THE head of the UK Committee on Climate Change has warned that “we’re stuffed” if we continue to build a massively expanding global economy on fossil fuels.

But Scotland is in a better position than the rest of the Britain to cut its climate footprint, says Chris Stark, chief executive of the organisation.

Lifestyle changes – such as buying clothes that will not be quickly dumped – need to be part of the change, though people should not be made to feel “guilty” over doing the wrong things.

The Scottish and UK governments have set in law net zero targets of 2045 and 2050 respectively, following recommendations from the UK Committee on Climate Change.

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Its report in May concluded that net zero emissions are necessary, feasible and cost effective within the next 30 years.

“Looking at the global issue of climate change, it doesn’t matter where the carbon dioxide comes from, it still adds to the global problem,” Mr Stark told FOCUS, the magazine from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

“The IPCC (the body of scientists the UN convenes on climate change) did an amazing piece of work on what it would take to keep temperature thresholds to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. This, and other science, told us much about the global trends we need to see in the gases we omit into the atmosphere.

“We asked, ‘What is the implication of the UK signing the Paris Agreement?’ The agreement commits every country in the world to constraining global temperature rise to two degrees or lower, from where temperatures stood before the industrial revolution. Achieving that is just about possible, but involves the world doing something remarkable, namely achieving net zero by the 2070s/80s globally.”

He said their advice for the UK was to reduce emissions to a net zero by 2050, and, for Scotland, the target date is 2045 “because Scotland has greater capacity to do some of the things that help cut emissions.”

He added: “That means, for example, planting trees, changing the way we use our land and developing new industries, including crucially, carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

“We know we can achieve that goal whilst growing the economy. In some areas that’s harder than others, notably travel, especially air travel, and agriculture.

“Offsetting is a legitimate strategy as long as those offsets are credible. For example, growing a tree that wouldn’t otherwise be grown or restoring peatland as a carbon store.

“The best strategy is to cut emissions first and that comes well ahead of offsetting.

“The work we did showed that in every sector of the Scottish and UK economies there is potential to cut emissions even further than we previously thought. We advise the government on ways we can do that. The transition must be economy-wide and if you think of it like this, it’s perfectly possible to think of ways to achieve it, whilst continuing to grow the economy.”

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Mr Stark said if we build a global economy that doubles in size over 20 years around fossil fuels, “we’re stuffed.”

“The ‘why bother’ question is one of the hardest, and I’m fairly convinced there is a good answer. In raw terms, emissions from Scotland are a fraction of the global total,” he said.

“Over the next 20 years, you can expect the global economy to double. Global infrastructure will probably double even faster. Those big growth markets are not in Scotland or the UK, but elsewhere.

“If we build a global economy that doubles in size over 20 years around fossil fuels, we’re stuffed.

“It falls to Scotland to help demonstrate the possibility of a thriving modern economy which doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, at least without fossil fuels being burned unabated.

“Take the offshore wind sector in Scotland, which previously involved incredibly expensive technology. People said it would never come down in price. Offshore wind is now among the cheapest forms of electricity generation. That’s great for our economy and every place in the world that uses offshore wind or plans to in the future.

“There is an enduring quality to the things we are doing here. The issue is much bigger than the overall emissions we cause in Scotland. We can also say with some confidence that we are demonstrating to the world you can be a clean growth economy. The more countries that join the club and set net zero goals, the cheaper achieving net zero becomes.”