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Scotland needs to urgently halt nearly all peat-burning or risk failing to meet its ambition of net zero by 2045, a report has indicated.
Current “muirburn” practices, the controlled burning of vegetation in moorland areas, typically to promote new growth, are “incompatible” with the Scottish Government’s climate ambitions, said the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland (RSPB).
The conservation charity said peatlands are key centres of carbon storage and when burned can rapidly release stored carbon, whereas healthy wet peatlands continually store the atmosphere-damaging element.
Peatland is estimated to cover nearly a quarter of Scotland, and last year the Scottish Government announced £250m over 10 years for restoring peatlands, with a target of restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030.
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Two flagship venues hosting the upcoming COP26 climate change summit have received the second lowest possible rating for energy efficiency, with work yet to commence on a raft of legally binding improvements issued by assessors in order to reduce CO2 emissions.
The SEC Armadillo in Glasgow has been graded F by inspectors, who said its owners should consider installing renewable energy sources as well as new insulation and lighting in order to curb its carbon footprint.
The SEC Centre, the sprawling conference venue which will form the epicentre of negotiations, also has an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of F. Assessors told its owners in 2012 they should consider investigating the use of low and zero carbon technologies.
Nine years on, neither it nor any of the other SEC properties have renewable energy sources installed. Cumulatively, the venues, chosen by the UK government for the summit, along with Glasgow Science Centre, are pumping around 6,659 tonnes of CO2 a year into the atmosphere.
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Climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she does not believe Scotland is a world leader on climate change, as the Scottish Government claims.
The Swedish teenager said she has not yet decided whether she will travel to the global UN climate conference in Glasgow next month, but will do if it is “considered safe and democratic” – including ensuring participants from poorer countries are fully vaccinated and able to travel.
Questioned by BBC Scotland on whether Scotland is a world leader on climate change, she said: “No… I mean, there are some countries that do a bit more than certain others, but then if we look at it from a broader perspective then I think we can safely say there are no countries – at least in the global north – that are even doing close to what would be needed.”
Scotland’s climate change legislation includes a target to reach net zero by 2045, which the Scottish Government has said is “world-leading”.
The 18-year-old was also sceptical of the Scottish Government’s new powersharing deal with the Scottish Greens which will bring Green representatives into government for the first time in the UK.
Ms Thunberg told the broadcaster: “Of course there might be some politicians that are slightly less worse than others. That was very mean, but you get the point.
“It’s a hopeful sign that people want something that’s more ‘green’ – whatever ‘green’ means – but in order to solve this, we need to tackle this at a more systemic approach.”
Having returned to school after a year out leading young people in school strikes for climate change, Ms Thunberg said the conference falls in her school holidays, and if she does attend she plans to travel by train.