Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Climate Change Bill Approved

The Climate Change Bill received its third stage reading today. It was approved unaminously and will become law when it receives the Royal assent. It will be followed by a delivery plan. Eco-congregation Scotland have asked the government for public engagement to be part of this and they have agreed – see amendment and extract from plan. This is an opportunity for eco –congregations. We now have to think about how we respond to get the best out of this – a big task for the coming year.

The text of the amendment and extract from the plan is as follows:

Scottish Parliament Bill Amendment
Name of Proposer: Brian Adam

Before section 61A, insert—
Public engagement
(1) The Scottish Ministers must prepare and publish a strategy (a “public engagement strategy”) setting out the steps they intend to take to—
(a) inform persons in Scotland about the targets specified by virtue of this Act;
(b) encourage them to contribute to the achievement of those targets.
(2) The public engagement strategy must, in particular, identify actions which persons in Scotland may take to contribute to the achievement of the targets referred to in subsection (1)(a).
(3) The public engagement strategy must be published no later than 31 December 2010.
(4) The Scottish Ministers—
(a) may, from time to time; and
(b) must, before the end of the period mentioned in subsection (5),
review the strategy.
(5) The period referred to in subsection (4)(b) is the period of 5 years beginning with the date on which—
(a) the strategy is first published; or
(b) the strategy was last reviewed under subsection (4).
(6) Where, following a review under subsection (4), the Scottish Ministers vary the public engagement strategy, they must, as soon as reasonably practicable after so doing, publish the strategy as so varied.
(7) A strategy published under subsection (6) must contain an assessment of the progress made towards implementing the steps set out in earlier strategies.
(8) The public engagement strategy may be published in such manner as the Scottish Ministers consider appropriate.
(9) The Scottish Ministers must lay the public engagement strategy before the Scottish Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after it is published.>

Extract from

June 2009

Wider engagement and behaviour change

Delivering the scale of emissions reductions in the Delivery
Plan will require real changes from all in Scottish society:
government and the public sector, business, voluntary and
community groups and individuals. An engagement strategy is
being prepared to ensure we approach this in an effective and
co-ordinated way.

The Scottish Environmental Attitudes and Behaviours Survey
(SEABS) has offered an important insight into how people in
Scotland think and behave on green issues. However, there is
a need to deepen this understanding in order to influence
attitudes and enable change. The next steps to this will involve:
Commissioning in-depth qualitative follow up research into
key aspects of SEABS that require further investigation; this
is likely to consist of a suite of studies focusing on
understanding behaviour change.
Developing further work on enabling behaviour change,
ensuring that policy development is taken forward with a
clear understanding of attitudes and behaviours.
Making SEABS findings more widely accessible to
academic/analytical study.

Finally, it must be remembered that one of the key aims of the
Scottish Government – in bringing forward the Climate
Change (Scotland) Bill to set ambitious and challenging
targets, and in producing this Delivery Plan to show how these
targets can be delivered – is to demonstrate strong leadership
to others and to use this to influence the international
community. The engagement strategy will need to consider
how the Scottish Government will galvanise support and
action from others in the global effort to tackle climate

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Monday, 22 June 2009


The blog is starting a series of contributions by selected academics and environmental activists who will present their own particular viewpoints through this medium. We hope that in this way, the Eco-congregations Blog will contribute to the debate surrounding environmental issues and life style. The first of our pannelsts is Dr.Sheena Wurthmann (School of the Built and Natural Environment at Glasgow Caledonian University and SNH).

Please feel free to comment.

There is a lot in the news about climate change and carbon footprints. Reducing the use of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases is a vital process but it is only part of the story. Whatever we do we depend on green plants absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis to produce oxygen and water. This “environmental service” is rarely accounted by the economists probably because it is hard to put monetary values on these processes. When it is done it becomes clear that deforestation particularly the rainforests means that globally there is less capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. This makes the models for climate change less resilient.

Where in the world do we find the best places for capturing and storing carbon? We are very familiar with the role of tropical rainforests. These ecosystems are very valuable sinks that capture carbon and store it in the biological diversity of the ecosystem but they are not the only sinks. All forests – particularly the ancient natural forests capture and store large amounts of carbon. This suggests that major efforts should be made to protect and enhance all forests and woodlands and encourage the development of diversity. Monoculture of commercial forestry only provides temporary carbon stores and is not a self-sustaining system.

