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Environment and Climate Change (European Union Referendum)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

T he cabinet secretary noted that there is significant reason to doubt the UK Government’s credibility, given that one of the first acts of the new Government under Theresa May was to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Its responsibilities have moved to the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

That move illustrates the mistake that the UK Government and many other Governments have made in their approaches to tackling climate change. We should tackle climate change not simply for economic benefit but because there is a moral imperative to do so. We should bring every possible resource to bear in the fight. We have no right to leave the environment uninhabitable for future generations. We have no right to wreak untold damage on our fellow citizens of the world.

Eight of Scotland’s hottest years on record were in the previous decade. That presents problems for us, but it is not a catastrophe. However, in May last year, more than 1,300 people died during a 10-day heatwave in Andhra Pradesh. Members will remember the European heatwave in 2003 that killed more than 70,000 people. Climate change is killing people here and now.

The think tank that was founded by Kofi Annan, a former United Nations general secretary, estimates that more than 300,000 people die every year because of climate change. It is the ultimate example of the poor suffering the consequences of the actions taken by the earth’s richest.

I do not mean to say that the solutions to climate change are separate from the economics. Indeed, we will tackle the crisis only with wholesale economic transformation and by achieving the people’s Europe that Neil Findlay referred to. I am optimistic that Scotland can still play a full part in that.

At First Minister’s question time today, Patrick Harvie spoke of climate justice, which almost all of us in the Parliament are in theory committed to. I say “in theory” because such a commitment is not compatible with commitments to maximising the lifespan of the fossil fuel economy or to supporting airport expansion and tax cuts for those industries. That is why the Greens appreciate the amendment in Liam McArthur’s name. However, I fail to see why that amendment would remove the reference to the Scottish Government deserving a role in the Brexit negotiations; that would be an unfortunate omission.