I was led to understand that the Scottish Greens were the party that takes the climate change issue seriously. But how can such a claim be compatible with their puerile posturing over the Scottish Government’s carbon emission reduction targets?
Surely simple logic dictates that it is better to have a 70% target which could be exceeded by a few points than an 80% target that might prove to be a few points beyond reach. In practical terms, the result is pretty much the same either way. Five points over a 70% target is exactly the same as five points under an 80% target. What’s the difference?
For the Scottish Government the difference is that the ‘optics’ of exceeding a target are better than the ‘failure’ associated with not meeting the target. But it’s not just a matter of making the government look good. Success breeds success. Success generates enthusiasm. Being able to trumpet the smashing of a target is a great way of getting people onside and willing to join the effort. It’s good PR. It’s good politics. It’s good campaigning.
Of course, if that’s all there was to it then governments could just set easily achievable targets all the time so as to ensure they always had a success to celebrate. So there has to be some limit to how low the target can be set. And what better limit that scientific evidence. As Roseanna Cunningham says, the interim target of reducing carbon emission by 70% by 2030 more than meets the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Setting the target at that level is a rational choice.
What is rational about the Greens’ insistence on an 80% target? (We may discount the fact that they are supported in this by two of the British parties as we can be certain that they are motivated solely by the petty need to score points against the hated SNP.) What, from the perspective of the Scottish Greens is the difference between a 70% target and an 80% target? Obviously, by demanding the higher target they get to look bolder and more radical. Which they can do without risk because they know they will never be held responsible for falling short.
There is no downside for the Greens, as a party, in demanding the 80% target. Which is fine if all you are interested in is partisan advantage. They get to look good while they demand it and, should the target not be met, they get to look good all over again as they pompously condemn the Scottish Government’s failure. That falling short of the target might impact negatively on the broader climate change campaign doesn’t seem to be a concern for the self-proclaimed champions of the planet.
This is always the problem with the Greens. While much of their agenda is laudable, even if often inadequately thought through, and they are nominally a pro-independence party, their fondness for infantile, British-style politicking makes them unreliable allies in the fight to save both Scotland’s democracy and the planet.
*The title, lest you be wondering, is a line from the Goon Show episode titled Tales of Men’s Shirts first broadcast on December 31, 1959. Script by Spike Milligan. And yes, I am that old.
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