With a year to go until the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, it’s time for the Scottish government to commit to serious action on climate change. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted to us just how unequal our society really is. It is vital that our recovery aims at building a fairer, greener Scotland, with an economy based on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

As members of the health community, we know that a just and green recovery for Scotland means a healthier Scotland. Join us in writing to the First Minister to demand that her government implements the recovery we need.

TO: First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon

Dear First Minister,

We, the undersigned, are members of the health community in Scotland, including healthcare professionals, students, academics and activists . We have witnessed first hand the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on communities across Scotland. Many of our patients and the wider communities we serve have suffered greatly as a result of the pandemic, not only in terms of health but also economically.

It was recently reported that the unemployment rate in Scotland has now risen to 4.5%.1 This is extremely concerning with regard to the health and wellbeing of entire communities. As highlighted by Public Health Scotland, factors such as work and income are inextricably interlinked with inequalities in health outcomes.2

There is a pressing need on the part of the Scottish government to intervene in order to guarantee jobs and support businesses as part of a recovery program. However, we must also recognise that Climate Change is itself a public health crisis with far-reaching global consequences. The 2019 report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change indicates that the impacts of the Climate Crisis are already being felt the world over with an increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events, a growing scarcity of resources and changing patterns of infectious disease.3 The WHO has forecast that without immediate action on climate change, around 250,000 additional lives will be lost annually due to heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea between 2030-2050.4

We are therefore dismayed to note that despite the growing severity of the climate crisis, and despite the fact the COP26 climate talks are set to be held in Glasgow in November 2021, the Scottish government is not on track to meet its own legally binding emissions reductions targets.5

We welcome previous commitments from your administration to introduce measures such as a green jobs fund and to centre the economy on indicators of health and wellbeing. However, we believe the Scottish government must now go further in turning words into action, and take the following steps to protect the health of people and planet:

Commit to a rapid and ambitious timeline to zero-carbon.

We note that the Scottish government currently aims to achieve the goal of net-zero by 2045. However, as noted by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), climate change and its effects have only accelerated in recent years.6 As stated by the WMO’s Secretary General, the only solution is to “get rid of fossil fuels in power production, industry and transportation.”7 Something that must be achieved as soon as possible.

We therefore urge the Scottish government to commit to a more ambitious timeline for decarbonisation that reflects the need to take responsibility for historical emissions, in line with an equality-based attribution approach to emissions reductions.8

Bring about a just transition for workers and communities.

A zero-carbon economy is possible. Scotland, as a potential world leader in technologies such as wind energy must implement a Green New Deal that provides safe, well-paid green jobs for workers and sustainable infrastructure for our communities. We must also expand our understanding of ‘green jobs’, properly funding sectors such as healthcare and education alongside investment for renewable energy.

We demand that the Scottish government commits to increasing funding for the new Green Jobs Fund, as well as ensuring that the fund is fully accessible to workers in industries such as oil and gas and defence that wish to retrain for other industries. We further demand that contracts for constructing infrastructure, such as wind-turbines, are awarded domestically in order to support the green economy.

A just transition, as part of a Green New Deal, must also prioritise creating healthy communities with proper investment in public transport, as well as making our towns and cities safe for active travel. It must also mean real solutions for communities directly impacted by fossil fuel extractivism such as Mossmorran.

Defence is not a devolved issue but we call on the Scottish government to play a much more active role in calling on the UK government to cancel the Trident programme and re-invest the vast sums currently committed to it for socially and environmentally useful purposes.

Ensure a voice for frontline nations and communities at COP26.

As has become increasingly clear, the impacts of climate change are not simply a future possibility but a current reality for communities all over the world. An overwhelming number of these communities, including indigenous nations and other groups that already experience various forms of marginalisation are not only the most impacted but also the least responsible for the causes of the climate crisis. Research has shown that wealthy industrialised nations, many of which are former colonial powers, are responsible for some 79% of historic emissions.9

It is vital that these voices are not left out of the climate talks in Glasgow next year. The Scottish government must do all in its power to ensure that such nations and communities are given a platform at COP26, as well as ensuring coherence between domestic policy and global sustainable development goals.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned

 

References

  1.  https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18642701.warning-scots-job-losses-may-taste-things-come/
  2.  http://www.healthscotland.scot/publications/health-inequalities-what-are-they-and-how-do-we-reduce-them
  3.  https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)32596-6/fulltext
  4.  https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health
  5.  https://www.holyrood.com/news/view,scotland-misses-2018-climate-emissions-reduction-target_15650.htm
  6.  https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10211
  7.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/climate/climate-change-acceleration.html
  8.  https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30196-0/fulltext#seccestitle110
  9. https://www.cgdev.org/media/who-caused-climate-change-historically

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted to us just how unequal our society really is. It is vital that our recovery aims at building a fairer, greener Scotland, with an economy based on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

As members of the health community, we know that a just and green recovery for Scotland means a healthier Scotland. Join us in writing to the First Minister to demand that her government implements the recovery we need.

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