The Scottish Perspective
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent on 5 August 2009 and commits Scotland to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The Act also contains an interim target that commits us to reducing emissions by at least 42% on 1990 levels by 2020.
The Act also places three climate change duties on a wide range of public bodies in Scotland and contains powers to enable the Scottish Ministers, by order, to create further duties. The Act requires that a public body must, in exercising its functions, act:
- in the way best calculated to contribute to delivery of the Bill's emissions reduction targets;
- in the way best calculated to deliver any statutory adaptation programme; and
- in a way that it considers most sustainable.
The commitment to limit emissions, combined with the public sector duty, will have significant implications for future policy decisions at the local and national level, as the country begins the transition towards becoming a low-carbon economy. In June 2009, the Scottish Government set out the measures required to achieve the emissions targets contained in the Climate Change Act in its Climate Change Delivery Plan.
The Scottish Government states that the country can continue to grow its economy while, at the same time, making the necessary emissions reductions. The Scottish Government has already stated that "increasing sustainable economic growth" is the core Purpose of the Government, underpinning its National Performance Framework.
The UK Perspective
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is an important independent body that advises the UK and Scottish Governments on building a low-carbon economy. The Committee advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on emissions targets and reports to the UK Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Committee was established under the UK Climate Change Act, which received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008. The Act requires that emissions are reduced by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
On 1 December, the Committee on Climate Change published its inaugural report Building a Low-Carbon EconomyBuilding a Low-Carbon Economy - the UK's Contribution to Tackling Climate Change. The report contains the CCC's recommendations on the 2050 emissions reduction target and advises on the levels of the UK's first three legally binding carbon budgets for 2008-2022. The CCC advised an interim budget of a 34% cut in emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels.
In response to the UK Climate Change Act and the CCC's advice on carbon budgets, in July 2009 the UK Government published the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, plotting out how the UK will meet the cut in emissions set out in the budget of 34% on 1990 levels by 2020. Further information on the UK Government's low carbon transition plans can be found on the Low Carbon Transition Hub.
Watch Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change outline the UK Low carbon Transition Plan...
Prosperity Without Growth?
In March 2009, the Sustainable Development Commission, the Government's sustainable development advisor, published Prosperity Without Growth? The Transition to a Sustainable Economy.
This report, authored by SSN 2009 Conference speaker Professor Tim Jackson, questions the overriding priority traditionally given to economic growth. Professor Jackson argues that the current economic crisis is an opportunity to restructure governmental systems, and give greater weight to the objectives of sustainability and wellbeing. "Prosperity Without Growth?" proposes twelve steps towards a sustainable economy and argues for a redefinition of "prosperity" in line with evidence about what contributes to people's wellbeing.
Lord Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern Review on the economic costs of climate change, has also discussed the potential conflicts between economic growth and climate change. In a speech at People's University in Beijing in September 2009, Lord Stern said that, although rich nations could continue to expand their economies until 2030, they may then have to consider reining in growth to successfully tackle climate change. "Will other restraints kick in? Probably, they will", said Stern "At some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth. We don't have to do that now.".
An interesting presentation from Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Carpets, on why he decided to focus the company's attention on sustainable decision-making, taking a hard look at suppliers, manufacturing processes, and the beginning-to-end life cycle of all its products.