Other important ecosystems are also excellent carbon stores. The peat bogs in Scotland are major systems for capturing and storing carbon. This only works if the peat land is allowed to develop a high level of diversity. This is diversity of mosses and lichens and insects. Draining and exploiting the peats releases the carbon stored and increases the problem. Raising the water table and encouraging more moss growth and peat development would be a better strategy.

The wetlands such as marshes and reed beds have similar contributions to the carbon stores. However, they have other advantage of “treating” the water as it passes through the habitats. This water treatment process is a major method of naturally dealing with diffuse pollution. Again these are habitats that are frequently modified by draining, construction and farming. These activities reduce the capacity for using carbon stores, providing natural pollution control and soft mechanism for flood management and water storage. We lose a lot when we try to manage nature.

The major area of the Planet Earth’s surface is ocean. The small green algae carry out photosynthesis and this makes for a large amount of carbon capture. Some almost sci-fi proposals to increase this are recognition of the importance of this system. More to the point in terms of improving the oceanic system is to prevent pollution in the coastal and deep oceanic areas. .For ecosystems to work well all types of organism should be represented. That means that herbivores and carnivores and predators should be functioning well. Current fishing practices suggest that humans are disrupting the large oceanic system in vital ways. Climate change is a challenge but reducing carbon footprints is only half the story. The other half is about treasuring and enhancing biodiversity locally and globally.

The picture of the marshes was taken by Herzogbr. the picture of the ocean was taken by Andrew Hux. The photograph of the fish ready for sale was taken by Mr T in DC. The picture of the peatland was taken by Colin J Campbell.

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Monday, 15 June 2009

The Carbon Economy in Scotland

Around the upper estuary of the River Forth is the visible evidence of Scotland’s development as a carbon economy.

One of the earliest examples of Scotland’s coal industry is found at Culross. The now picturesque town was built on the wealth generated by coal mining. Sir George Bruce was the first to introduce machinery to drain coal pits and dig deep beneath the sea bed in the seventeenth century; as a result he helped turn Culross into an early industrial centre and one of the busiest ports on the east coast.

The exploitation of coal for electricity generation developed on a massive scale in the twentieth century. Near Culross is Longannet Power station, the largest in Scotland, which produces over 10 million tons of CO2 each year and produces 1200 MW of electricity. This is now the largest single source of greenhouse gases in Scotland.

OilAcross the river is the location of the early development of Scotland’s oil industry: the oil shales of West Lothian were exploited in the nineteenth century. This source was soon inadequate but did lead to the location of a refinery and petro-chemical industry at Grangemouth, now processing 10 million tons of oil a year from the North Sea and elsewhere in the world.

The development of Scotland’s carbon industries has had a massive impact on the economy, communities and environment of Scotland. Around the upper Forth estuary carbon industries dominate the area. And the impact on the wider world has been significant; with important trade in both importing and exporting carbon fuels and products.

The Carbon Economy and Climate Change.
The area is responsible for the release of tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year; directly and indirectly perhaps a third of Scotland’s total. It is also a transport hub with major road and rail bridges and major oil terminal at Dalmeny. Paradoxically it is also at risk of flooding. Any rise in sea level will put local communities and businesses in jeopardy; including the carbon based industries themselves.

Why is this of Interest to the Church of Scotland ?
The Church of Scotland is concerned that climate change poses a serious and immediate threat to people everywhere, particularly to the poor of the earth; and that climate change represents a failure in our stewardship of God’s creation. We accept the need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases urgently to avoid dangerous and irreversible climate change; and to promote a more equitable and sustainable use of energy.

Fossil fuels are gifts of creation and we have used them to enrich ourselves: for warmth and comfort, domestic convenience and mass transportation around the globe. Has this comfort and convenience been purchased at a cost to the generations that follow? If our massive consumption of carbon fuels leads to damaging climate change does this then represent a failure in our duty of care for creation – and care for each other? If we are called to care for creation and for others how should we then respond as Christian churches? And how should those training for the ministry address this concern in their ministry in coming years; both in preaching and in action?

The Church of Scotland is trying responding to climate change and grappling with these issues.

The photograph of burning coal was taken by Bruno Ciampi. the photograph of Grangemouth was taken by Paradasos

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Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Stewart Stevenson MSP to speak at St Kane's Church

Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish Minister for Transport, Infrastructure & Climate Change will speak on June 6th at a transport and climate change event organised by the Presbytery of Buchan. The event will take place at New Deer St Kane's Church centre from 10am to 3.30pm. Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Project Officer at the Church and Society Council will speak about climate change and transport. There will be small group discussions after each presentation giving participants ample opportunities for reflection.

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