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THE global pandemic has made many of us re-assess our priorities and look at the world in new ways.
If Covid hadn’t hit, then international delegations would be soon heading to Glasgow to take part in the 26th UN Climate Change Conference.
Instead, Scotland must wait another year to welcome the world to our biggest city. Another year before nations take stock of what they agreed in Paris 2016 – to limit global warming to a level that gives us the best chance of survival.
Looking back, 2016 seems like a long time ago, but it was the year that the current Scottish Green MSPs were elected to Holyrood. I’m proud of the impact we’ve had with only six MSPs, but we can look at countries like New Zealand, which has recently ended new offshore oil and gas exploration, with some envy.
The election result in New Zealand showed that voters reward action to tackle the climate emergency. Jacinda Ardern won a landslide and her Green Party allies increased their share of the vote while climate-ambivalent parties saw their vote share decrease.
The time for the Green movement is now, not after it is too late.
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But it is a sad fact that New Zealand is one of the outliers when it comes to meaningful and urgent action. The Scottish Government continue to boast about their eye-catching targets on climate, but they must bring more than targets to COP26.
When cities with Green mayors across Europe are prioritising people over cars, massively investing in warm homes, restoring spaces for nature and cancelling polluting projects, there’s a risk Scotland is falling behind.
These are all things Greens have pushed the Government on in Scotland, but progress needs to be bolder and faster.
Take the Mossmorran gas plant in Fife, Scotland’s second-biggest climate polluter, that recently flared off one hundred tonnes of gas every hour into the clear autumn skies.
Mossmorran is a fossil fuel relic which has seen one operator, ExxonMobil, in legal hot water with the regulator over these appalling flaring incidents inflicted on local residents. The other operator, Shell, appears to be laying off maintenance workers who say there are issues with the site’s safety.
It’s clear that Mossmorran does not have a sustainable long-term future in Fife. But the Scottish Government has dithered over my call for a just transition board to be set up to consider the future of the site, even though that call has attracted cross-party support. It is the Scottish Government who should be leading this transition to make sure no workers are left behind when the site closes.
Tackling the climate emergency and delivering progress at COP26 must be about growing new opportunities and jobs, moving beyond failed economic models that belong in the past.
That’s why I was deeply concerned to hear that the Scottish Government has withdrawn assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract for offshore renewables manufacturer BiFab, placing 500 jobs under threat.
This decision makes a mockery of the government commitments on green jobs and is a huge blow for communities in Fife and Scotland’s ambitions on renewable energy.
Although energy policy is reserved, we have been clear ministers could use Crown Estate Scotland powers to ensure that leases for offshore wind are granted on condition of supporting jobs in the Scottish supply chain. The Scottish and UK Governments must not abandon these communities.
There should be no leases or public subsidy for offshore wind farms without a jobs guarantee for yards like BiFab’s in Fife and Arnish.
Ahead of our conference this weekend we’re proposing a new deal for Scotland’s workers. This is a deal which would rebuild the public sector to reverse the erosion of rights, restore wages and the dignity of work and end forced zero-hour contracts.
It would put workers and unions centre stage in driving a transition to a zero-carbon economy creating quality, unionised and well-paid green jobs.
READ MORE: Patrick Harvie: We must put what matters before photo ops and soundbites
How? Well, the use of Crown Estate powers to protect our renewables supply chain is a start. There should also be much more conditionality put on the billions of pounds of public contracts issued every year. For decades there has been a shrinking of the public sector. From Tory privatisation to Labour’s PFI and the SNP continuing with private finance, we’ve seen the state’s role eroded.
If we’re going to ensure a sustainable future for all of us, the state needs to step up again. The word “just” in a just transition is really important, because the fact is that those most affected by the climate emergency have often done the least to cause it.
That’s true globally, with countries in the south experiencing extreme floods and drought, food shortages and forced migration. But it’s true closer to home too.
It is those who can afford private jets, fleets of cars and move their money offshore who are contributing most to climate breakdown. Meanwhile, it’s those on insecure incomes who tend to suffer the impacts of pollution, fuel poverty or the loss of green space. We need to rectify that unfair imbalance if we’re going to cut emissions justly and in time.
Clearly, it’s time to go Green.