Climate Change

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:15 pm, 21st June 2007

The next item of business is a statement by John Swinney on climate change. As the minister will take questions at the end of his statement, there should be no interventions.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 2:57 pm, 21st June 2007

Unchecked climate change is one of the most serious threats that we face. It is not simply an environmental challenge; it threatens people, our economies, our societies and, indeed, our very existence. The challenge transcends all traditional boundaries. Climate change is a truly global issue, and it can be tackled only if all of us in Parliament, in Scotland, in the United Kingdom and around the world work together.

We recognise that every country has a responsibility to take action to cut emissions and that different actions will be appropriate for different countries. We must therefore make our contribution to the international effort by taking the action that is required for Scotland.

Climate change is not just a threat for the future—Scotland is already feeling its effects in, for example, increased frequency and intensity of rainfall. This Government wants Scotland to show leadership in tackling climate change; indeed, we pledged in our manifesto to introduce ambitious legislation to tackle the problem, and other parties made similar commitments. It is now the time for action.

Today, I am pleased to announce the Government's intention to introduce a Scottish climate change bill, which will set mandatory targets for emissions reductions; include monitoring arrangements to ensure that we are on course to meet those targets; and set out mechanisms to ensure that we achieve and are accountable for our long-term goals. We will also use the opportunity that will provided by the bill to introduce other compatible legislative measures.

Our planned bill will set a mandatory long-term target of an 80 per cent reduction in our emissions by 2050, which is equivalent to an emissions reduction of 3 per cent each year. To ensure sustained progress towards this goal, we will consult on proposals in the bill to introduce targets based on average annual reductions over a five-year period. That means that each year we will be held to account on the trend of emissions reductions.

Scottish Ministers must be accountable for their actions. We intend future legislation to set out mandatory requirements for reporting to Parliament on performance in achieving the targets. There should be a vigorous parliamentary process that fully involves the committees and the Parliament in assessing the Government's performance in tackling this issue.

The Government will propose that the bill include a statutory and mandatory process of parliamentary accountability for ministers if emissions reduction targets are not met. The Government sees no value in creating a structure of penalty fines to be paid in the event of such failure, but feels that an effective and demanding process of parliamentary scrutiny will provide the most effective way of focusing minds on delivery. A key aspect of that would be a requirement for ministers to identify the compensating action to be taken to remedy any failures to perform.

New policies will be needed to meet the 2050 target and to move us along the trajectory towards it. The legislation will therefore need to introduce new powers to deliver such policies in the future through secondary legislation.

We recognise that we will need independent expert advice to inform the targets and the climate change policies. At this stage, there are two options for obtaining expert advice: we could either establish a Scottish committee of climate change experts to fulfil the role, or we could obtain the services of the United Kingdom climate change committee that UK ministers intend to establish. Over the coming months, we will consult on how best to meet Scotland's needs for that expert advice and we will reflect the outcome of that consultation in our bill. In addition to including measures that will bring about a reduction in emissions, we also intend our legislation to include measures to help us adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Earlier in my statement I made it clear that we are already wrestling with a number of consequences of climate change. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, who is working closely with me on the matter but who is unable to be here today due to his presence at the Royal Highland show, has had to wrestle with the problem of significant flooding in his Moray constituency, as I have had to do in my North Tayside constituency. Increased risk of flooding is one of the ways in which climate change will manifest itself in Scotland, but the legislation that deals with flood alleviation is inadequate and needs to be updated. I am therefore pleased to announce that flood-risk management will also be consulted on, with a view to legislation. The Government will take forward the consultation exercises together, but we reserve our position to legislate separately if legislative proposals on either climate change or flood alleviation can be considered more swiftly.

I emphasise that our bill will not just be about regulation and reductions. We will propose a framework in which Scottish industries can invest with certainty in world-beating low-carbon technologies. That is why we want Scotland to become a global leader in developing solutions to the challenge of climate change. It is why we want Scotland to become the pre-eminent location for clean energy research and development in Europe and why we want Scotland to become the green energy capital of Europe. The bill could provide huge opportunities for our economy by providing business with the certainty that it needs for investment decisions.

