Following increasing pressures across Fife, including Climate Action’s recent “line in the sand” protest in St Andrews, Fife Council has taken the decision to announce a climate emergency.
The amendment was passed by a comprehensive vote of fifty-eight to six and follows suit from other local councils across Scotland, including Dundee, Dumfries and Galloway, who have also announced a climate emergency.
Not only have Fife Council declared a climate emergency, but accompanied it with a set of ambitious targets. The council has stated its intention to cut carbon emissions by seventy-five per cent by 2035 whilst individual councillors have even begun to set dates for complete carbon neutrality.
SNP councillor Ross Vettraino set one such target saying that, “The council has to move towards carbon neutrality by 2045.”
Nevertheless, whilst the move has been welcomed by environmental groups across Fife, some have expressed concern about the impact that the declaration would have on other areas.
Labour councillor Judy Hamilton said that the policy would have implications for services and resources, including housing and transportation. In addition, some have questioned the lack of substance attached to the policy announcement and whether the target is realistic given external variables, such as the nationwide increase in train prices in January 2020.
However, in general the policy announcement has received wide-spread support and has provided added impetus to the student-led effort to encourage the University of St Andrews to also announce a climate emergency.
Whilst, at the time of writing, the University continues to hold off on following suit on Fife Council’s decision to announce a climate emergency, St Andrews has been engaged in a series of environmentally driven efforts.
There have been significant investments in the green energy centre at the Eden campus along with the recent opening of the Scottish Oceans Institute at East Sands by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The University has also brought forward its plans for a wind farm and has reiterated its commitment to cutting the use of single plastics.
There is little doubt that the recent move by Fife Council represents a significant additional pressure on the University to announce a climate emergency and to accelerate further the above policies.
Regarding the pressure placed on the University, a spokesman commented, “Actions speak louder than words. Universities are about solving problems, not just describing them, and simply declaring a climate emergency is just a gesture unless it’s backed up by actions.
“At St Andrews, we prefer to focus on solutions, which is why we invested in our Green Energy Centre at Eden Campus, brought forward plans for a wind farm, are developing options for more solar power, cutting our use of single use plastics, working with partners in Fife on sustainable transport solutions, cutting food waste and supporting world-leading climate change research.
“We applaud all those bringing attention to the climate crisis, but where we can make a real difference is in developing and leading on practical evidence-driven change.”
Only time will tell if Fife Council can successfully implement the necessary policies to achieve its ambitious targets.