LAST week, MSPs were delivered a hard-hitting report by a climate change expert. It said what we are doing now, and what is planned by the Climate Change Bill going through Parliament doesn’t go far enough in making our fair contribution to global emissions reductions. We need, says its author, Professor Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, is to cut harder and faster. We also need to acknowledge that this is an equality issue – and that much of the cuts in emissions should be borne by those who are now the highest emitters.

Anderson’s report follows revelations by the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change report last month, which warned that the world is on track to have warmed by 1.5C by between 2030 and 2052, and proposed 1.5C as the new target to avoid global disaster, rather than the current 2C set in the Paris Agreement. What Anderson recommends is an urgent strategy for Scotland, a Marshall Plan-like project for widespread, industrial-level change, which would involve phasing out North Sea oil and gas, changing the way we build and power homes, reforestation, electrification and accelerated development of renewables.

Among the criticisms that Anderson has of targets contained within the Scottish Bill is that that the “slice of the pie” of global emissions that Scotland assumes it can have are too great. Anderson believes the best route to solving climate change is to see it as an equality issue. Some people, he says, including those in developing countries, but also more deprived populations here in Scotland, will need to contribute more emissions, and some drastically less.

For instance, the 10 per cent of the population who are the highest global emitters create half of global emissions. “Imagine,” he says, “we had regulations that forced those top 10 per cent of emitters to the average European level, while the other 90 per cent do nothing – the reduction in global emissions would be one third.”

Equity “is the absolutely pivotal central issue”, he says. “We are not going to solve climate change at a global level or indeed within a country like Scotland unless we address issues of inequality. That’s mostly because we’ve left it so late that poor people don’t have any emissions to squeeze out of.”

Anderson’s calculations suggest that Scotland will exceed its 2C commitment in less than 10 years if we proceed at current levels, and that we need to deliver a CO2 mitigation of 10 per cent each year, starting now – and that’s not even considering what it would take to keep to 1.5C.

Nevertheless, in global terms, the planned Scottish climate policy is quite ambitious. On many levels it seems like landmark legislation. The Bill plans to set a target of 55 per cent down on 1990 levels by 2020 and 90 per cent down by 2050. “Our Climate Change Bill,” said a Scottish Government spokesperson, “means Scotland will have the toughest climate legislation in the world. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last month that the world needs to be carbon-neutral by 2050, which is exactly what the targets in the Bill mean for Scotland.”

Nevertheless, Anderson believes we need to go further, that 55 per cent by 2020, given we have already almost halved our reductions from the 1990 level, isn’t a drastic enough cut.

In particular, we need to look at severely cutting our emissions from energy use. He says: “Most of the emissions in Scotland, around three-quarters, come from the use of energy, and ... we should be looking at reducing those energy-related emissions by about 80 per cent by about 2030 and then at being virtually zero carbon energy by about 2035 to 2040.” His vision of how we do this entails the wealthy drastically reducing their emissions, while those living in poverty increase theirs by a small amount.

“Let’s be clear: lots of people in Scotland need to be consuming more energy and more material goods. The poor, and that includes people working in low-paid jobs, are people I’d like to see consuming more. But it does mean that consumption has to be reduced significantly by professors and by journalists and senior people in our society who have done very well out of the system.”

Anderson’s report was commissioned by Friends Of The Earth Scotland, as an attempt to draw attention to what they felt were the insufficiencies of the Climate Change Bill. Caroline Rance, Friends Of The Earth Scotland campaigner, observes: “The Scottish Government’s Climate Bill fails to deliver the urgent action needed to tackle the climate crisis. It does next to nothing extra before 2030, instead pushing responsibility on to future generations.

“Instead of calculating Scotland’s fair share of global efforts, the Government’s proposed targets are based on pessimistic guesswork about what technologies we’ll be using in the decades to come.”

On the whole, Anderson is broadly positive about the way Scotland is engaging with the issue in the current Climate Change Bill, and also of the approach of Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, to the issue. “For instance,” he says, “when the UK minister Claire Perry asked the Committee on Climate Change for some advice in relation to the Paris Agreement, she said to them you must not consider anything before 2032. But the Scottish minister has come along and quite expressly said to the committee you can consider everything on through to 2032 and beyond.”

