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Why Our Climate Targets Matter

11th Jun 2014

By Ryan McQuigg, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Oxfam Scotland

The Scottish Government has released figures which show that Scotland's emissions of greenhouse gases rose by 0.8% in 2012.

It is the third year in a row in which Scotland has missed its climate change targets.

That's disappointing and clearly we must do better.

However, below the headline there is some good news too: there has been a 29.9% reduction in Scotland's emissions between 1990 and 2012.

The Scottish Government says it can still meet its statutory target of a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020. There is a commitment from the Government to succeed and it has announced the creation of a new Cabinet Sub-Committee on Climate Change, as well as more cash for energy efficiency and cycling.

It is also heartening to hear that all the opposition parties in Parliament want to see Scotland's climate targets met and that they are urging the Government to find new ways to do so. Such positive messages must now be backed up.

But why do our climate commitments even matter?

Well, the UN states that by 2080, climate change could push another 600 million people into acute malnutrition

Oxfam have found that climate change is already undermining our work to overcome poverty and suffering around the world. Development progress is increasingly going to be hindered by climate change.

Increased exposure to things like drought as well as more intense storms and floods is, and will increasingly in the future, hold back the efforts of the worlds' poor to build a better life for themselves and their children.

We know this from our work, funded by the Scottish Government, in Tanzania - click here to see this work in action.

As such, we must see the fight against poverty and the fight against the effects of climate change as interrelated efforts.

And it is also an issue of justice. Poor communities living in developing countries are the most affected by climate change, yet have done the least to cause it.

That's why back in 2009 Oxfam was so pleased when the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to pass the Climate Change Act. Under the legislation, Scotland must reduce our emissions by 42% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050.

Scotland's Climate Change Act was seen as setting a vital international precedent; an example for other wealthy nations to follow. But we must realise its ambition.

And, because climate change presents such a threat to two constituencies with a weak political voice - the world's poor and future generations - it falls to all of us to make sure the Scottish Government lives up to its commitments.

The example we can show is of huge importance as the world bids to secure a new global deal on reducing emissions - building towards key talks next year in Paris.

Now is not the time for Scotland to lose sight of why we set world leading climate targets in the first place.

Read the reaction of our coalition partners Stop Climate Chaos Scotland here