In a move that has angered environmentalists, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) umbrella group has begun lobbying political parties to postpone the agreed target – adopted in 2009 – to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020.
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Cosla argues that the severe reductions in public spending mean that Scotland has to take a “reality check” on its climate ambitions. But its proposal has been rejected by the Scottish Government and opposition politicians, and attacked by green groups as “completely unacceptable”.
Cosla’s challenge comes in a policy briefing designed to influence party manifestos for the Scottish election next May. The briefing was passed to the Sunday Herald last week.
The briefing pointed out that countries failed to agree legally binding cuts in pollution at the international climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark a year ago. “Cosla would like to see the 42% target currently in primary legislation delayed to allow a 10-year period between the target being binding and the reaching of a new international agreement,” it said.
There was no binding agreement reached at the summit in Cancun, Mexico earlier this month, and prospects of such an agreement at the next summit in Durban, South Africa in a year’s time are poor. So Cosla’s policy means postponing the target from 2020 until at least 2022, or later.
Dr Richard Dixon, the director of green group WWF Scotland, accused Cosla of “trying to torpedo action on climate change before it has even got going”. Many of the measures they should be taking to cut waste, save energy and improve transport would make people’s lives better, he argued.
The Scottish Government stressed that there was “no room for delay” and called on all sectors to work together to meet the 42% target.
“The move to a low-carbon economy is inevitable, and we can be at the forefront to secure a key competitive advantage,” said a spokeswoman.
Cosla’s position was defended by its sustainable development spokeswoman, Alison Hay, a Liberal Democrat councillor from Argyll and Bute. She suggested that achieving a 42% target would cost an extra £800 million a year in Government spending.
She said: “The cost of achieving the additional reduction will cause significant cuts to other budgets to be made while having no material effect on the carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere without binding and verifiable international agreement.”