Let’s not give Trump what he wants on climate

You may have seen the news this week that Trump’s US Department of Agriculture has ordered all staff to stop using the term ‘climate change’ and not to talk about ‘reducing greenhouse gases’.

But despite the power of the White House, the climate crisis isn’t just going to disappear if we all stop talking about it.

Trump is welcomed to Brussels, May 2017 © Friends of the Earth Europe

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Come on Scotland, time to step on it with transport!

The UK Government’s plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles is 23 whole years away. Scotland can do better.

Help us push for a 2030 phase-out as part of a strong new climate bill: act.foe.scot/climate-action

The UK Government’s announcement to phase out fossil fuel vehicles by 2040 may have at first glance seemed like something to cheer about.

But a plan to clean up air in 23 years time is not good enough for the many people whose lives are impacted on a daily basis by toxic air now. What’s more, the ban is so far off that the Government is simply leaving the electrification of our transport to market forces rather than actually setting the pace of change.

Glasgow traffic

Glasgow traffic © Kristofer Keane

It’s worth remembering that Wednesday’s announcement was part of a suite of newly released air quality plans that the UK Courts, applying European air quality laws, forced the Government to publish. European law requires air quality safety standards to be met as soon as possible, not in 2040.

Norway and Germany are aiming for a 2025 phase-out date for fossil fuelled vehicles. India has also one-upped the UK by a decade, with a 2030 target date to phase out fossil fuelled vehicles.

Is the Scottish Government hiding?

But whilst much of this week’s wrath was focused on the UK Government’s headline-grabbing 2040 announcement, in Scotland we might rightly ask, where are Nicola Sturgeon and Roseanna Cunningham in all this?

Air quality is devolved, meaning it is solely the Scottish Government’s responsibility to meet EU air quality laws in Scotland. European air quality laws are being broken in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perth, and Dundee. Stricter Scottish air quality standards are being broken in a total of 38 Pollution Zones which span 14 local councils. Traffic-borne air pollution may be invisible to the naked eye, but Scotland clearly has a problem. Air pollution has been linked with cancers, heart attacks, and even babies being born prematurely.

Tackling air pollution is also about tackling climate change: transport is now the leading source of climate change emissions in Scotland. Progress has been made in every other sector in the last two decades, but transport emissions remain stubbornly stuck at 1990 levels – a testament to lack of Government action in this quarter.

With 2500 early deaths from air pollution each year in Scotland, and a new Climate Change Bill brewing, what new proposals did the Scottish Government put on the table on Wednesday, and how committed is it to tackling this crisis?

The answer is, it put almost nothing new on the table. Its input into the new plans is practically identical to the UK’s 2015 air quality plan, which was ruled illegal by the High Court for failing to be ambitious enough. The only substantive change since 2015 was its commitment to introducing Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone (LEZ) by 2018. Whilst we support the LEZ plan, it’s patently obvious that a single LEZ in one city will not be able to tackle the unsafe levels of air quality which persist across 14 councils.

Time to step on it

In order to tackle air pollution as soon as possible, the Scottish Government must first build on and improve its commitment to Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone by 2018. We need details on where the Zone will be and how it will be funded, as well as a commitment to introduce LEZs in every major city with illegal air pollution levels: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, and Dundee.

Secondly, the Scottish Government must make our transport systems less dominated by the car by investing at least 10% of its transport budget in walking and cycling, and by re-regulating Scotland’s bus sector.

And finally – the Scottish Government should use the new Climate Change Act to phase out petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2030 at the very latest. A target like this would put Scotland among the world’s climate leaders – setting the pace of change, not leaving it to market forces.


Take action now to call on the Scottish Government for a tough new Climate Act: act.foe.scot/climate-action

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Looking back at our Summer Weekender

This July,  Friends of the Earth Scotland held our first ever Summer Weekender. Over 100 people came together in the beautiful settings of Wiston Lodge for three days of ideas and action to build a strong and diverse climate movement to create the Fossil Free Scotland we need.

