Scotland can still take climate change lead says minister

UN climate change conference The UN Climate Change Conference is taking place in Warsaw

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Scotland's environment minister has insisted the country can still provide global leadership on climate change.

Paul Wheelhouse is in Warsaw attending the United Nations climate change conference, with heads of state and ministers from almost 200 countries.

His vow comes despite Scotland failing to meet its own targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Scottish Parliament won praise after passing "world leading" climate change legislation in June 2009.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act requires a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050.

But the Scottish government has failed to meet the legally binding emissions targets for two consecutive years.

Mr Wheelhouse told BBC Scotland: "We are at the forefront of a progressive grouping of nations that are taking forward climate legislation.

"We have learned a lot from implementing our own legislation and we want to help other countries take a similar path."

Urgent action

Before travelling to Poland, Mr Wheelhouse warned that the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines must be a "wake up call" to world governments.

He said: "The delegation from the Philippines have already made clear the urgent need for action. Our message is that other nations need to share Scotland's ambition on this vital issue.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn't easy, but it is essential if we are to tackle climate change - and I hope that Scotland's story can help illustrate the way forward.

"And while we can't necessarily point to any one weather event and say it is caused by climate change, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) climate data indicate there could be a significant increase in climatic disasters such as the typhoon which hit the Philippines last week or indeed Hurricane Sandy in the USA last year."

Start Quote

There is no doubt that Scotland has something useful to say and that Paul Wheelhouse has access to some of the key players”

End Quote Dr Richard Dixon Friends of the Earth Scotland

Environmental campaigners from the Philippines have voiced their support for Scotland's climate change targets and want other European countries to follow suit.

Lidy Nacpil of the Philippines Movement for Climate Justice said: "The current 20% target for Europe is shameful.

"It is very important for Scotland to maintain or even increase its own targets to send a signal to other European countries to scale up their own targets too."

Dr Richard Dixon, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, is also attending the conference, after travelling from Edinburgh to Warsaw by train, rather than flying.

He said: "The world certainly needs good examples and Scotland's isn't perfect but it is far better than most on reducing emissions and on building up renewables.

"Our minister gets access to the EU Climate Commissioner, the Polish minister who chairs the conference, and to other ministers, as well as the chance to influence the UK position.

"There is no doubt that Scotland has something useful to say and that Paul Wheelhouse has access to some of the key players."

But the Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie has warned Scotland's reputation on climate change could be under threat.

He said: "The minister can be rightly proud of the steps Scotland has taken to boost renewable energy and pass strong climate legislation, but there is a grave risk that our good international reputation slips away as the tally of missed emissions targets increases.

"Let's hope his team comes home inspired to take much bolder action on transport pollution in particular."

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