We are in a climate emergency – not a climate ‘wait-and-see.’

Wednesday September 27th 2023


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

We are in a climate emergency – not a climate ‘wait-and-see.’ Yet, at a time when we need action most urgently, the Prime Minister is burying his head in the sand and shredding his environmental commitments.

In the space of a 15 minute speech, Rishi Sunak undid years of progress and reversed course on some of the UK’s most important and long standing climate commitments.

In a sign of how damaging it was, he did what many thought impossible by uniting Greenpeace and the Ford motor company in opposition.

By rowing back on plans to phase out diesel cars and domestic gas boilers, the Prime Minister sent a signal to the world that the UK has given up. These pledges had gone from being “immovable targets” – which is what one Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove, called them as recently as July – to reckless and irresponsible u-turns.

The reality is that even before the speech the UK government was already lagging far behind where it needed to be on climate action. With 100 new oil and gas licenses set to be approved in the months ahead, this act of climate vandalism may only be the tip of the iceberg.

The Prime Minister tried to imply that there was a choice to be made between addressing the climate crisis and the cost of living. Nothing could be further from the truth. His climate wrecking agenda will not save people money or help anyone who is being hit with skyhigh bills – it will do the exact opposite.

A just transition isn’t only vital for our environment, but also for household budgets. It gives us the opportunity to rebuild a better and cleaner future. With the right green investment, we can cut energy bills by finally breaking the link between global gas prices and household bills and deliver the high-quality and well-paid green jobs of the future.

With Scottish Greens in government in Holyrood we are doing all we can to push for the bold action that is so badly needed.

That is why we are investing in a renewables-led transition, delivering warmer and greener homes, and transforming our communities with free bus travel for everyone under 22 and a ban on new incineration. We are putting our money where our mouths are, with record funding for wildlife, nature and walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure.

These are all big changes that would be well worthwhile even if there was no climate crisis.

We may be leading the change in Scotland, but the reality is that we are still trying to assess exactly what impact last week’s announcement will have on our progress.

The PMs timing was awful. It is easy to think about the climate crisis as if it was a far and distant future threat. But the reality is that there are already millions of people having their lives impacted by it here and now.

We’ve just had a summer of catastrophic wildfires and climate breakdown. Rishi Sunak must have seen the terrifying images and heard the stories of people who had their lives turned upside down. This kind of backtracking will do nothing to help, and will only make a terrible situation worse.

No matter who we are or where we are, we all depend on having a liveable planet. It is vital that all governments show leadership and fight for a greener and better future for all. That is what we are determined to do here in Scotland, and what we need to see from Downing Street.

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