Our plans for a Scottish climate change bill are ambitious and we accept that meeting the ambitious targets is a huge challenge. We are under no illusions about the level, breadth and depth of action that is required, which is why in moving forward we need to build a broad parliamentary and national consensus so that we can realise our ambitions and capitalise on our opportunities.

We intend to have a full and open consultation on the bill in Parliament and beyond. The targets will set the framework for policy long after most of us have left Parliament. We must make the right choices—we believe that such choices are best made through discussion and engagement to deliver consensus.

We have started that process by working to establish consensus across every political party. The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, has already met spokespeople from the other parties in Parliament. We are encouraged by the recognition of, and commitment to, tackling climate change that we have heard during those discussions. I hope that other members will similarly be able to offer their support to the principles of our planned bill. I say "principles" because the bill must be a product of all our contributions to the debate. We do not have all the answers about how to meet the targets, so we welcome good ideas from all sources.

I know that my announcement today has been eagerly awaited by many people. I must, however, caution people that it will take some time to take the process forward: this is a long-term effort. We must build consensus in support of our proposals and we must carry out the detailed consultation that is required for formulation of our proposed bill. It is not possible to give a date for the introduction of the bill in advance of those processes—we might not be able to introduce the bill to Parliament until late 2008. Having studied the detailed processes that are required, I assure Parliament that that timetable looks the most realistic. However, I also assure Parliament that the Government will do everything it can to accelerate the timetable.

I mentioned earlier that the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change has had initial discussions with spokespeople from other parties. We will begin informal talks with other stakeholders over the coming weeks and we will begin formal consultation at the earliest opportunity. I assure Parliament that we will not wait to take action until the introduction of the bill. We acknowledge the previous Administration's good work in tackling climate change, in particular in committing Scotland to go beyond its equitable share of the UK's emissions reduction targets. Our intention is to build on that work and to go further, as is amply demonstrated by our commitment to the 80 per cent emissions reduction target.

As part of our approach, we intend to work constructively as part of the UK effort. David Miliband and I recognise that we need to work together on the challenges that are faced by the UK and the wider international community. On Monday, Stewart Stevenson and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment met David Miliband, other ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and representatives of the other devolved Administrations in a constructive and helpful meeting. DEFRA ministers are keen to hear Scottish ministers' views and to ensure that there are appropriate links between the UK and Scottish bills. We intend to work with DEFRA and our colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland to contribute to the UK emissions reduction target.

We have indicated that we want to explore how Scotland should engage with the UK draft climate change bill; how best to access the expertise and knowledge that is necessary for decision making in Scotland; how to ensure that Scotland can take full and effective action on climate change; and how to ensure that reporting mechanisms are aligned and sensible. We want to continue to build on the constructive dialogue that has taken place, to ensure that we all understand how best to help one another to help the climate.

We want our efforts to inspire others. We want to send to the rest of the world a signal of the importance that Scotland places on tackling climate change. We want to show that a prosperous and low-carbon economy is possible. We acknowledge that reducing Scotland's emissions by 80 per cent will of itself make no difference to the global environment unless similar reductions in global emissions are realised. However, by taking a lead, Scotland can demonstrate to others what can be achieved.

I believe that all members understand and recognise the need for action. I acknowledge that we might differ in our views about the detail, but it is right that we air and share those differences and I hope that we can agree on a basis for consensus to deliver our contribution to tackling a major global problem.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The minister will take statements—[ Laughter. ] Sorry. The minister will take questions on the issues that have been raised in his statement. I will allow about 30 minutes for questions, after which we will move to the next item of business. It would be helpful if members asked questions without long preambles.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

I thank John Swinney for the advance copy of his statement.

Labour believes that there is a scientific consensus that the planet is getting warmer and that that poses serious dangers. We know that we must take action early and then reverse the rise in emissions. If we do not, we face potential catastrophe. That is why the previous Scottish Executive published "Changing Our Ways: Scotland's Climate Change Programme" in 2006, which reflected an ambitious, groundbreaking approach and set out for the first time the Scottish share of carbon savings. John Swinney acknowledged that work.

I welcome the cabinet secretary's statement and the fact that the Executive is working on a climate change bill. There is a general consensus about the need for legislation, which was a key plank of Labour's manifesto. Of course, the Labour Government in Westminster has published its draft climate change bill.

