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Scottish Government facing legal action over missing climate assessment

This news post is 10 months old

Minister are alleged to have failed to produce a climate impact assessment for its Infrastructure Investment Plan. 

The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) and Good Law Project have warned they will take legal action against the Scottish Government unless it acts urgently to uphold its commitments over the climate crisis.

The Scottish Government has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2045, declaring that Scotland’s contribution to global heating will “end, definitively, within one generation”.

It’s more than two years since the Government announced its £26billion Infrastructure Investment Plan, and it still hasn’t published an assessment of the plan’s climate impact. 

The ERCS and Good Law Project say this flies in the face of the statutory duties laid out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which requires the government to show how investments are in line with emissions targets.

The investment plan for the 2021-2026 term outlines £26bn of investments in projects and programmes around Scotland, such as health and transport infrastructure. 

It emphasises the Government’s commitment to net zero and highlights investments in the natural environment. But no assessment of the emissions the plans will produce has been published.

The two organisations threatening legal action believe the Government is breaching its own climate commitments, and have written to the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, Màiri McAllan MSP, saying they will launch a legal challenge if this breach of the Government’s climate duty is not urgently addressed.

Dr Shivali Fifield, chief officer at the ERCS, said: “By failing to publish a climate impact assessment for its Infrastructure Investment Plan, the Scottish Government is leaving citizens in the dark, with no way to keep check on whether public money will be spent on projects that drive up carbon emissions.

“To the government we say: show us your homework. Too many times, you have over-promised and under-delivered, and in a climate emergency, the stakes are too high for wishful thinking.

“The Scottish Government has committed to incorporating the right to a healthy environment as part of its new Human Rights Bill and this includes the right to a safe climate. These spending decisions will shape Scotland for decades to come. Only with effective public scrutiny can we ensure reality matches rhetoric to advance the right to a healthy environment for everyone.”

Emma Dearnaley, legal director at Good Law Project, added: “The Scottish Government says it is committed to reaching net zero. But it’s breaching its own climate legislation that sets the emissions targets needed to get there.

“It’s one thing to make climate commitments – it’s another to deliver on them. So it’s vital we can all see if the Government’s investment plans clash with its plans to tackle the climate crisis.

“There’s no time to lose in the fight against irreversible damage from global heating. That’s why we won’t hesitate to bring a legal challenge if the Scottish Government doesn’t publish these crucial climate assessments.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Infrastructure Investment Plan outlines ways in which Scotland’s infrastructure investment will deliver transformative action across all sectors of the economy and society – with large capital investment in low carbon projects and programmes.”



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David Hansen
10 months ago

The greatest danger we face is climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The largest source of greenhouse gases is road transport. When dealing with multiple problems it makes sense to start dealing with the big ones first.

Instead of reducing these emissions, both directly and indirectly through modal change, by electrifying the parallel railways, the Scottish Government is instead planning to widen the A9, which will inevitably encourage more car and lorry based movement, thus undermining government's claimed policies on climate change. At the moment these claimed policies look like politician's promises, not something wise people trust.

It's a mess, but one the Scottish Government could resolve if only it had a backbone to face-down the vested financial interests which have been pushing this project for many years.

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