With an exciting programme bursting at the seams with workshops, panel debates, practical sessions and film screenings, the event brought together people from across Scotland to network, learn, make friends and share strategies.

We got stuck into campaigning with workshops on fracking, migrant rights, air pollution, the Climate Bill, food sovereignty, divestment, community energy and more. We developed our activist skills with participatory sessions on sustaining groups, lobbying, digital campaigning, know your rights, non-violent direct action and avoiding burn out. And we hosted a drop-in creative space for people to take a go at upcycling, lino printing, banner-making, singing and theatre of the oppressed.

Here’s a sample of some of the feedback from participants, who ranged from 2 to 82 years old!

The FOES Weekender was just terrific! Two things stood out: firstly, everybody talked to everybody else – there were no cliques or ‘in-groups’, and the safe space meant that everybody, irrespective of background or knowledge, could have their point of view listened to. Secondly, it was a gathering of wonderful people, involved in the most amazing projects, and it was a privilege to spend time with them all. Overall hugely inspiring and energising – well done FOES!!

– Michael

I found the gathering inspirational. When so many people gather together with common passions about saving the planet the energy is palpable. It’s so beneficial to share ideas and experiences. Thank you to all the organisers.

– Jenny

A brilliant weekend with many varied workshops and activities, music was good with Caro Bridges on the Friday night and the Ceilidh Science band on the Saturday night. I watched The YERT film screening too which was very interesting. Although I am not a vegan I actually found the food very palatable and something different to my normal tastes. The walk up Tinto Hill on Sunday morning was an experience simply for the view and seeing all the wind turbines. It was good to talk to other like-minded people and hear their points of view and I intend going to further Summer Weekender events in the future.

– Neil

“An absolutely wonderful weekend with so much to do, so many people to meet, and a great atmosphere. The atmosphere created at the Summer Weekender was absolutely wonderful and that requires a lot of work. I’ve learnt a lot about the Climate Bill which I’m going to be talking about at our next Friends of the Earth Edinburgh public meeting.”

– Mark

“I loved the workshops which included self-care, with Alastair McIntosh and Tripod. I’m going to focus more on meditation and sorting some personal problems which will have a good impact on my commitment and motivation in activism. The event organisation was very good: diversity, interest in building safe spaces. I loved the diversity in the group.”

–Young Friends of the Earth Scotland member

And what’s next? We hope the Summer Weekender has left you feeling energised and eager to get stuck into environmental activism in Scotland. Here’s three things you can do now:

(1) Join Friends of the Earth Scotland

We don’t take money from corporations which means we rely on our members to help keep us radical and independent. A donation of just £3 a month will enable us to keep campaigning for climate justice in Scotland and globally.

(2) Take action on the Climate Bill

With the current consultation on new climate legislation, now is the time to take action to let the Scottish Government know that we need much tougher targets and stronger action on emissions to be true to the Paris Agreement.

(3) Find your local group

Our local groups are at the forefront of working for an environmentally sustainable and socially just world. Find one near you to get stuck into local campaigns, events and projects, including the upcoming Fossil Free international days of action this October. We’ll be taking action to say no to fracking – not here, not anywhere!

Posted in Activism, Air Pollution, Climate Justice, Divest / Reinvest, Fossil Free, Fracking, Young FoES | 2 Comments

The Summer Weekender is nearly here!

Our biggest ever residential activism gathering will take place in Biggar, South Lanarkshire from this Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July. We’ve been planning it for months – getting speakers organised, sorting out catering and somewhere to sleep for 90 people, and putting the programme together. We’re looking forward to welcoming new faces, people who’ve supported our fracking and divestment campaigns and, of course, our dedicated local group activists.

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UK’s second largest trade union votes to divest pensions

UNISON members have campaigned for ethical inevstment for many years. Photo by Clint Iguana.

UNISON, one of the two largest trade unions in the UK, with over 1.3 million members, has adopted formal policy to support divestment from fossil fuels at its annual conference.