John Swinney talked about consensus. Will he confirm that, as part of his consensual approach, he has ditched the Scottish National Party's policy on mandatory 3 per cent annual carbon reductions? If he has, I will be satisfied that the SNP has performed yet another policy U-turn—any more U-turns and SNP ministers will have to be fitted with wing mirrors. Yet again, SNP manifesto commitments have crumbled in the face of scrutiny. Of course, SNP ministers have read the Labour manifesto and listened to Jonathan Porritt, who earlier this year described one-year targets as just "macho breast beating". The Executive now appears to be embracing five-year carbon budgeting.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that businesses in Scotland require certainty in making long-term investment decisions and that three five-year carbon budgets would be better for business than one five-year budget? Will he consult businesses to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in comparison with their English counterparts?

Mr Swinney clearly acknowledges that actions to tackle climate change will have to be taken right across Government. Is he aware that agriculture and land use will play a vital role in tackling climate change? Does he agree with me and environmental non-governmental organisations that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, in his announcement on the Scottish rural development programme, failed to fund agri-environment programmes adequately, thus putting the Executive's climate change objectives at risk?

Does Mr Swinney believe that the need to reduce carbon emissions plays any part in making decisions on public transport projects? If so, he knows what my last question is.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Well—that was a rather curious end to the contribution.

I say first that I welcome the endorsement that Rhona Brankin has given our approach. I reiterate what I said earlier: we are obviously building on the work of the previous Administration, which I am happy to acknowledge.

In my statement, I said that the Government was committed to an 80 per cent reduction in our emissions by 2050. That target is equivalent to a reduction of 3 per cent each year. I could not have been clearer on the SNP Government's policy position.

Of course I am happy to consult the business community on this question; the debate will have to involve every sector of our society. If we did not involve every sector, we would have an unbalanced programme and would not be able to achieve anything like what is in the new Government's ambitious programme to intensify our efforts. The announcements that were made by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment on the rural development programme fit very comfortably into the programme that I have announced today and into the legislation. The cabinet secretary, Mr Russell and I are working extremely closely with Stewart Stevenson to pursue the Government's agenda.

On Ms Brankin's final point about carbon emissions, every sector of our economy will have to contribute, as I have said already. Transport is an enormous contributor to carbon emissions; to tackle that problem, we will have to take a sustained and effective approach.

It is perhaps sufficient to say that Parliament will have a debate next Wednesday on the issue that Rhona Brankin wanted to ask me about at the end but, curiously, did not. However, this Government is absolutely determined to improve the use and range of public transport in Scotland. Our programme will fulfil that objective.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement and I welcome its contents.

The climate change bill in Scotland will have to be different from the bill in the south; Conservatives accept the need for a separate Scottish bill. However, I am concerned when I hear the cabinet secretary talk about the targets that the Scottish bill will contain. Although I fully accept that Scotland operates from different baselines and has different levels of potential to achieve results, it is essential that Scotland's businesses and local authorities are not placed under a disproportionate burden. Will the cabinet secretary be flexible in setting targets to ensure that Scotland's businesses and local authorities are not put under a disproportionate burden simply in an effort to make Scotland stand out as the world leader in dealing with the problems? We need a level playing field.

Where Scotland's potential to achieve results is greater than that of the rest of the UK, will the cabinet secretary undertake to work within a UK-wide structure to ensure that compensatory fiscal mechanisms are put in place? If Scotland outperforms the rest of the UK, it must not do so simply to make a rod for its own back.

Will the cabinet secretary accept that my questions, and others that will be asked during this question-and-answer session, clearly highlight the point that, although it will be necessary for Scotland to have a separate bill, there will be more need with this bill than with virtually any other piece of legislation to ensure that Scotland's legislation dovetails neatly with UK legislation?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

On setting flexible targets for businesses and local authorities, I refer Mr Johnstone to my answer to Rhona Brankin. It is important that every element of our society play a part in the process that the Government is initiating. Of course the burden should not be disproportionate, but everybody must play their part in assisting the Government to achieve its objectives.

