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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development) 5:49 pm, 7th September 2016

I am particularly grateful to have caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, having missed the start of the debate. I apologise to the Front-Bench speakers for that, but I was detained in the Procedure Committee, where we were taking evidence on the effectiveness or otherwise of our EVEL—English votes for English laws—procedures. I look forward to that issue returning to the Floor of the House in due course.

I was particularly inspired to try to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, by the comments of Margaret Greenwood about the impact of climate change on people in developing countries. As she said, and as I said in my intervention on her, the poorest and most vulnerable people around the whole world, who are often those whose historical carbon emissions have done the least to cause climate change, are feeling the impact of climate change first and hardest. That is why, in this debate and in the negotiations that took place in Paris, the concept of climate justice is so important. As I said in my intervention, the Scottish Government have really embraced that concept, as can be seen in a range of policy interventions. The former First Minister, my right hon. Friend Alex Salmond, spoke about this concept at the central party school of the Communist party of China in Beijing, no less, which shows the Scottish Government’s ambition in this area.

Along with this Parliament, the Scottish Government have set some of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets anywhere in the world. Earlier this year, we were able to announce that the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 42% on 1990 levels by 2020 had already been met this year. Of course, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, according to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, but I am sure that it was just a coincidence that that was the target.

The other innovative approach the Scottish Government have taken is through their climate justice fund. I have had the privilege of seeing that in action at first hand in Malawi, a country with which I have become very familiar over the years. I have seen the impact of climate change in that country, as rain patterns change significantly from what people were used to. Periods of drought are followed by periods of intense rain, which makes the cultivation of crops incredibly difficult. Of course, most people in that part of the world rely on their crops as they are subsistence farmers. The changing weather patterns that result from climate change are having a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of the population of that country and the wider region. The region is, of course, facing a drought at the moment.

The climate justice fund has been able to help people to adapt to the impacts of climate change, often by using innovative methods that are energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly in their own right. For example, I visited a community in Dedza where people were able to irrigate their crops thanks to a reservoir built at the top of a hill. Without the need for any kind of electricity or pumping—just through the force of gravity—that irrigation allows people to grow crops and cultivate their food, whereas previously that would not have been possible because of drought or the erratic rain patterns. Likewise, in Chikwawa, in the south of the country, a solar pump is harnessing the extreme power of the sun that is felt in that area and turning that into green energy which, again, has allowed crops to be irrigated and food to be grown.