Wednesday, 2nd December 2009
Countdown to Copenhagen
Young people in Scotland know and understand more about the science behind climate change than their peers elsewhere in Europe. In a recent survey of 6000 adults and children across four European countries, 85 per cent of Scots knew that methane is a greenhouse gas, more than any other of the surveyed nations.
Yet, what the survey also revealed is that Scotland’s youngsters are the most wasteful people in their family. Apparently more than four in 10 (44%) of Scottish children admit they are responsible for leaving too many lights on unnecessarily and 37% admit to having longer showers than others in their home. This highlights the need for more education on the simple measures that can be taken to save energy and to address the bigger climate change issues.
In a few weeks time the United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place in Copenhagen. World leaders will gather to agree a new climate change treaty as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
However, an effective deal in Copenhagen will not be easy unless the big players take part. President Obama has got to attend and America must sign up to a realistic treaty that dramatically cuts C02 emissions. This goes for China, Russia, India and Brazil as well. All of them must stop ducking the hard questions and face up to implementing a low carbon future.
Scotland has the opportunity to lead the way in setting the climate change agenda and reducing our carbon footprint. Scotland’s natural resources could generate over a quarter of the EU’s wind, wave and tidal power with Scotland already surpassing its target of 31% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2011.
Scotland can also lead by example and show those nations currently sitting on the fence, that cutting carbon emissions is absolutely vital. We must demonstrate that new technologies can ensure industrial production and output can remain at the same level, while CO2 gases are reduced.
The European Union will also play a crucial role in next month’s debate. In addition to the European Parliament’s Climate and Energy Package targets by 2020 the EU has agreed to curb global emissions from planes and ships by 10% and 20% respectively over the next decade.
However, as President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup for Climate Change Biodiversity & Sustainable Development, I believe that although climate change targets are commendable, the long term effects must be considered. Careful thought must be given before we rush into a policy of expanding biofuel production to determine its impact on the environment and the consequences for developing nations.
A cohesive plan must be agreed on providing financial support to developing nations most at risk from the affects of climate change. There is currently no agreement on how to finance a climate change package in developing countries.
Deforestation, biodiversity loss, vulnerable ecosystems, the future of coastal habitats are all matters that need attention and action now, before time runs out for mankind. Deforestation alone accounts for around half of all CO2 emissions worldwide and yet we seem helpless to stop vast tracts of rainforest being hacked down in the Amazon Basin and Indonesia. We need to place a value on the ecosystem services provided to our planet by rainforests and pay for their upkeep. These are our global air conditioning systems and we need to pay for their maintenance.
There has been a lot of noise in the press recently about the Copenhagen conference. We must ensure action is taken and that an ambitious yet achievable plan is signed by world leaders.