Climate 'At Heart' Of Independent Scotland

Scotland's role in tackling global warming has been put under the spotlight with both Yes and No campaigns claiming a vote for their side is best for the climate.

Scottish Energy and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said an independent Scotland would have “a much stronger voice on the global stage” to push for ambitious action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In a comment piece on Greenpeace's Energydesk website, Mr Wheelhouse said Scotland had set itself world-leading emissions reductions targets of 42% by 2020 compared to the UK's 34% cuts, and had included extra areas such as shipping and flights.

Scotland has missed the annual targets set en route to the 2020 goal over the last three years, but the SNP minister said the narrow misses on the “stretching” targets were down to better understanding of the country's actual emissions.

And he said the country had set itself high targets despite producing oil and gas, which would be brought under the tougher Scottish targets in an independent Scotland.

Wealth and skills from the oil and gas industry could be used to accelerate Scotland's transition to a low carbon economy, and the country had already made huge progress in renewable energy with 46% of electricity consumption from renewables.

Scotland would be able to push the global agenda on climate more easily as an independent country, he said, and would also be able to place climate and environment at the heart of the nation in a written constitution.

“With independence Scotland will have a much stronger voice on the global stage - something stakeholders tell us they want to see,” he wrote.

“With our own place in institutions such as the EU and the UN we'll have a louder voice and greater positive influence on global environmental policy - enabling us to call on others to share Scotland's ambition, and to ally ourselves with other progressive nations in negotiations, and push for ambitious targets on climate change mitigation and renewables.”

But UK shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex said the most effective way of ensuring Scotland could play a “vibrant and active role” in tackling climate change was as part of the UK, a world leader on the issue.

The Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West said: “Our voice is amplified, not diminished, by speaking as part of a nation of 63 million”.

He pointed to Paraguay, which had a comparable population to Scotland and had significant renewables and ambition on tackling climate change, but would not be central to achieving a new global climate treaty set to be negotiated in Paris in 2015.

And he warned that if Scotland became independent, it would put at risk the UK-wide system of subsidies paid for renewable energy in the country, with nine-tenths of the payments in Scotland coming from bills paid by other UK consumers.

“Leaving the UK would jeopardise that shared arrangement - why would consumers in a foreign country subsidise wind turbines through their household bills?” he wrote in another comment piece for Energydesk.

“If Scotland votes to leave the UK, those of us who are concerned about climate change may wake to find ourselves in a country forced to reassess the affordability of its commitments to renewables, marginalised in the efforts to secure the type of global deal the world needs and establishing a new state where concerns about climate change would be marginalised,” he warned.

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