Global Warming

Question Time — Scottish executive — Environment and Rural Development – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour 2:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to address global warming. (S2O-4503)

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Action that the Executive is taking to address global warming is detailed in our "Scottish Climate Change Programme", which is currently the subject of a formal review and public consultation.

Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour

Will the minister join me in acknowledging the contribution of Fife companies, such as Burntisland Fabrications Ltd, which is based in my constituency and is heavily involved in renewable energy, and paper maker Tullis Russell Group Ltd, which is based in Markinch in the constituency of my colleague Christine May but employs many of my constituents? Will he congratulate Tullis Russell on its initiative to combat global warming by the construction of a £73 million wood-burning combined heat and power station on the Markinch site? What support will the minister give such companies in future?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I have no hesitation in congratulating both companies on their excellent initiatives, which are in line with the Executive's strategy of increasing the amount of electricity that is generated from renewable sources. The recent consultation paper on our green jobs strategy placed particular emphasis on the need to encourage biomass energy, so it is encouraging to see the large number of jobs that the Tullis Russell project will create. I have no hesitation in congratulating both those companies and both constituency members, who no doubt played their part in ensuring that investment.

On the issue of support, the revisions to the green jobs strategy and the climate change strategy will assist all such companies. The increased emphasis on the use of renewable energy, such as biomass energy, will give rise to an improved flow of biomass material, which should in turn be of great benefit to Tullis Russell in particular.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

How would the minister respond to Professor David Bellamy's article on wind farms in the "Glencairn Gazette", which covers Moniaive and district? Professor Bellamy states:

"The link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming is a myth."

Does the minister agree that, if even the scientific community is not entirely at one on the issue, we are well advised to err on the side of caution?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I certainly do not want to get into a debate with David Bellamy, so I am glad that the quotation from the article has been read out by Alasdair Morgan, with whom I am much happier to debate.

There can be no doubt about the issue. David Bellamy's comments may make interesting reading, but anybody who watched Wednesday night's BBC news programme will know that there is clear evidence of continuing increases in the melting of the icecaps, which poses a potential threat right across the globe. Given that we are already seeing serious changes to species and habitat existences throughout the world, we would be foolish not to take seriously the threat of climate warming. Even if the scientists cannot agree about the exact increases, the facts about the potential danger on a global scale are staring us in the face.

To that extent, the Scottish Executive is as committed as the United Kingdom Government is to supporting the Kyoto targets. We will implement the Scottish climate change programme in accordance with those targets and we will set out the programme for the Parliament to seek its agreement on how to ensure that Scotland contributes to the Kyoto agreement.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Given the revelation that the UK Government is falling dramatically short of its self-imposed targets for reducing CO 2 emissions, to what extent is the Scottish Executive responsible—or, as the case may be—innocent for missing that target?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I think that we have made more than our equitable share towards reaching the UK target, but we are as concerned as the UK Government is that the target is not being met. That is part of the reason why we are undertaking the review of the Scottish climate change programme, although we undertook to review it this year when we set out the initial programme in 2000. It is important that we refine the programme to ensure that we make our due contribution to the UK's target of meeting the Kyoto targets.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

The minister will be aware that yesterday Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy poured scorn on Tony Blair's ambition to lead the world on climate change. Does he agree with Charles Kennedy's comments that Tony Blair talks a "good game" but fails to deliver? If so, what does that say about the Labour-Lib Dem record in Scotland, where the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has been only a third of that achieved by the UK as a whole?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I really do not know how often I have to ask Mark Ruskell not to use that very misleading statistic. He knows perfectly well that the baseline was 1990 and that, at that time, England had a whole host of coal-fired stations whereas Scotland did not. It is therefore not a surprise that England has achieved a greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than Scotland has. I find it disappointing that a party that seeks to make a serious contribution to the environmental debate—which I acknowledge—should continue to peddle a statistic that is not well founded. With regard to my leader's views on Mr Blair, those are obviously the opinions of my leader.