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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Environmental and Scientific Cooperation
If in terms of economic development Scotland’s interests as outlined appear to be largely focussed
on what Scotland can get out of the Arctic, scientific exchange, in particular relating to the
environment, provide opportunity for reciprocity.
Scotland’s environmental law and policy is distinct from that in the rest of the UK, being a devolved
matter, but the Scottish government shares the UK’s four priority areas: (i) sustainable consumption
and production; (ii) climate change and energy; (iii) natural resource protection and environmental
enhancement; and (iv) sustainable communities (Scottish Government, 2011e).
The Scottish government portrays itself in its International Framework as a leader in “climate change
and natural resource protection” (Scottish Government, 2008, para. 15) and the environment
constitutes one of five core campaign themes for the SNP (SNP, 2011a). Environmental protection
would therefore be a priority of any Scottish Arctic strategy to reinforce this message internationally
and domestically. The main environmental risks to Scotland come from climate unpredictability
(particularly increasing flood risk) and marine pollution (United Kingdom, 2010a). Sea-level rises put
at risk low-lying Scottish coastal towns and villages. Nevertheless, the SNP also views climate change
as providing a “wealth of opportunity” in terms of potential business and employment opportunities
(SNP, 2011b).
Traditional and contemporary Scottish activities are not under any major threat from
climate change, though tourists might suffer from increased precipitation and a longer midgie season.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 specifies a mandatory target of 80% reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an interim target of 42% by 2020 (s.1). Scotland anticipates
that renewable energy will be a key factor in meeting this target. A comparable 2050 national target
exists for the UK but Westminster seems to have shifted the emphasis from tackling the causes of
climate change (Climate Change Act 2008, s.1; Taylor 2009) towards response and adaptation
(United Kingdom 2010a). At UK level, interest in reducing consumption of fossil fuels, both
domestically and internationally, is based on concern for energy security, not carbon emissions
(United Kingdom, 2010a).
Climate change research and exchange of findings are priorities for Scotland. A strategy would
emphasise Scottish participation in this research and identify actions to increase Scotland’s
contribution. Scotland cannot hope to compete with the resources of the United States in this regard,
but might at least join the latter in “promot[ing] the sharing of Arctic research” and supporting