Communities from around the world are calling on Scotland to toughen its target to cut climate pollution in order to safeguard food supplies, protect homes and save lives.

Representatives from Africa, Asia, Alaska and elsewhere say that Scottish ministers should aim to cut carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 to help prevent droughts, storms and floods. The current target is to reduce emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

If Scotland doesn’t up its ambitions, campaigners warn ministers can no longer claim to be leading the world. Six other countries have recently committed to zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, including France, Sweden and New Zealand.

Views from developing countries have been collected by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), an umbrella group that brings together 40 environmental, faith and other groups. They include Friends of the Earth Scotland, WWF Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Christian Aid, Oxfam and The Church of Scotland.

This week the group is planning to launch a “100 Voices” campaign aimed at persuading Scotland to “give it 100 per cent” on cutting climate pollution. They want ministers to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in their forthcoming climate change bill.

SCCS pointed out that the need for international leadership has never been greater. “Personal images and stories bring home the reality of how we have already changed our climate and the destructive impact this is having in every part of the world,” said the group’s Chris Hegarty.

We see extreme weather events causing devastation and the very real possibility of cultures being lost. Chris Hegarty, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

Hegarty highlighted a promise in November by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, that Scotland would continue to lead by example. “Setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest is essential if Scotland is to play its fair part in delivering on the international agreement on climate change reached in Paris in 2015,” he argued.

“The upcoming climate bill should also provide the ambitious new policies that will ramp up action ahead of 2030 and deliver multiple benefits closer to home for the economy, public health and our environment.”

Stella-Marie Robinson, roving ambassador for the Pacific Islands Council of Queensland, warned that some countries could disappear. “We stand to lose our homes, lose our countries, lose our identities as distinct peoples of the planet,” she said.

“What happens in Europe, the US, China and Australia affects what happens climatically in our Pacific Ocean. I hope Scotland, the brave, will help to lead the way through its commitment to a net zero carbon strategy – and soon.”

Mork Nay is a farmer in Cambodia. He lives with his wife, Veit Samin, and two children in the village of Srae Rausey in Stung Treng, “In the past the weather was stable between the dry and rainy seasons,” he said.

“Now we can’t predict it. Now it’s raining in the dry season and dry in the rainy season. When we lose our crops our income decreases and we lose our resources.”

Nay was worried that he couldn’t cope with climate change getting worse. “I would like to request developed countries like Scotland, who have big factories that produce a lot of pollution, to stop polluting,” he pleaded.

Gertrude Hamooya is a small-scale farmer in Zambia. She grows maize and groundnuts and keeps free-range chickens.

She thought her community’s life has been made harder by climate change. “Most of us won’t even harvest anything this year because of the rains coming at the wrong time of the year,” she said.

Sarah James is from Arctic Village in Alaska. Her community has depended on caribou for 20,000 years, but is now at risk from climate change.

“My people’s way of life is under threat,” she said. “Climate change is a human rights issue.”

She called on Scotland to “take a lead” on cutting pollution. “We need to help each other to survive,” she argued. “It’s up to all of us to play our part to tackle climate change.”

The Scottish Government stressed it was seen as a “world leader” in tackling climate emissions. “Our current target to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is amongst the most ambitious in the world,” said a spokesperson.

“We are considering responses to our consultation on the climate change bill and will shortly set out our long term ambitions to 2050.”

The countries going for zero climate pollution

France: climate plan in 2017 promised net zero carbon emission by 2050, including an end to fossil fuel extraction and vehicles by 2040.

Sweden: passed a law in 2017 committing to net zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of its previous target.

Catalonia: passed a bill in 2017 pledging to cut emissions to zero by 2050, though this may be blocked by the Spanish government.

Europe: in January 2018 the European parliament voted in favour of net zero emissions by 2050, a target that will now be discussed by the European Commission and member states.

Iceland: announced in 2017 that it will aim for net zero emissions by 2040, including cleaner transport.

New Zealand: announced in 2017 that it would be legislating for net zero emissions this year, including cutting agricultural pollution.

Costa Rica: aiming for net zero emission by 2021, using hydropower and forestry.

Cover image thanks to jodylehigh, and other photos thanks to Theiva Lingam, Bellah Zulu and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. This story is also published in The National.