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Climate Week Scotland 2019 – 12 months on from the IPCC report on climate change

People holding on to a globe

by Ruth Gray

It’s been a year like no other for climate change awareness and activism. Twelve months ago, a report by the world’s leading climate scientists called for global action.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that we only had 12 years to limit global warming enough to avoid ‘catastrophic’ climate events like floods, drought, wildfires and species extinction. That’s now 11 years.

The urgency of this warning has spurred debate, activism and action. We’ve had Greta, Sir David Attenborough, and a global movement of school strikes, rallies and protests. There’s never been more pressure on governments to act and legislate for action.

What is climate change? What can be done?

Carbon emissions from human activity are gradually causing the earth’s temperature to rise. That’s bad news for life on earth, basically.  

If we limit that increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees, the damage could be less severe (although we’ll still see the effects on the planet’s climate and wildlife):

  • We could limit the rise of sea levels – and the consequences for large areas of land that would potentially disappear or be prone to devastating floods with a 2 degree rise.

  • Half as many people would experience extreme heatwaves with a 1.5 degree increase, as would with a 2 degree rise in temperature.

  • A 1.5 degree increase would see us retain arctic sea ice during most summers, while a 2 degree rise would make ice free summers 10 times more likely – meaning catastrophic loss of habitat for species like polar bears, seals, sea birds and whales.

  • Even a 1.5 degree rise will mean 70-90% of the world’s coral reefs will die, but a 2 degree increase would see them virtually all wiped out – a shocking thought.

Source: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

So, what’s actually being done in Scotland?

Scotland’s target under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act of 2009 was an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. It’s now a more ambitious ‘net zero’ in emissions by 2045.

Activity is already underway here, including the Home Energy Scotland programme. It provides free impartial energy efficiency advice, plus a range of zero interest loans for energy saving home improvements as well as ebikes and EVs. Funded by Scottish Government since 2008, it’s saved over 6 million tonnes of CO2 since then.

Energy Saving Trust is proud to be an integral part of the Climate Emergency Response Group in Scotland and across the UK. The First Minister cited the Climate Emergency Response Group report as a key influence when she announced further commitments to meet the target in the most recent Programme for Government last month.  

Here are just some of the plan’s commitments:

  • £3 billion green investment portfolio to fund climate change action projects
  • £500 million to improve bus services across Scotland
  • Aim to decarbonise flights within Scotland by 2040
  • Decarbonise Scotland’s passenger rail services by 2035 (five years ahead of the UK target)
  • £17 million further funding available as zero interest loans for ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Commitment to planting 12,000 hectares of forest in the next 12 months
  • Decarbonise public sector fleet by 2025
  • Enhanced building standards to reduce energy demand in new buildings by 2021, with new homes consented from 2024 to use renewable or low carbon heat.

These pledges indicate that the Scottish Government is putting their money where their mouth is, and hopefully other governments will follow suit. But is that enough?

Individuals have a responsibility to act too. Just as we expect those in power to take significant action, we should be doing the smaller, everyday stuff.

This will add up. For instance, if everyone in Scotland switched off appliances to avoid ‘standby’ we’d save 116k tonnes of CO2 (not to mention £60 million in energy bills) a year.

Twelve months ago we published this blog on how everyone can take action. Its contents still ring true today. This week we’ll be sharing even more practical advice on cutting your carbon footprint. Check Home Energy Scotland’s Facebook and Twitter for daily content and the chance to win a waste-busting eco bundle.

We know what we have to do. As Greta says, “We already have the facts, and the solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”

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