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Letters / We need climate action and we need it now

Over the course of the next few weeks, the SNP government are hosting a number of informal meetings around the country under the heading of The Big Climate Conversation seeking the publics ideas/suggestions on how we (individuals) can make a change in our lifestyles to address the climate emergency.

I’ve renamed it Scottish Government’s Big Climate Conversation Cop Out and my reasons are simply this:

Yes, we can sometimes choose loose carrots over carrots in plastic bags. Yes, we can sometimes choose to buy one parsnip instead of a plastic bag full that will rot before use. Yes, we can choose not to buy plastic straws or plastic cotton buds and folk wealthy enough can replace their diesel car for a battery version.

The trouble is, these tiny personal choices, whilst making us feel good, have virtually no effect on the seriousness of the big picture, which needs a massively more serious intervention and right now.

Ordinary folk, however well intentioned and supportive of lowering their carbon footprint are blocked by two major barriers, which utterly stop ordinary folk doing anything meaningful to address the looming climate Armageddon.

One of these barriers is the free market that is hell bent on profits above all else for its directors and shareholders, who more often than not don’t seem to care for anything other than their bank accounts.

The other is the government who is disproportionally affected by the first one and is acting like a rabbit trapped in a car’s headlights. Ordinary people are just blocked from the debate, unable to influence the system to bring about proper measures that could start to address some very serious issues.

The only way to unblock the Scottish Government’s inaction is to dismantle the barriers blocking the rapid changes that are needed. Changes that only the Scottish Government can do and are achieved quite simply by legislation and taxation, which is how the government runs pretty much everything else.

So by way of a few suggestions which the government have been mulling over for years are:

  • ban single use plastic altogether now or no later than in three months time, not dialogue with the industry until 2025 followed by 18 months of consultation. Otherwise there will another few million tons of plastic in the sea;
  • legislate to force retailers to sell produce loose or in customers own/sustainable or natural packaging;
  • ban poor quality disposable products that enter the waste stream after a very short time or at the very least subject them to an import / waste disposal tax, reflecting their shoddy or short life status with the resulting revenue paying local authorities enough to cover their proper disposal costs;
  • use the tax system to encourage producers of quality products; products with a long design life further enhanced by being repairable and with spare parts – this simple trick would greatly help well made products compete with imported rubbish as well as reduce waste;
  • give a tax incentive to manufacturers who use recycled or sustainable natural materials in their products, to make them more affordable to lower income folk who could then avoid poor quality products.

These ideas are good for both the environment and UK producers and there are many more easy to introduce laws that could assist industry as well as a better use of particularly finite resources.

The Scottish Government does not need to ask the public what we can or can’t do as individuals. They do not need and we do not have time for more conversations or consultations; we do however need action and it needs too come quickly as the time is running out.

Vic Thomas