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Scotland Must Have a Net Zero Carbon Emissions Economy by 2050 Speech by Right Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 27 February 2019

Welcome and good morning. For those who don’t know me I am Susan Brown and I am Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland until May this year. I am delighted to see you here and to give you the opportunity to talk to each other and to share some thoughts on one of the defining challenges of the age - climate justice. Since the Climate Change Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in May 2018 there has been a growing awareness that we are no longer just facing climate change but are facing a climate emergency. We have heard this from scientists around the world, and from speakers young and old. The report on a world warmed by 1.5 Celsius produced for the United Nations late last year shocked us by spelling out the damage that will result and has caused many of us to think how we can respond more quickly. David Attenborough speaking at the UN climate conference in Poland last year said


“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change.” “If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” David is one of the most respected presenters of the age and his words carry a lot of weight. But if anything he was upstaged by a sixteen year old girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg who addressed world leaders with astonishing clarity and courage. She said: “You only speak of a green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess … you are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children”. Her words have inspired a series of protest ‘strikes’ in schools not only in Sweden but also around the world including here in Scotland. And her words are a direct challenge to our legislators in Scotland. I would be interested to hear your response to what she said. The climate emergency is as much an ethical dilemma as environmental and this is what impels us in the Church of Scotland to call for change . I repeat here what we said in our response to the Scottish Government’s proposals for the climate change bill.


“Scotland has made impressive progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions since the 2009 Act. Targets that were previously thought to be unattainable, such as meeting an interim target of a 43% reduction by 2020, have already been exceeded. A net target of 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 might appear very difficult to achieve but with rapid decarbonisation of the economy envisaged in the draft Scottish Energy Strategy there is no reason to dismiss it. The Scottish Government could make this commitment and set a global standard for others to follow.” That was last year. Given what we know now I think this has to be strengthened. We must move to a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050 at the very latest and I hope colleagues from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland will lobby for this to be included in the Climate Change Bill. We are not alone in calling for this. We work closely with EcoCongregation Scotland and its 450 registered churches around the country; and with Christian Aid to bring stories and messages from around the world. These stories remind us that climate change affects us all but its greatest impact is felt by the world’s poorest and especially by the poorest in the less developed parts of the world. These people don’t have the industrialised past we have, they are not responsible for what is happening to our world but they bear the brunt of the impact of our past. Think of the floods in Kerala, of the increase in all sorts of devastating so-called ‘natural’ events, the storms, the droughts, the rise in sea levels and growing desertification.


It’s about standing with those who are living daily with the consequences of a past we have been responsible for. Today I am calling for you to be at the forefront of climate justice. Our call for a 100% target in the bill by 2050 at the latest is about redressing injustice and fighting poverty. It’s about renewables, about renewing the life of the world for all of its inhabitants. The climate emergency is also an opportunity for Scotland to take the lead – I urge you to seize that opportunity.

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speech of Rev Susan Brown  

speech of Rev Susan Brown  

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