Race against time
As the dust settled on Scotland’s referendum, the thousands galvanised by the independence debate could have been forgiven for wanting a rest after months of campaigning.
So nobody would have been surprised if a march in Edinburgh to coincide with about 2,000 climate marches across the world was not particularly well attended.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Despite being held only three full days after the vote, the People’s Climate March in Edinburgh was a resounding success. Organisers estimated the event attracted close to 3,000 people and at one point the procession stretched for more than half a mile, from the foot of the Mound and along the Royal Mile.
The global marches, which included an event in London attracting 10,000 people, were organised to call for action to curb carbon emissions ahead of the UN climate summit in New York.
This show of strength could not have come at a better time as research shows levels of CO2 being emitted are reaching an even more worrying level.
According to the Global Carbon Project, which publishes an annual ‘carbon budget’, emissions will reach a new high of 40bn tonnes this year, a rise of 2.5 per cent.
It reports that future emissions cannot exceed 1,200bn tonnes if there is to be a chance of restricting global warming to below 2C, but at the current rate the carbon ‘quota’ would be used up in about 30 years.
The project team, led in the UK by researchers at both the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia and at the University of Exeter, has warned there is “just one generation before the safeguards to a 2C limit may be breached”.
Scotland has been praised for world-leading targets, aiming to cut emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and then by 80 per cent by 2050, but the first three annual targets since passing the Climate Change Act in 2009 have been missed.
However, Mike Robinson, a founding member and former chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, who also sits on the 2020 Climate Group, said the country still has a vital role to play in helping the world cut its emissions.
“I think that what Scotland has done incredibly well is show a moral and ethical lead on this whole issue both through the most stringent climate targets in the legislation but also through the creation of the Climate Justice fund.
“Neither of these things in itself is a solution because Scotland is not big enough, but both of them are huge statements and they are things that have made people sit up and take notice.”
The New York summit proved an important opportunity to once again raise the profile of climate change, but the key milestone is still Paris next year when there is an expectation that world leaders will have to agree tougher and more binding rules to act on climate change.
Robinson says the build-up is similar to that of the 2009 summit in Copenhagen in the importance being placed on it and while sectors such as transport and housing need great attention in Scotland, he said it was still important for the country to project what it was doing internationally.
The official government policy on carbon emissions –the second Report on Proposals and Policies, is now the official line on how the country will meet its targets – even though there has been a great deal of criticism as to whether the plans it sets out are achievable.
However, Robinson says there is also a great deal of work happening behind the scenes.
He has started a piece of work, funded by the 2020 Group, which is trying to find ‘bite-size chunks’ – actions which can find ways of tackling aspects of climate change outside of the big global agreements.
He cites the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, the agreement which banned the use of CFCs which were damaging the Earth’s ozone layer, which was agreed “breathtakingly quickly for an international agreement”.
“If the UN process does achieve a massive multinational agreement on all aspects of people’s lives in Paris in 2015 then fantastic, but we still need to work out how to implement it,” he says but adds: “If Paris doesn’t achieve this, then this is another way to get to the same place.”
Edinburgh’s climate march was a demonstration of global solidarity on climate change, including participants from all over Scotland and further afield. The referendum has seen the eyes of the world focusing on Scotland and Robinson says this is a great opportunity.
He says: “It was a reminder of the concern people in Scotland have for social justice. We are not afraid to set an example.
“I hope we can channel the incredible political engagement we have seen during the past few months to continue to not only make Scotland the best place it can be for all of its citizens, but also to use our international influence to help nudge other nations towards a safer, more just and more sustainable global society.”
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