Reason and debate have failed, but there is a political solution
The Scottish Parliament achieved legislative competence for climate change by accident. Part of Donald Dewar’s genius in devising the Scotland Bill was to specify what was reserved rather than what was devolved. Climate change was not seen as an issue worthy of being reserved in 1997 and so it ended up devolved. But the Scottish Parliament’s actions on climate change since devolution have shown that when the country is trusted with big issues we rise spectacularly to the occasion.
In 2009 The Scottish Government passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. This was world-leading climate change legislation, committing the country to the most stringent emmissions reduction targets in Europe. In spite of this, Scotland was unqualified as an independent nation to send an official delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen that year.
The ambitious targets Scotland has set for itself are to cut emissions by 42 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2020, and to reduce them by 80 per cent by 2050. Last year Scotland generated over a third of its electricity from renewables, and last month the First Minister said that Scotland was “almost two-thirds of the way” to meeting the 2020 target.
So what, you ask, does this have to do with the fight against climate change denial, which is of course a worldwide fight?
It is becoming increasingly apparent to rational people actively engaged in debating with so-called climate ‘sceptics’ that this argument is nothing to do with the facts or the science. For a succinct exposition of this I commend you to The Policy Lass’s excellent article The Limits of Reason, which is the best summary of the problem I have read to date.
So if it is not about reason and debate what is it about? Essentially it is about political power and political will. For those in other parts of the world the choices are confused at best and pointless at worst, but here in Scotland we have a simple choice. Support independence and hold an independent Scottish government to its world-leading committments. Our ambitious emissions targets may only be a midgie bite on the hide of the global problem, but like the midge our influence is not necessarily proportionate to our size.
And lest this is seen as a party political polemic for the SNP – remember that you do not have to be an SNP supporter to vote for independence. Cross-party support for independence is quietly growing. Between now and the ballot we need to reach Scots of all political colours who care about climate issues and want to do something other than bang their heads against an intractable wall of denial. The worldwide movement for climate realism needs an independent Scotland fighting its corner.