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The chance for a green and just recovery

SCIAF’s Campaigns Officer Jonathan McAveety writes on why we need a coronavirus recovery which puts people and planet first…

The coronavirus has shaken our understanding of the world and challenged established ways of thinking. In Scotland, and around the world, the last three months have shown us that sweeping changes are possible when the political will exists.

That’s one of the reasons why SCIAF joined forces with over 80 charities, trade unions and faith-based organisations to write to the First Minister calling for a radical response to the pandemic, one which puts people and planet first.

This could be a historic turning point when we tackle the twin emergencies of coronavirus and climate change. It’s a chance to build resilience against future crises at home and abroad. The alternative is going back to our old ways; investing in industries with high carbon emissions which make irreversible climate breakdown even more likely.

We’ve welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s stated commitment to a green recovery and a just transition. However, the latest report from her economic advisers published on Monday paints a less ambitious picture. While there are a number of ideas contained within the report which we’d encourage the Scottish Government to pursue, including a move towards an increased investment in renewable energy, we need to see much bolder action to create a fairer and greener future for all. For a start, ensuring that every decision made by Government is consistent with the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C to avoid further climate disasters that will kill the world’s poorest first. 

It’s therefore disappointing that the report fails to deal in any significant way with our responsibilities on the world stage. Like the coronavirus, the climate emergency does not respect national borders. If the pandemic has taught us anything it should be that nobody is safe until we’re all safe. Our recovery must be international.

We strongly believe that the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic should contribute towards building global resilience to future crises, including the climate emergency. Many of the communities that SCIAF works with are facing mounting threats; coronavirus, the spiral of poverty lockdowns and subsequent recessions they will cause, and the ever-present danger of climate change. This is why it’s vital we see an increase in climate finance, through an expansion to the existing Climate Justice Fund, and a coherent approach between domestic policy and global sustainable development outcomes.

In order to achieve this, the Scottish Government should urgently convene meetings of the Inter-Ministerial group on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to ensure that people and climate are at the heart of Scotland’s recovery.

Let’s seize this opportunity to build back better and create a fairer, greener world where no-one is left behind. Now is not the time to go back to normal because normal was not good enough for millions of the world’s poorest who are already living with the consequences of climate breakdown. This is a moment of change and it’s a time to be bold.