Scotsman Opinion Piece - 2015 is a big carbon date

06 February 2015

Scotland is leading the way when it comes to reducing emissions, which is why even China is tapping into our expertise, says Andy Kerr

The year 2015 is going to be a momentous year. It is the culmination of a quarter of a century of tortuous twists and turns in global debates about what, if anything, should be done about society’s unintentioned emissions of greenhouse gases. The outcome of intergovernmental negotiations in Paris at the end of this year will determine the political will to deliver change (or not) at a global level for a generation.

I think we would all wish them wisdom in their deliberations. But for those of us who are sceptical of the ability of intergovernmental negotiations to lay out a clear and meaningful path to a resilient, low carbon and prosperous future, the words and wisdom of Niccolo Machiavelli seem apposite:

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

Machiavelli’s words are a powerful reminder that it is one thing to have a vision for a better future (as the Paris negotiators clearly do), it is quite another to be able to demonstrate that the vision works. In other words, if we really want people to believe in the benefits of a “resilient, low carbon society”, we need to give people actual experience of it.

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