Scotland must keep leading on climate justice
Úna Bartley argues Scotland must lead on ensuring justice for the world's poorest nations struggling with the worst effects of climate change
This week saw the West Coast mainline reopen after the near collapse of Lamington Viaduct on New Years Eve. The bridge suffered severe flood damage during Storm Frank at the end of the wettest month on record.
Increasingly, there is a grim acceptance that we need to prepare for more extreme weather. This recognition has been matched by a growing acknowledgement that if we are to mitigate against increasingly adverse weather, we must limit greenhouse gas emissions.
No wonder then the agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was hailed a major success. The heads of 195 nations agreed that they would work towards limiting temperature rises to below 2 degrees (above pre-industrial levels) and ideally 1.5 degrees by significantly reducing their countries' carbon emissions. While international headlines applauded, "The world's greatest diplomatic success", far less publicity was given to how rich countries had shied away from discussing climate justice.
It is estimated that 10% of the world's population are responsible for 60% of the greenhouse gases, and yet, it is the most vulnerable who are being most adversely affected by climate change
The wealth of industrialised nations was built on the back of burning fossil fuels. Over 200 years of accumulated carbon emissions from the world's richest countries, including Scotland, are directly responsible for increased global temperatures which have led to the changes in weather patterns we are now witnessing. It is estimated that 10% of the world's population are responsible for 60% of the greenhouse gases and yet, it is the most vulnerable – those who have contributed the least – who are being most adversely affected by climate change.
Increasingly, unpredictable weather has led to a higher incidence of droughts, flooding, violent storms, desertification, crop failures and more disease. Climate change is now the biggest single threat to winning the fight against hunger.
International climate negotiators have long agreed that as nations which have done the least to cause climate change are also the least equipped to cope with its consequences, rich countries need to provide financial resources to allow them to adapt to the impact of climate change.
However, while world leaders at the UN talks in Paris were happy to be applauded for their promises to limit carbon emissions, they were less keen to properly address issues of climate justice. Discussions on how money will be transferred from rich countries to compensate developing countries for the adverse consequences of climate change have been kicked into the long grass.
To Scotland's credit, Nicola Sturgeon was one of the few leaders at Paris prepared to talk about climate justice. Moreover, her talk was matched by action. The First Minister used the summit to pledge an additional £12 million to the Scottish Government's Climate Justice Fund.
Scotland may be a small country but its Climate Justice Fund has set a positive example to other wealthy nations to recognise that, in addition to helping their own populations, they have a moral responsibility to assist poor countries build their resilience to climate change. Ahead of the Holyrood elections, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is calling on all political parties to continue to meet our obligation to vulnerable communities by maintaining the Climate Justice Fund.
Úna Bartley is a board member of Stop Climate Chaos