make this happen).
A new report makes clear that no UN member state is on track to deliver the promise of limiting temperature rises to 1.5ºC, and overall countries promised action adds up to a world which is a catastrophic 3ºC or more warmer. 2016 is going to be the warmest year ever recorded globally, and even at the current 1ºC of warming people are dying, livelihoods are being ruined and people are being force to become migrants.
Some countries, like Japan, have already met their own targets for 2020 but refuse to do anything more for now. Scotland has also met its 2020 target, but here we are promised a new Climate Bill next year with more ambitious targets aimed at responding to the urgency of the Paris Agreement 1.5ºC pledge. No doubt we will have a lively debate about what Scotland’s fair contribution to global emissions reductions is, but the stated intent is clearly very promising. The Scottish Government is also putting the finishing touches to a new Climate Change Plan to spell out the actions that will deliver even more emissions reductions by 2020 and beyond. This is the kind of good example the international process needs.
We are already on a journey to making Scotland fossil free, with the closure of our last coal-fired power station this March and the very recent decision to ban Underground Coal Gasification. While fracking companies in England are gearing up to fight protesters at drilling sites, in Scotland the SNP’s moratorium research is bound to damn this new source of unconventional fossil fuels and Labour is proposing a new bill to ban it forever. The government will give everyone the chance to have their say in a massive public consultation this winter. The industry will no doubt be spending plenty of cash to try to persuade people that fracking is good for them.
The victory over Underground Coal Gasification was a great example of working with key local campaign groups, making clear the global impacts of the industry, behind the scenes engagement with politicians and civil servants, a stream of strong media stories and persistent pressure from activists.
We need to bring that same kind of pressure to bear over the next six months to make sure fracking is banned once and for all, and to make sure Scotland’s climate ambitions really are a world-class example.