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as symptomatic of his half-hearted approach to the issue. Te problem, Watson continues, is “any international agreement requires two thirds of the US Senate to ratify it” – a virtual impossibility in Washington’s gridlocked system. But the US is far from the only obstacle to a landmark deal in Durban. Major polluters such as India, South Africa, Japan, Canada and China [which in 2007 overtook the US as the world’s biggest emitter of CO²] all continue to block progress because of an ongoing row between developed and developing countries about who should shoulder the burden of reducing emissions. Indeed, so deep are the divisions that the Kyoto Protocol, the existing UN plan which obliges about 40 industrialised nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, is widely seen as under threat. Watson describes the problem as “a major political, equity, ethical issue”. “You’ve got a very wide range of views as to not the need to address the climate issue but how to address it and how urgently to address it,” he continues. “To what degree can we go to a low carbon economy? And to what degree will that cost more money than a fossil fuel-based economy? So how can the industrialised world – which has largely caused


“Around the world, greenhouse gas emissions are at an all time high, even while we’ve got this economic downturn”


the problem in a historical sense – how do we work with emerging economies and developing economies on technology co-operation?” Despite these obstacles, Watson is adamant that the message that he has been pushing for decades remains more relevant than ever: serious international action is needed on climate change, and it is needed now. Far too much time has already been wasted. “Around the world, greenhouse gas emissions are at an all time high, even while we’ve got this economic downturn,” he says. “If we are truly going to try and achieve the two degree target [the 2°C rise in temperature beyond which the effects of global warming may become catastrophic] then you would have to have global emissions peak somewhere between 2015 and 2020,” he says of what is now a highly unlikely scenario. “At this moment in time, I would strongly suggest that we are not on a pathway to a two degree world.” But even with the framework of a global deal so hard to pin down, does a top-down, multilateral approach remain the only way to tackle climate change? After all, China guards its sovereignty jealously and appears diametrically opposed to any international agreement, but has recently become the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy.


“We should give China a lot of credit, actually,” says Watson. “Tey are doing a lot of work on renewable energy. But of course, their economy is still growing at eight or ten per cent a year or more, and it is largely driven by a fossil fuel energy system.” While Watson accepts that many countries are instinctively reluctant to commit to a global treaty but willing to take individual action on climate change, he believes a binding UN deal remains vital. Following the Cancun summit in 2010, a string of nations announced unilateral pledges to reduce emissions or mitigate polluting behaviour. “But if you add up all those pledges it will not get us to a two degree world,” he continues. Global environmental organisations may have failed to deliver a global deal so far, but the only option is to keep trying. “I don’t think there’s any other game in town,” says Watson, adding, “what entity would be able to get the US to do more than what it’s doing?” Ultimately the kind of global deal on emissions Watson favours cannot hope to be devised in the short term. In the meantime, he says the most important criteria for progress on mitigating climate change is “one or more countries have to demonstrate that going to a low carbon economy does not adversely affect the economy”. Tat means harnessing the great hopes of the green economy such as renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon and capture storage in a way that investors, markets and, most importantly, consumers can accept


and embrace. “I’m nervous we could get new technologies but they just sit on the shelf,” Watson adds. Asked to pick a candidate, he says Germany boasts a “very strong policy on going to a low carbon economy,” but maintains that the UK also has the technological, scientific and legislative framework to play a leading role. Te debate over the whys and wherefores of climate change will rage on, and those that call for the urgent changes needed to mitigate global warming can only remain open to debate with naysayers and afford policy makers as much certainty as is possible. Last year Watson was critical of an IPCC report in which factual errors showed a tendency towards exaggerating the seriousness of climate change, but doesn’t agree the body is guilty of dogmatism. “I really do believe it [the IPCC] has done a fairly good job in always trying to say, ‘What are the uncertainties?’” he says. “Where we might be able to do a better job in the science community generally…is [by] saying: ‘What are the real implications for policy formulation?’” It is a clarity that Watson has always sought to bring to the climate change debate. But as the thousands of delegates heading home wearily from Durban can attest, it is easier said than done.


IN BRIEF


Dundee to miss Gamesa plant Gamesa has ruled out developing its UK offshore wind manufacturing plant in Dundee. The Spanish renewables giant concluded that the city could not accommodate its offshore requirements in terms of timescales and scope. The decision represents a major blow to Dundee’s aim to become a renewable energy hub. However, there is still a chance that the plant, which is expected to create 1000 direct jobs and a further 800 in the supply chain, will be located in Scotland. Gamesa has announced it will consider Leith as well as English town Hartlepool as potential locations for the site.


MSP calls for wind farm moratorium A Labour MSP has called for a moratorium on new wind turbine developments in Scotland and compared the rapid expansion of land buying by energy firms to “the prospecting days of the American gold rush”. Watched by hundreds of local anti-wind farm campaigners, Neil Findlay told a parliamentary debate that Scottish councils should freeze all planning applications for new sites until they receive clearer guidance from government. Findlay said an unholy alliance between landowners seeking rents and energy firms keen to soak up subsidies for renewable energy has left many local communities feeling “under attack”.


Norway deal sees rise in Scottish quotas The Scottish Government has welcomed a bilateral deal on fishing between Norway and the EU which will see an increase in quotas for several key Scottish stocks. The agreement, which covers 2012, will see Scottish quotas for herring more than double and vital haddock and whiting quotas increase by 15 per cent. Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the deal represented progress but highlighted the need for further reforms to EU fisheries policy. “Increases for these important stocks underlines why the baffling figures from the European Commission . . . must be resolved,” he said. Despite the new quotas, he added: “Many Scottish skippers will once again not be able to take part and we will be limited in our attempts to further reduce discards.”


Oil and gas firms to invest in renewables The number of North Sea oil and gas firms involved in renewable energy is set to double in the next three to five years, research has shown. According to a report by Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets, by 2030 almost three quarters of oil and gas firms operating in the North Sea will have moved into renewables, compared to 26 per cent today. Ed Wilson, head of renewable energy at Lloyds and author of the report, said similarities in health and safety and engineering procedures mean the oil and gas workforce lends itself to the transition to renewable energy. However, the transition should not be seen as zero-sum, added Wilson, as the majority of jobs created in the renewables sector would be new roles and not replacing existing jobs in oil and gas.


12 December 2011 www.holyrood.com 57


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