I will highlight one example of a measure that the business community is taking: the proposal that Scottish Power and Iberdrola are advancing at Longannet, which will have an enormous impact on the reduction of carbon emissions in Scotland if it proves to be successful. Business can make an enormous contribution to achieving the agenda in a fashion that also contributes to the Government's wider economic objectives.

Mr Johnstone's second question was whether, if Scotland outperforms the rest of the United Kingdom, it should attract compensatory fiscal measures. If he will forgive me for saying so, that sounds like an argument for the Scottish Parliament's being given greater fiscal responsibility. He knows that I am keen on that idea, but it is obviously a reserved issue, although I would be very happy to entertain discussions with the United Kingdom ministers on that point if we can construct them.

I made it clear in the statement that we cannot isolate ourselves from climate change: it is a global issue that affects all our societies and communities, so it is important that we not only play a part in the arrangements that obtain within the United Kingdom, but that we co-operate with other European Union member states in achieving wider objectives on reductions in carbon emissions.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I, too, thank Mr Swinney for an advance copy of his statement. Does he accept that two of the most important reports that have been produced on climate change were the Stern report and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Has his Government's initial thinking on climate change been influenced by those reports—in particular, by the economic analysis in the Stern report?

As a member who represents an agricultural constituency—as I do—John Swinney will be aware that the NFU Scotland has launched a campaign entitled "What's on your plate?" This is the first day of the Royal Highland show at Ingliston. Is Mr Swinney minister aware that—according to the food campaign group Sustain: The alliance for better food & farming—choosing seasonal products and purchasing them locally could reduce to 376 miles the total distance that a traditional meal travels from farm to fork? That is 66 times fewer food miles than supermarket food, whose ingredients could have travelled more than 24,000 miles cumulatively. Does Mr Swinney agree that tackling that problem would be an important element to the climate change bill and strategy? Will he say how he plans to tackle it through his department or that of his colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment? What specific measures will he take on public procurement—not only on food but in other areas of procurement—that will assist in reducing emissions?

Mr Swinney made a point about ensuring that he works with the UK Government and wider European interests. Will he undertake to ensure that aviation is included in the European carbon emissions trading scheme? That must be an essential component of future work on climate change.

Will he clarify his point about targets for the average annual reductions being based on a five-year period? Does it mean that Parliament would not see progress on reductions until the next parliamentary session? Will he undertake to consider whether it should be a four-year period so that a Government of whatever persuasion could be held to account within the parliamentary session for which it is responsible?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Yes—the Government's thinking has been influenced by the Stern report and the IPCC report to which Mr Scott referred.

Tavish Scott made an unanswerable point on food miles. There are many excellent ventures throughout the country—I see them in my constituency and I know that they must exist in his—in which local food producers go to tremendous lengths to ensure that quality food is available.

Local food is the subject of tonight's member's business debate, on a motion in Jim Hume's name. I wish him well for what I am sure will be an interesting discussion on that subject. It is also a timely debate, given that the Royal Highland show is taking place and given the excellent produce that is available there.

The Government is carefully considering public procurement. We are all amazed at the difficulties that have been encountered in trying to align public procurement with the sensible point that Mr Scott made on food miles. That is one example. The Government will endeavour to take specific steps to assist the process. We are supportive of the inclusion of aviation in the European Union carbon emissions trading regime, and we have already communicated that view to the United Kingdom Government.

I want to be clear with Parliament in respect of targets. We will report to Parliament annually; it is on that basis that we will monitor the five-year trend period of emissions reductions. Those issues are not a matter for me to dictate; rather, they are for Parliament, in determining its own procedures and how it wishes to hold ministers to account. The Government's view is that there must be a robust process of parliamentary scrutiny of ministers on how they are performing against the targets. Ministers must be held accountable against the targets, and the Government will support Parliament in how decisions are made.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I thank the minister for the advance copy of the statement although, as he will be aware, it will spark disappointment in some quarters, partly in relation to the lack of a commitment to annual targets. As the previous questioner made clear, it is never acceptable for only the next Government to be made accountable for the success or failure of today's policies. I reassure Rhona Brankin that "macho breast beating" is simply not my style.

