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Changing Our Ways: Scotland's Climate Change Programme

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Section 2: Climate change and sustainable development

Scotland's global contribution

2.1 Scotland is a small country and makes a small contribution to the causes of climate change - around 0.2% of global greenhouse gases ( GHGs) in 2000. 3 The same can be said about many countries in the world, and indeed about economic sectors, businesses and each of us as individuals. But size - small or large - is not an excuse for inaction.

2.2 The profound injustice of climate change is the distribution of its environmental impacts and social consequences. It is developed countries that have been and still are responsible for most human-generated GHG emissions. Yet it is the poorest countries that are likely to be the most vulnerable to its effects.

2.3 Scotland is part of the problem and must be part of the solution. As a developed nation, we have a moral responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and we can demonstrate to others by our actions and their results that it can be done in a sustainable way.

2.4 While our levers to affect global change on the mitigation side are limited, we have much more control over how we adapt to the impacts of climate change in Scotland. Many of these impacts are already locked into the system, and will affect local communities, businesses, biodiversity, coastal areas and much more.

Sustainable development principles

2.5 The Executive's Sustainable Development Strategy Choosing our Future sits within a UK framework and includes a shared set of principles to underpin all policy development. The relationship between these guiding principles and climate change is explored further overleaf, and has influenced the development of this Programme.

The longer term

2.6 There is much focus on setting short-term targets to stimulate action now. That is important, and something we are committed to doing in Scotland, as covered in other sections of this Programme. But we should not lose sight of the longer-term challenge and the fact that some of the actions to address climate change are radical, require major cultural and behavioural change, and may have implications on other parts of our environment, society and economy. These also need to be considered and addressed. The Executive is committed to working with stakeholders to get the groundwork right.

2.7 The Kyoto Protocol targets are an essential first step for international action but will not in themselves mean we are living within acceptable environmental limits. If all countries meet their Kyoto targets, global emissions are only expected to fall by 1-2%. In 1996, the European Council agreed the EU goal to limit temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid significant climate change, which requires stabilising carbon dioxide ( CO 2) concentrations at 550 parts per million ( ppm). 4 The UK's longer-term goal to reduce CO 2 emissions by 60% by 2050 is in line with this thinking.

2.8 There are a number of uncertainties in the medium term which prevent us painting a precise picture of Scotland in 2050. For example, negotiations on Kyoto targets post 2012 are only now beginning to get underway following the successful Montreal Summit, and the UK Government has recently initiated a review of the UK's energy needs, with findings expected in summer 2006. However, many of the decisions that we take now will leave a legacy for the future and this is particularly the case with investments that have a long lifetime, such as our housing stock and transport infrastructure.

2.9 Notwithstanding these uncertainties, in 2050 we want all of the people in Scotland to be living in a country which has made the transition to a low carbon economy and reduced its vulnerability to the effects of climate change. We want to have done this at the same time as becoming more efficient and competitive - both economically and ethically - and in a way in which any adverse impact on other areas of public policy and the wider environment are avoided or minimised. Key characteristics of Scotland's long-term approach to climate change are set on page 5.

Our guiding principles for sustainable development and climate change

image of Our guiding principles for sustainable development and climate change

Characteristics of Scotland's long-term response to climate change

We want Scotland's response to climate change to be characterised by the following:

  • developing a transparent approach and an open and inclusive process;
  • integrating climate change routinely into policy development across all sectors and at all levels;
  • achieving Scotland's contribution in the most sustainable way - considering the wider environmental, social and economic implications of different courses of action;
  • influencing and contributing to UK, European and global efforts to respond and adapt to climate change where Scotland's participation can add most to the process;
  • combining both demand management (reduced energy consumption and increased efficiency of use) and supply side measures (low carbon options including fuel mix and renewables);
  • maximising opportunities for both mitigation and adaptation (eg green jobs, technology development, renewables, biomass, sustainable flood management) - and making the most of Scotland's strengths;
  • leading the public sector, visibly and by example - doing and communicating best practice to others;
  • overcoming the inertia - everyone making the connection between daily life choices and climate change, and having options to act accordingly; and
  • increasing the momentum - capacity building, monitoring, reporting, feedback.