On Wednesday 19 September around 70 people from across Scotland gathered in the Harry Younger Hall near the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to demand strong and radical action on climate change. This Climate Change Lobby was organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of organisations brought together to campaign for climate justice, which includes SCIAF and Justice and Peace Scotland among its members.
Before lobbying started, Tom Ballantine of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland reminded us that public pressure on MSPs helped increase Scotland’s climate ambitions in 2009; and Sally Foster-Fulton of Christian Aid Scotland spoke passionately about the importance of working for environmental justice for our brothers and sisters in the global south, who suffer most through climate change despite having done least to cause it.
Our main goal was to persuade MSPs that, in the light of our responsibilities under the Paris Agreement, Scotland should adopt a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, supported by an interim target of a 77% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
As I am from Aberdeen, I was part of the North East Scotland group of lobbyists. We saw three MSPs, from Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives respectively, and made clear to each of them the need for the strongest possible Climate Bill. Reflecting the positions of the three parties, our aim of a clear target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was supported by Labour, while the SNP and Conservative representatives did not agree with this key demand. However, we were able to have informative discussions with all the MSPs we met.
It was ironic, frustrating, yet curiously appropriate that the arrangements for the Climate Change Lobby had to be changed due the extreme weather event of Storm Ali. And given the challenging conditions it was natural that the travel plans of those from outwith Edinburgh were likewise affected by road closures and train cancellations.
In the evening before getting a coach or, if I was lucky, a train back to Aberdeen, I took a walk from the east end of Princes Street to the Scottish Parliament itself, having neglected to make the short journey from the Harry Younger Hall earlier. Visiting Holyrood again in the Edinburgh gloaming was a moving experience for me, being of the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the 1979 referendum in which Scotland voted for devolution but was denied because of the ‘40% rule’. During the 80s the kind of Scottish autonomy that we now take for granted seemed a distant dream.
The Climate Change Lobby which so many of us had participated in earlier that day to argue for environmental justice was an example of democracy in action.
Whatever our views on Scotland’s constitutional status, we should all be grateful that we have the Parliament in Edinburgh as a forum where people of goodwill can work together for the sake of the common good.