There is also some disappointment regarding the timescale. In other areas, ministers have committed to early action to reduce emissions each year. Will the cabinet secretary commit to make good on that commitment, even if it has to be done before any legislation is in force? Will he commit to ensuring that his Government reports this year, next year and every year—even before the legislation is passed—so that we can see what progress is being made by virtue of the carbon emissions policies that the minister is pursuing today and tomorrow?

Will the minister restate the explicit endorsement, which I was pleased to note the First Minister made, of contraction and convergence as the model from which targets must be derived? It is the only game in town. Will the consultation be open to the case for an explicit commitment to contraction and convergence in the forthcoming bill?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I explained in my response to Mr Tavish Scott about the strategic target of 80 per cent being converted into annual targets. We will report annually and we will consider the trend over the five-year period. We obviously have to start somewhere, and it will be for the Administration to contribute to tackling carbon emissions from now on. We have an obligation to tackle the problems. It is not a statutory obligation—it is a moral obligation, so we have to get on and take the appropriate steps. As I said in my statement, we will take whatever steps we can to make progress.

On the timetable to produce legislation, we are taking early action in the sense that I am here today making this statement on behalf of the Cabinet. These issues have been agreed by Cabinet and we are taking the process forward. I have a draft timetable, which takes into account some of the statutory processes that the Government must go through at the various stages. I am advised that we require to develop a strategic environmental assessment before we can even introduce the bill—it is estimated that it will take up to six months to do that. There is no lack of willingness. I assure Parliament that I would love to introduce the bill tomorrow, but before we can, we have statutory requirements to carry out a strategic environmental assessment, a regulatory impact assessment and a variety of other things. I hope that members do not think that, in following existing provisions and the timetable that I have mentioned, the Government is doing anything other than taking the swiftest action it can take. After all, here we are before the summer recess, setting out to Parliament our intention to legislate.

The consultation will of course be open to contraction and convergence and other questions—the Government will carefully examine the evidence. I hope that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, of which Patrick Harvie is convener, will decide to be active in the consultation and assessment that the Government is sparking today.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Before I call Roseanna Cunningham, I should say that a considerable number of backbenchers would like to be called and I have a little leeway for spokespersons. Accordingly, from now on, I would like us to have questions.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary referred to flood management. Will he publish the public consultation on the definition of sustainable flood management, which, I believe, is still awaited? Does he agree that the problems that are already being experienced in many parts of Scotland, including my constituency, are a manifestation of climate change? Does he also agree that there is a need to move away from short-term, reactive defensive measures, such as the controversial Milnathort scheme, and toward longer-term, more sustainable measures? If so, does he agree that the grant funding arrangements that favour the former rather than the latter must be revisited in any future developments?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I assure Roseanna Cunningham that Mr Russell will attend to the publication of the consultation on sustainable flood management. We expect to publish it in due course.

On the general approach to flood alleviation, some important work has been undertaken by organisations such as WWF Scotland—some of which was taken forward by the previous Administration—that demonstrates that some of the longer-term, softer measures to which Roseanna Cunningham referred can make a great impact on flood alleviation. The Government is sympathetic to that view, but we have to legislate on flooding because the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961, which governs these issues, is an inhibitor to our taking the route that Roseanna Cunningham would like us to take. That will be the focus of part of the legislative process.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I draw members' attention to my entry in the register of members' interests.

I welcome the overall thrust of the minister's statement. I recognise much of it from my party's manifesto, so I can see that he is taking a cross-party approach. I particularly welcome his commitment to introduce flooding legislation, which is urgent, and his offer to listen to ideas to help the Executive meet its carbon emissions reduction targets. Is the cabinet secretary aware that housing accounts for 17.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year and that 80 per cent of the housing that will be standing in 2050 has already been built? Will he, therefore, agree to support legislation to provide fiscal incentives, which are entirely within his legislative competence, for householders and small businesses to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and to incorporate microgeneration technologies? The Energy Saving Trust highlights the fact that we could make significant reductions in our carbon emissions in that way and that, if we need to move quickly in relation to deep carbon emissions, that is a good place to start.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I thank Sarah Boyack for her question and put on record my acknowledgment of the amount of work she has done on this issue, over many years and in many different capacities.

