From the Red Sea to the Esk, Climate Change Affects us all

Monday November 21st 2022

Ross Laird Lib Dems GE17

This View has been written by Ross Laird, local coordinator for the Scottish Lib Dems in Midlothian.

You may feel that a deal done on the Red Sea would be distant from the needs and issues affecting Midlothian, yet nothing could be further from the truth. From the banks of the Clyde last year to the shores of the Red Sea this year, many of the issues under discussion at the annual climate change talks have been much the same.

The news this weekend of a breakthrough at COP27 on key issues, such as the payment from industrialised nations to those affected by climate change, is good news, though it remains to be seen how this will operate. It is, however, critical that China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2, plays its part. If we are to really address climate change, we need countries like India and China, as well as the US and Europe, to address these issues head on.

What has changed, of course, is the backdrop. The war in Ukraine has sent fuel prices spiralling Inflation is rising and food shortages are a worry. In such circumstances, it’s almost remarkable that there was any progress at COP27.

Bringing it closer to home, we face similar challenges. The Conservatives have wrecked the economy, inflated energy prices are affecting both households and business, our Scottish NHS is at breaking point and many people are finding themselves tragically on the breadline. Yet COP27 reminds us that even though all of these issues are critical and do need addressed, climate change is the one constant we cannot afford to forget.

Here in Midlothian, we have to recognise that if we are to address climate change fully, we all need to do our part. The Scottish Government can, of course, do more to help. Bus and rail patronage is still recovering from Covid, worsened by a driver shortage. Many are complaining about service cuts but the reality is we need more public support, relaxation of the immigration scheme and long-term funding solutions.

The Chancellor also announced in his Autumn Statement that Vehicle Excise Duty will be imposed on electric vehicles (EVs). Coming at a time when electricity costs are high, this seems a wrong-headed decision, which may be enough to slow the growth of electric vehicle uptake. Instead, we need to continue to invest in the infrastructure available for EV drivers in and around Midlothian and make sure that the chargers that are available are working all of the time.

Finally, we need to look at how we are spending public money. Is the Council cutting electricity use through more efficient lighting? Are we converting the fleet of vehicles used across the public sector to electric quickly enough and are we doing enough to encourage employees to walk and use public transport? Is there sufficient support to enable people to insulate and decarbonise their homes? Sustainability needs to lie at the heart of everything we do in Midlothian.

COP27 may feel very distant from many of our lives, but unless we take collective action to meet the global climate change targets, we will all be paying the consequences.

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