The Union, which represents local government members, many of whose pensions are heavily invested in fossil fuels, voted unanimously to:

“seek divestment of Local Government Pension Schemes from fossil fuels over five years giving due regard to fiduciary duty”

The new policy follows two years of impressive mobilisation by UNISON grassroots members. UNISON Scotland was fundamental in leading the change after forming the   Reinvest Scotland campaign with Friends of the Earth and Common Weal in 2016. Continue reading

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Methodist Church’s investments going green after Scottish members push for change

Climate change campaign meeting at Stirling Methodist Church, February 2017. Photo by Ric Lander.

The Methodist Church, the Britains 4th largest church, has taken a big step towards divesting from fossil fuels, and members of Stirling Methodist Church made all the difference. Continue reading

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The environment dimension of Brexit

In 1993 the Norwegian Environment Minister called John Gummer, the UK Environment Secretary, a drittsekk – a shitbag – because of the massive impact on Scandinavian lakes and forest of acid rain caused by emissions from British power stations. Throughout the 1980s Britain had been known as ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’ because of our widespread pollution of air, land and water.

The European Union is far from perfect but it has been the source of almost all environmental legislation and standards in Scotland.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we buy and the food we eat are all cleaner and safer because of 40 years of EU rules.  Collective EU targets on climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency have pushed the UK further than we would otherwise have gone.  And the European Courts have helped concentrate the minds of Ministers on meeting environmental standards and protecting nature properly.

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Posted in Activism, Air Pollution, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Fossil Free, Fracking, Green Economy, Low Carbon Power, Oil, Politics & Parliament, Renewables, Trade, Transport | Leave a comment

Who will really benefit from the new Air Departure Tax?

This afternoon, MSPs will approve the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill, giving the Scottish ministers the power to set air travel tax for the first time. But while devolving the tax from Westminster control to Holyrood is fairly uncontroversial, what the Scottish Government plan to do with that power is a different matter.

© Bernal Saborio CC BY-SA 2.0

The devolution of aviation tax was recommended by the Smith Commission after the independence referendum, and delivered in the Scotland Act 2016. UK-controlled Air Passenger Duty (APD) – the tax that is added to every adult ticket – will cease to apply in Scotland, and the Bill being voted on today will replace it with a Scottish-controlled Air Departure Tax (APD).

Air Passenger Duty and Air Departure Tax are essentially very similar, but they diverge in one important way: the SNP Scottish Government has promised to cut its new tax to half the level of the previous APD by the next Scottish Parliament election, and abolish it altogether “when resources allow”. Continue reading

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Fossil Free, Politics & Parliament, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scotland needs to build on climate success

Last week brought the good news that Scotland had met its latest climate target, with real emissions of greenhouse gases 3% lower than the year before.   This is great progress and shows that we are firmly on track to meet our 2020 climate target of reducing emissions by 42% from 1990 levels.

This target and the target of 80% emissions reduction by 2050, were agreed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament as the right figures to ensure Scotland made a proper contribution to the fight to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees centigrade.

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Posted in Climate Change, Climate Justice, Divest / Reinvest, Fossil Free, Green Economy, Low Carbon Power, Nuclear, Politics & Parliament, Renewables, Transport, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Low Emission Zones could help ensure our right to clean air

We can’t see it, but air pollution continues to plague Scotland’s busiest places. Two tiers of legal protections – both Scottish standards and European law – are being broken years after a deadline. There are 38 designated Pollution Zones across 14 Council areas where levels of toxic air are deemed unsafe.

As a result of the Scottish Government’s failure to act on this health crisis, we are forced to breathe in toxic gases and particles that have been linked with cancer, heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and poor lung development in kids. This invisible killer is responsible for over 2500 early deaths in Scotland each year.

Air quality monitoring station in Glasgow

Air quality monitoring station Glasgow

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Posted in Air Pollution | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

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