Sarah Boyack makes an utterly compelling argument, particularly in relation to energy efficiency but also in relation to microgeneration. The scale of untapped potential to reduce carbon emissions by energy-efficiency measures is enormous. That is one of the areas in which we could make urgent and early progress by motivating householders to improve their properties. From visiting various energy-efficiency fairs around the country, I know that a lot of good work is being done by organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust and SCARF, which provides advice to householders. Awareness raising will be a priority for the Government.

Sarah Boyack is right: the existing housing stock is an issue. We will introduce new housing standards to coincide with the ambitions and objectives of the legislation, to ensure that we tackle the challenges cohesively.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Does the minister support Richard Lochhead's position on wind farms, which is that all future industrial-scale projects should be based offshore, or the First Minister's view, which is that there should be a cap on future onshore wind farm development? Can he explain how either of those approaches to wind farms helps in the battle against climate change?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government is supportive of a variety of forms of renewable energy. We have supported a number of onshore wind farms, and we supported the work that was done predominantly by the former Deputy First Minister on wave generation. It was welcome. I have been an advocate—possibly even a bore—on the subject of wood-fuel heating systems. We will take forward a variety of measures as part of a balanced renewables strategy.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government has politically supported a number of onshore wind farms. On individual applications, the Government will exercise its responsibilities under planning legislation, as members would expect.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative

I particularly welcome the Government's indication that it is willing to work constructively across the UK to tackle climate change, and I look forward to seeing it work with a Conservative Government after the next Westminster election.

I have one specific concern about the loss of energy because of our building stock in Scotland. Following on from Sarah Boyack's question, do I understand correctly that the Government has plans to incorporate requirements for energy efficiency into building regulations? If so, how will it ensure they are enforced? Will the cabinet secretary commit, as the Minister for Environment did in response to a recent question from me, to consider our eco-bonus scheme to give financial help to householders who wish to install modern energy-saving and energy-creating technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The building standards that I referred to in my answer to Sarah Boyack will incorporate measures to ensure that newly constructed properties achieve higher standards. Nanette Milne asked how we will ensure compliance. They will be building standards with which any developer must comply, and local authorities must judge that under the statutory process.

Nanette Milne's second question was about improving energy efficiency in existing properties and the Conservatives' eco-bonus scheme. We are willing to consider new ideas, although we have not looked at the eco-bonus scheme so far. There is an awful lot that individual householders can do, at not particularly significant capital cost, to improve matters. My experience is that the capital payback through householders' bills is often quick because of the amount of energy that can be saved. Several excellent schemes are already in place; they are promoted by organisations such as SCARF and involve the power companies. The Government will seek ways to ensure greater awareness and uptake of such measures.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

In the context of the proposed Scottish climate change bill and a framework within which Scottish industry can invest with certainty in world-beating low-carbon technologies, and to reach the ambitious targets that are being proposed in the bill, will the cabinet secretary seek more levers of power from Westminster if they are needed to achieve the commercial clean energy production and distribution that is currently inhibited by rules from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government is obviously keen for the Parliament to acquire more powers to be more influential in a variety of policy areas, and climate change would be one good example. We are optimistic that we can have constructive discussions with the UK Government on a number of issues to ensure that we can properly deploy power and responsibility in the Parliament in an effective fashion that supports the legislative priorities that I have set out today.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

The science on climate change suggests strongly that long-term targets may be entirely irrelevant unless we take immediate action. The minister spoke about the early action that he intends to take, which is really about the process of getting the bill in place. Will he comment on how the climate change objectives will inform his choices as a finance minister during the next three-year spending review period? How will the objectives be fitted in with outcome targets? How will we identify not just individual good ideas, such as those on microgeneration and energy efficiency to which Sarah Boyack referred, but initiatives across the spectrum of departments? How can we make the process of tackling climate change central to departmental objectives?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I have set out some early measures that can be taken, such as energy efficiency in the home and larger schemes such as that at Longannet power station and the Peterhead carbon capture project, which is dear to the heart of the First Minister. A number of issues can be taken forward, and the Government will make early progress on specific action. I emphasise that we are not just putting the issue away for a couple of years until we get the legislation sorted out—there will be early action to tackle it.