This, he says, is promising. Indeed, he identifies Scotland as a country with potential to show great leadership on the global stage in this issue. “It seems to me that in Scotland you’re more open to an agenda of reason and fairness.”

A Marshall Plan for a zero-carbon future?

To make the necessary changes, Anderson says, will require a kind of Marshall Plan of zero-carbon industrial strategy. This, he says, will require the creation of many highly skilled jobs. Here are the changes that he proposes Scotland needs to make.

1. Phase out the oil and gas industry in the North sea as a matter of urgency.

“If," she says, "we’re going to solve climate change, when we have rich countries like Scotland and Norway still relying on their oil and gas industries and yet saying they’re concerned about climate change that’s incompatible.” This suggestion may not seem compatible with the vision some have of an independent Scotland, reliant on its oil and gas revenues. However, Anderson asks: “Why do people want independence? They want that because they want a good healthy future for their children in a prosperous independent Scotland. If the MSPs do actually care about the future of Scotland, about the future of Scottish children and they are not climate sceptics then they have no choice but to phase out the oil and gas industry.”

2. Use the skills already in the oil and gas industry to make the massive engineering change that we need in order to move to a zero carbon society. “Everything from electrification to improving the quality of old buildings, to creating a lot more renewable energy, requires really good engineering and fabrication skills, which are the skills of the people working in the oil and gas industry.”

3. Retrofit housing to reduce emissions and ensure all new housing is “passive house standard”. “A lot of people in Scotland,” he says, “live in properties that they can’t heat properly. And solving climate change means we will have to make those buildings much more efficient. That would also help eliminate fuel poverty.” The passive houses he describes are buildings designed to require no heating, and are relatively common, he says, in Sweden where he sometimes works. He estimates that this was add an extra 10-20% on to the build cost of housing.

4. Phase out petrol and diesel vehicles and curtail aviation. “The most difficult part of what we need to do with transport,” he says, “is aviation. Governments are very enthusiastic about expanding their aviation, but aviation is something that’s enjoyed by the top 20%. We’ve done some survey data in the UK that shows this. Most people are not regular fliers. There’s a small group of people that drive that agenda – the frequent fliers, the mobile elite – and then they, or we, blame other people for it. We need to to significantly curtail aviation. One idea is a frequent flier levy, where if you fly more regularly you pay more per flight.”

5. Fully exploit Scotland’s renewables potential.


Anderson frequently criticises what he calls “the Climate Glitterati”, those who talk about saving the planet even as they use up their air miles; those who are, for all their talk, among the 10 per cent who are responsible for half the world’s emissions. But these aren’t just the likes of Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, and other household names. They’re the professors, the journalists, the business people, the politicians, and other figures we see in Scottish life.

So, who exactly are the 10 per cent? Many readers of this newspaper will be. Do you run a large car? Do you live in a house rather than a flat? Do you take a return flight more than once a year? You’re likely one of them. In fact, one return flight every year and you’re probably borderline.

And, if you’re not, given the demographics of this paper’s readership, you’re probably one of the 20 per cent who produce 70 per cent of the emissions.

This isn’t to say that everyone in Scotland is to blame and that everyone should be reducing their emissions, for Anderson believes that in Scotland, as globally, there are those living in poverty who should actually be increasing their emissions. Those, in Scotland, on the median income and below, he says, should not be bearing the brunt of what we need to do.

“Those people are relatively low emitters, with very odd exceptions. They’ll be living in small houses, often rented, often not very efficient but they won’t be heating every room. If they have a car it will be a small car and they won’t drive so far. They won’t consume as many goods.

"They’ll probably very seldom if ever fly. Every element of their life is much lower carbon than us professors, or journalists, or business people, who live in larger houses and drive more and fly more and consume more goods and more food. Yet, no politician has as yet been prepared to acknowledge that and say well we need to tailor our policies towards those people who are the high emitters.”

Anderson often jokes about his own kind, the professors. When he talks about who is to blame, he often uses the word, “we”, as if he too were one of these high polluters. But it turns out he hasn’t taken a plane in 14 years. When, in fact, he was put under pressure, by his work, to go to Shanghai, instead of take the flight there, as most did, only to spend a couple of days, he reorganised his teaching schedule, spent eleven days getting to Shanghai by train, did a three week lecture tour in China, then took the 11-day train back again. When he went to a conference in Iceland, he travelled via a four-day ride on a container ship.