Scotland must have a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050

Scottish legislators have been urged to commit to delivering a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050 at the “very latest”.

The challenge was issued by Rt Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who said the nation must be at the forefront of the ethical and political fight to tackle climate change.

She said a "more ambitious" target was needed because climate justice was one of the defining challenges of the age and the greatest impact of rising temperatures is felt by the poorest people in the world.

Environmental chaplain Rev David Coleman, Rt Rev Susan Brown and Mary Sweetland, chair of Eco Congregation Scotland
Environmental chaplain Rev David Coleman, Rt Rev Susan Brown and Mary Sweetland, chair of Eco Congregation Scotland

Mrs Brown described the situation facing the planet as an emergency but said it was also an opportunity for Scotland to take the lead, update the Climate Change Bill and “readdress injustice and fight poverty”.

She made the remarks in front of MSPs at a climate justice coffee morning at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh today.

Mrs Brown said: “Since the Climate Change Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in May 2018, there has been a growing awareness that we are no longer just facing climate change but are facing a climate emergency.

“We have heard this from scientists around the world, and from speakers young and old.

“The report on a world warmed by 1.5 Celsius produced for the United Nations late last year shocked us by spelling out the damage that will result and has caused many of us to think how we can respond more quickly.”

Decarbonisation

Mrs Brown, who is spending this week engaging with MSPs on issues important to the Church, said Scotland has made impressive progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the last 10 years.

“Targets that were previously thought to be unattainable, such as meeting an interim target of a 43% reduction by 2020, have already been exceeded,” she added.

“A net target of 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 might appear very difficult to achieve but with rapid decarbonisation of the economy envisaged in the draft Scottish Energy Strategy there is no reason to dismiss it.

“The Scottish Government could make this commitment and set a global standard for others to follow.”

Rt Rev Susan Brown at the Scottish Storytelling Centre
The event took place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Mrs Brown said she hoped the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland group will lobby for a more ambitious target to be included in the Climate Change Bill.

“We work closely with Eco-Congregation Scotland and its 450 registered churches around the country and with Christian Aid to bring stories and messages from around the world,” she added.

More ambitious

Mrs Brown explained why the greatest impact of climate change is felt by the world’s poorest.

“These people don’t have the industrialised past we have, they are not responsible for what is happening to our world but they bear the brunt of the impact of our past,” she said.

“It’s about standing with those who are living daily with the consequences of a past we have been responsible for.

“Today, I am calling for you to be at the forefront of climate justice.

“Our call for a 100% target in the bill by 2050 at the very latest is about redressing injustice and fighting poverty

“It’s about renewables – about renewing the life of the world for all of its inhabitants.”

Mary Sweetland, chairwoman of Eco Congregation Scotland, also spoke at the event on examples of how local churches are doing their bit for climate justice.

Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid country manager for Sierra Leone talked about the effects of climate change and asked MSPs to commit to a 100% emissions target.