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World leaders guilty of ‘catastrophic negligence’ on climate, says Yousaf

The First Minister was speaking at Climate Week NYC on Monday.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf

Scotland’s First Minister has said world leaders are “collectively guilty of catastrophic negligence” on climate change during a visit to New York City.

Speaking at Climate Week NYC, Humza Yousaf said young people “have every right to be angry” that not enough is being done.

At Cop15 in 2009, countries agreed to a target of 100 billion US dollars annually to tackle climate change by 2020 – a goal that has not yet been met.

“In July, the UN secretary general said ‘the evidence is everywhere, humanity has unleashed destruction’,” the First Minister said.

“Humanity is not an abstract construct, it is you and I – we, the human race, no one else, have unleashed destruction.

“But not a destruction, I’m afraid that is felt equally, it’s one that is rooted in inequality, that harms the poorest, the most vulnerable in our society, the most vulnerable on our planet.”

He added: “Government pledges come in by the billions, but far too often, the money doesn’t go out the door.

“When you have a crisis, you have to act with urgency, the urgency the crisis demands, and I’m afraid that those of us in the global north are simply not responding fast enough.

“I ask other heads of government, are we really moving with the urgency that this crisis demands?”

The First Minister said world leaders should ask those impacted by wildfires and floods across the world, including in Hawaii, Greece, Pakistan, Libya and South Korea “if they think the world is prioritising its response to the climate emergency”.

“No, the truth is that we are collectively guilty of catastrophic negligence,” he said.

“And our children have every right to be angry and they have every right, frankly, not to forgive us if we do not step up.”

Mr Yousaf went on to allocate spending of a further £300,000 to help those impacted by Storm Freddy in Malawi as well as £1 million for Scotland’s humanitarian emergency fund which will be used to address loss and damage caused by climate change.

The First Minister also announced that the Climate Justice Resilience Fund – to which the Government has pledged £36 million by the end of this Parliament – would be delivering a programme aimed at tackling the non-economic impacts of climate change, such as gender-based violence and health impacts, using £5 million of Scottish Government funding.

Responding to the First Minister’s speech, Lewis Ryder-Jones – a policy adviser for charity Oxfam Scotland – said the Government should be “commended” for its climate justice funding, but added: “However, the Scottish Government’s recurrent failure to both meet its own emission reduction targets and to unequivocally oppose new oil and gas, risks making the First Minister’s international climate efforts akin to repeatedly throwing a brick through someone’s window while offering to pay for the damage.

“The Scottish Government needs to urgently scale up its domestic climate action; but that action will be costly.

“Who foots the bill is a test of political courage and will.

“The First Minister must demonstrate the same leadership he’s shown on climate finance by maximising the use of devolved tax powers while also pressing the UK Government to use all of the levers at its disposal to fairly tax the biggest and richest polluters who’ve done the most to cause the climate emergency.

“Their time is up, and their payment is long overdue.”

Liz Murray, the head of campaigns at Global Justice Now, also said the Scottish Government “should be proud” of the funding it offers to less well-off countries, saying: “It’s great to see the First Minister pushing other rich countries to not just talk the talk on climate change but also walk the walk.

“That means making big polluters pay up for widespread and escalating loss and damage caused by climate change which particularly affects countries in the global south who did little to nothing to cause it.”

She added: “Oil and gas companies like Shell and BP are raking in billions of pounds in profit – it is morally abhorrent that shareholders are lining their pockets at the expense of the global loss and damage fund.

“Scotland should be proud that it is a world leader in providing loss and damage funding.

“It’s now time for the First Minister to take the next step and call on the UK Government to fairly tax fossil fuel companies, and for the Scottish Government to say no to new oil and gas developments.”

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