Des McNulty asked how our objectives fit with the budget priorities. The Government has five strategic objectives that have been set out in various parliamentary debates, the last of which will be held next Thursday, on creating a healthier Scotland. Those objectives will guide the Government in the formulation of its budget. We will aim to ensure an effective approach to the definition of cross-cutting expenditure on those major themes. That is an issue that perhaps absorbed too much of Mr McNulty's time during his long service on the Finance Committee, but it is one that the Government has to tackle, and the spending review gives us the opportunity to do it. I look forward to discussing that further with Parliament next week.

Photo of Stefan Tymkewycz Stefan Tymkewycz Scottish National Party

I welcome the emissions reduction targets set by the cabinet secretary and the Government's commitment to tackle climate change. Does he agree that long-term investment in the use of zero-emission, hydrogen-fuelled buses has the potential to reduce carbon emissions and produce an eco-friendly, flexible and sustainable means of tackling urban transport issues throughout the country? Does he further agree that hydrogen-fuelled buses would be more convenient for passengers as they would cover a larger network of routes than would some alternative systems being considered here in Edinburgh?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr Tymkewycz tempts me on to ground that I suspect I will spend most of the next week on, and makes a substantial point about hydrogen-fuelled buses. There is a compelling set of arguments in their favour. Some are being operated already. The Peterhead plant has the potential to support that area of technology, which is one to which the Government would give sympathetic consideration.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Like others, I very much welcome the spirit of what John Swinney has said and the progress indicated by the forthcoming bill. How the world community tackles climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest questions that it must address. Mr Swinney talked about mechanisms that might be used to assist the delivery of change. Will he consider, as part of the bill, requiring local authorities, and every other public body in Scotland, to set up a climate change committee—a carbon reduction committee if you like—to plan and initiate action in their organisations, and to monitor progress over time? In the short term, before legislation might require it, will he encourage local authorities and other public bodies to establish such mechanisms in their organisations?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I reinforce a point that I made this morning in response to Mr Gordon in the debate on the council tax. This Government will be less prescriptive to local authorities about how they should go about their business. Nevertheless, all public authorities have an important role to play in realising the ambitions the Government has set out. I encourage local authorities and other public authorities to do everything in their power to support the Government's objectives in respect of climate change. The statement was about statutory, mandatory targets, but the absence of a mandatory target now does not mean that we should not be taking action. The previous Government took action without statutory targets, we will take action without statutory targets, and I encourage others to do so too.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the minister agree that co-operation with the United Kingdom Government on measures to tackle climate change is almost a template for the way in which a southern Parliament would co-operate sensibly with any Government in London on obviously pan-national matters? If he agrees with that proposition, does he also agree that it would be sensible to include the Republic of Ireland? It would be daft to have carbon emissions trading with Belfast but not with Dublin.

Will the cabinet secretary incorporate energy efficiency standards in public buildings? If so, I presume he will start with the directive that should have been in effect for the Parliament building from 6 January last year.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I have already been tempted on to dangerous territory this afternoon but, my goodness, the territory in the latter part of Margo MacDonald's question is perilous. If she will forgive me, I will leave the energy management of the Parliament building to the wise members of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, who are responsible.

I said in my statement that we have a positive dialogue with the UK Government on the issues that the bill will cover. As I said to Mr Johnstone, it is important that we also have constructive discussions on a wider platform, with the Government of Ireland and other European Union partners.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I note the cabinet secretary's commitment to take immediate action to combat climate change, before the bill is published. The SNP manifesto contained a specific commitment in that regard. It stated that, in the first budget, plans would be announced to quadruple financial support for family and community microgeneration schemes. Is the cabinet secretary still committed to that proposal? If so, from which part of the budget will money be removed to fund the scheme?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As Mr Kelly knows, ministers will consider the Government's forthcoming budget during the summer, as part of wide consultation on our priorities. Of course the proposals in our manifesto will be uppermost in our minds—so that they can be incorporated into the decisions that the Government makes on the budget.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

That ends questions to the cabinet secretary. I allowed a little extra time so that I could get everyone in. Timing therefore needs to be tight in the next debate.