David Stewart : Scotland needs a new Clean Air Act
Delegates to the Scottish Labour conference in Perth today (Sunday 26th Feb) heard that the Party would deliver a new Clean Air Act.
During a debate on a Sustainable Scotland, Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister, MSP David Stewart, stressed climate change was here and action needed to be taken.
“Whether choking in the smog of Los Angeles or watching acid rain fall in the frozen forests of Siberia, climate change recognises no borders, salutes to no flags, upholds no laws,” he told the conference.
“We all must become international evangelists for the environment, and drown out the siren voices of the philistines from both sides of the Atlantic – climate change deniers, led by new President Trump, more Big Brother than West Wing.
“The economic effect of climate change goes off the scale! Like the Great Depression meets World War I.
“As Al Gore made clear in “An Inconvenient Truth” – meeting the challenge of climate change is technologically feasible and economically rational.
“A sustainable Scotland needs to banish poor air quality – a relic of the Victorian era. Toxic diesel fumes harm our children, elderly and the ill and is disproportionately hitting those living in disadvantaged urban areas.
“Radical problems need radical answers.
“Scotland needs a new Clean Air Act. And with Scottish Labour, it will have one.”
Mr Stewart, who also represents the Highlands and Islands, said that fixing climate change would not be easy, but Labour would pressurise the Scottish Government to bring forward plans for Low Emission Zones for towns and cities.
“We need to make polluters pay and give our hard-pressed local councils the funds to invest in active travel, like cycling and walking, and more investment in green, electric buses,” he added.
“We will follow best practice of Labour-led councils like the City of Edinburgh Council, who have invested so heavily in active travel.
“The SNP like to talk green, but they act dirty. Their decision to cut Air Passenger Duty by 50% and then abolish it will lead to a huge rise in emissions. And the wealthiest will benefit the most.”
Mr Stewart also posed the question of what would be the consequences of Brexit for the environment and climate change.
“But what we do know is that Europe’s Water Framework led to cleaner Scottish water; Europe’s landfill directives led to an increase in Scottish recycling rates, and Europe’s Environmental Assessment Directives have led to improved Scottish air quality.
“We need to ensure that progress made in such initiatives does not get lost in post-Brexit Britain.”
He said the debate was about what sort of Scotland we wanted in the future, saying sustainability was not a box just to be ticked when Party manifestos were put together.
“It is a principle that underpins all our policymaking, from housing and land use to environmental protection, from transport to energy,” he said.
“It is about the natural environment and it is about our communities. It is about ecosystems and above all, it is about people. About creating a new generation of green jobs to secure our future.”
Mr Stewart added: “Today we are leaders in climate change and the environment. As the great environmental activist Wendell Benny said: ‘The world is not given by his father, but borrowed from his children.’