Richard Dixon: There are several ways that you can judge how the Scottish Government is doing on climate change. Ministers say the right things about climate change and the need for a low carbon economy. Policy documents, like the plan that spells out how we will meet climate targets, include some good policies and appear to add up. But a key test is to look at where the money is going. In the coming year’s Scottish budget there is £820m going on major roads. Meanwhile less than 2% of the total transport budget is going towards walking and cycling. That imbalance clearly shows we haven’t got our priorities right yet. The 2009 Scottish Climate Act cleverly specified that every year the proposed budget should be scrutinised for its impact on climate emissions. But the civil servants even more cleverly made sure this doesn’t work properly. So Members of the Scottish Parliament do get a report about the carbon implications of proposed spending plans and parliamentary committees spend time discussing the issue. But the official report doesn’t actually tell them what they need to know. One of these reports seemed to show that the Borders Railway would be really bad for the climate while, in comparison, the new Forth Bridge would be two and half times better! That’s because the boundary of the assessment is drawn too narrowly. Railways need lots of concrete and steel – materials with a high carbon cost – so they appear bad for the climate. But no account at all is taken of the positive side – all the cars that will be taken off the road because there are lovely new trains on a brand new rail commuting route. The Bridge uses less concrete, steel and gravel so appears better, but there is no mention of all the extra traffic that will be generated by having a new bridge. So the current way of doing these carbon assessments fails to provide the full picture and can give exactly the wrong answers.
Scotsman 4th March 2016 read more »