Climate chief Manuel Pulgar Vidal says 'keep momentum'

Manuel Pulgar Vidal
Image caption Manuel Pulgar Vidal says Scotland could play a really important role

One of the world's leading climate experts says the Scottish government should "keep momentum" by legislating for a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal believes Scotland's leadership could be instrumental in maintaining global climate ambitions as President Trump frustrates them.

Mr Vidal, a former Peruvian environment minister, chaired the 2014 UN Climate Conference in Lima.

This paved the way for the historic Paris Agreement.

Image copyright Kevin Keane
Image caption Mr Vidal chaired the 2014 UN Climate Conference in Lima.

The agreement commits 188 countries to keeping rising global temperatures "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels and "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5C.

It is under threat from the US policy to withdraw from the accord.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Vidal said: "I think it is going to be enough when Scotland can adopt a clear target of zero emissions by 2050, a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

"It is achievable but it is interesting because there are many people who are sceptical that that is achievable.

"Nobody had expected how much we can develop in renewable energy … so if we are thinking about 2050 we need to think in an evolving context in which things are changing really quickly, in which technology is involving and in which price is dropping."

Shackleton medal

Scottish ministers will introduce a Climate Change Bill to parliament next year which will set a carbon emissions target for 2050.

A commitment already exists to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 90% but environmental groups want the Scottish government to go even further.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said the previous 2009 Climate Change (Scotland) Act included a target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.

She said the new bill would have "even more ambitious targets in direct response to the Paris Agreement".

Mr Vidal, who is now leader of climate and energy practice at WWF International, is in Scotland to receive the Shackleton Medal from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

The 2017 UN Climate Conference gets under way in Bonn, Germany, next month amid concerns the US may attempt to frustrate the process of developing the Paris Agreement.

'Important role'

US President Donald Trump is trying to revive his country's declining coal industry and has suggested reopening mines which have closed.

Mr Vidal said: "Trying to go back to coal, to promote investment or to invite the business sector to be part of that initiative is not a good idea and I'm fully sure that President Trump is going to fail in this idea.

"Scotland could play a really important role in trying to keep momentum, in trying to keep this consensus, even in the most difficult scenario."

The US cannot begin the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement until 2019.

The former president of the Lima COP20 believes Donald Trump will eventually agree to remain a part of the agreement.

He also raised concerns about the impact Brexit could have on tackling climate change by allowing it to drop down the political agenda.

He said: "You know that it is very human, it is very natural, that the people believe they can sacrifice something today for having something better for the future.

"But I think we are in a time in which we shouldn't avoid acting now because it is the only way to assure conditions and protecting our planet for the future."

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