Our Climate Secretary announced that the Scottish Government would be producing a document called an indicative Nationally Determined Contribution in the run up to next year’s UN climate talks in Glasgow. An NDC is a terrible UN name for a really important thing – a document which lay out what targets a country is aiming for and how it plans to get there, and should also contain information on how they will help other countries.

The 2015 Paris Agreement sets the framework for these NDCs and a revised sets of plans are due by the end of this month because current plans put us on track for a catastrophic 3 or 4ºC of warming, rather than the 1.5ºC that we are supposed to be working towards.

UK increases climate commitments

The UK has just announced details of its first NDC, having previously been included in one that covered the whole of the European Union. It includes an increased target to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030 (from 1990 levels). Scotland’s unofficial version will be based on our legal target of a reduction of at least 75% by 2030, and unlike the UK emissions from our share of international aviation and shipping will be included.

The UK’s ambition has been increased and the UK’s 68% and Scotland’s 75% reductions by 2030 will both be among the highest in the world for the richer countries. Both of these are very welcome and they add to the pressure on other countries to do more. But even these levels of ambition are not enough to meet our fair share of the global effort needed for the 1.5ºC target.

Public pressure helped push Scottish Government to act

In the summer Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition wrote to the Cabinet Secretary making the case for Scotland to publish an NDC. This led to a conversation with civil servants to flesh out the idea and discuss concerns. This in turn led to the big announcement.

Scotland producing an indicative NDC is a tribute to the 25,000 people who marched through Edinburgh last autumn calling for more action on climate. To be a fitting tribute it needs to go beyond being a restatement of targets and the revised climate plan that is just about to be published. It needs to recommit to meeting our targets by acting here in Scotland rather than buying carbon credits from elsewhere. It needs to set out how Scotland will help poorer countries deliver their climate plans and cope with the changing climate, including planning to increase the small but effective existing Climate Justice Fund.

Producing Scotland’s first indicative NDC puts us on the track to revise it every time the UN and the Paris Agreement process calls for more. For an SNP government producing the same kind of input to UN processes as UN member states is a clear statement that an independent Scotland would want to be a strong player on climate change.

As millions of people across the world experience the accelerating impacts of climate change, the eyes of the world will focus on the talks in Glasgow next November. Let’s make sure Scotland’s indicative NDC raises the bar on climate ambition and global action between countries.

Dr Richard Dixon is Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. A version of this article appeared in The Scotsman on Tuesday 8th December 2020.

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