Get serious about going green
- Barry Shelby
- 13 November 2006
We’re no longer in any doubt that the world faces disaster if we don’t construct a more sustainable Scotland. But The List’s Eat & Drink editor Barry Shelby thinks we’re just paying lip service to the problem. It’s time to get serious about going green.
We need to come out of the slumber of inertia that delays action to reduce carbon emission and climate change gases. We are all now seemingly conversant in the language of ‘carbon footprints,’ ‘tipping points’ and ‘sustainable development’.
But knowing the jargon is not good enough. It’s tiresomely amusing (and irritating) to see how most Scottish politicians (at least those in the four traditional parties), big business, and their mostly useful idiots in the mainstream media and the press give lip service to the environmental calamity that confronts us. Sure, they say we must act on climate change. Meanwhile they all collude with the climate change sceptics to avoid immediate actions that could help cut CO2 emissions.
What do I mean? Well, for a start there is the £500 million, five-mile M74 northern extension across Glasgow. We are meant to accept that this ‘missing link’ is essential for the economy, although evidence suggests it is less than necessary. It will, however, increase the C02 emissions in the region by nearly 6%. That’s one of the reasons why the proposed motorway failed its public inquiry.
Surely transport decisions should be flunked if they don’t contribute to cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Instead the policy across Scotland is full of roadway expansion. There are much better ways to spend the M74’s half billion pounds by directing it towards improved, clean transport across Scotland’s largest city.
How about a congestion charge in Edinburgh? Put to the populist test, it failed. Yet, can we afford to allow a mistaken majority to vet specific proposals to improve our environment? We live in participatory democracy: let’s let the people we elect take the actions, defend their positions before the electorate and then permit elections to dictate. Experience shows that referenda are too open to abuse.
Then there are the plans for increases in flying: first by predicting increases in commercial aviation use and duly providing more runways, and, secondly, by assisting fliers with new railway spurs to our airports. Oh, how the airline (and tourism) industry wants us to believe that our cheap flights are again boosting the economy - here and abroad.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Analysis of flights in and out of Scotland shows a net loss to the economy - that is because more people fly out than fly in. The other night, an executive from cheapflights.co.uk was arguing on television that tourism was saving the economy of Sri Lanka. I’m sure that when sea levels rise as predicted and freak storms wash-over that exposed island nation, the good folk of Sri Lanka will be thanking all those pale folk who visit for a fortnight, getting hammered at the resort bars and sleeping off their hangovers on the beach.
Let’s get real. There is a lot we can do. Here are just three urgent steps that we might take to address the problem here in Scotland:
lAll public works and business deals should be immediately evaluated for their carbon emissions. Government contracts should weigh the harm caused and all efforts should be made to reduce emissions.
lAll car and airline advertisements should be required to indicate how much pollution is generated by using the specific vehicles and flights advertised. Similarly to cigarettes, health warnings should be added -" we might even consider banning all those slick motorcar and airline TV adverts.
lAll homes should receive free audits on energy efficiency. Those that have problems should receive generous grants to insulate and move towards micro-generation of energy.
These steps could be taken quickly.
People who moan, ‘What’s the point when India, China and the US continue apace?’ are looking for an excuse. You might as well object to a minimum wage by arguing that the rest of the world doesn’t bother. Or perhaps question the value of our abolishing the death penalty because almost everyone else uses it.
We need to take responsibility for our actions on the environment, not throw up pretexts to be lax. We must measure carbon emissions on a local, regional and national level, looking at what is contributing to the problem - whether it is transport in an urban setting or dirty industries elsewhere.
Only by rousing ourselves and fighting on all fronts can we begin to make a difference and prevent the catastrophe that an ever-growing consensus of scientists predict we’re now heading for.