Scotland has long been recognised as punching above its weight on tackling climate change and I am proud that the introduction of our new Climate Change Bill this week strengthens our global leadership.
The Bill sets the most ambitious, legally binding, domestic emissions reduction targets of any country in the world.
Many people have called on the Government to set a 100 per cent or ‘net zero’ target for 2050 or sooner. This is the right goal and the Scottish Government wants to achieve it as soon as possible.
And yet I have introduced a Bill with a 90 per cent target for 2050, not 100 per cent. This was a hard decision, and I want to explain why it’s the right thing to do.
I believe that statutory targets must be both credible and responsible.
Our independent expert advisers, the UK Committee on Climate Change, have told us that a 90 per cent target is “at the limit of feasibility”. If we set overly ambitious targets and technology doesn’t develop to meet them, we would need to make radical changes to lifestyles in Scotland. For example, food can’t be produced without generating greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions from farming beyond what can be achieved through efficiency and technology would mean reducing the amount of food produced here. That would mean fundamental changes to Scotland’s rural economy and increase our reliance on imports.
There could be implications for other jobs too. Power generation, oil refining, ship building, manufacturing and renewables, all emit greenhouse gases.
To be successful, we must create an environment in which industries can transition smoothly to a low or zero carbon future. That can’t be achieved overnight – it is a generational challenge.
Whatever decision is taken on the targets, achieving them will be a truly national endeavour and everyone will need to play their part in full. I am optimistic that we can, collectively, do the right thing for the climate and for Scotland.
Roseanna Cunningham is Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. This article originally appeared in the Sunday Herald.