Climate Change

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:33 pm on 28 May 2008.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:33, 28 May 2008

The next item of business is a debate on climate change. I should say to all members that time is very tight this afternoon.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 3:19, 28 May 2008

The Scottish Government is ensuring that action on climate change becomes part and parcel of the way Government and the wider public sector behaves. Our Government economic strategy provides the route map to improve Scotland's growth, productivity, population and participation, and to deliver on the desired characteristics of growth: solidarity, cohesion and sustainability.

Significantly, our strategy is the first of its kind with measurable, time-bound targets, including targets that combine raising the gross domestic product growth rate to the United Kingdom level by 2011 with reduced emissions. The actions that we are taking now are setting the course for our long-term ambition to reduce the level of emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, against a background of growing global emissions. Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii reported earlier this month that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were the highest that they have been for two thirds of a million years.

Scotland's emissions have fallen since 1990, but the volatile nature of emissions means that Scottish emissions data for 2006—to be published in the autumn—are expected to show an increase in Scottish emissions between 2005 and 2006, due to increases in carbon dioxide emissions from Scottish sites in the European Union emissions trading scheme, principally power stations.

Central to our climate change commitments are proposals to set a statutory target for Scotland to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and to develop mechanisms to ensure that sustained progress is made. To give effect to that target, the Scottish Government issued a consultation on proposals for a Scottish climate change bill. The consultation period closed on 23 April 2008, and more than 21,000 responses were received. A report of the analysis of the responses will be published in the summer. We will consider the analysis carefully and publish a response in the autumn. We plan to introduce the bill before the end of the year.

The submissions that we have received from across the public and private sectors, as well as from individuals, are extremely important in helping us to develop the right climate change legislation for Scotland. We need to set challenging targets, but they will be credible only if they are achievable. Our consultation paper flagged up some particularly tricky issues where the way ahead was not clear cut. For example, we have to decide whether our 80 per cent target should cover all greenhouse gases—namely methane, nitrous oxide and the fluorine-based gases—as well as carbon dioxide. We need to be sure that including the non-CO2 gases will not end up requiring disproportionately large additional cuts of carbon dioxide, or reductions of the other gases that are not cost-effective or have negative environmental or social impacts.

Similarly, we have to come to a view on whether the target should apply to the so-called traded sector—including those industries within the scope of the EU emissions trading scheme, which currently account for almost 50 per cent of Scotland's emissions—and the non-traded sector. We need to consider the consequences of such a decision, taking account of proposed and possible changes to the EU scheme. Thinking through the implications is not easy. We would welcome further views from members on those and other issues associated with our consideration of a Scottish climate change bill.

The issues that I have highlighted are not unique to Scotland and we recognise the importance of working with our United Kingdom partners and with the EU on this agenda. We will be part of the UK Climate Change Bill, which will set a statutory target for the UK as a whole to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and possibly emissions of other greenhouse gases, by at least 60 per cent by 2050.

A new set of policies and delivery mechanisms will be required to deliver the ambitious target in the Scottish climate change bill. Central to that will be a system of cross-compliance, to ensure that spending decisions across Government take account of the carbon impact of policy options. Guidance is being developed that will create incentives to seek out low carbon options or different ways of delivering outcomes. In addition, a number of areas of work are under way that will help to inform policy developments in support of our ambitious target.

A consultation analysis on the draft energy efficiency and microgeneration strategy is due to be published in the next few weeks. At the same time, we will publish our response to the issues raised during the consultation and set out our next steps.

We need to do more on developing renewable heat in Scotland. We will set out our proposals this year in a consultation on a renewable energy action plan.

I previously appointed a panel to advise on the development of a low carbon building standards strategy to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Its report was published last year and the recommendations are informing future policy development.

While the targets in the climate change bills may be long term, the actions to achieve them are required now. In line with the commitment of the previous Administration and our proposals to introduce a statutory reporting requirement in a Scottish climate change bill, we laid before the Parliament an annual report on progress on climate change last week. That shows how we are supporting the increased level of effort required within and outwith Government to act on climate change, including resources for a range of sustainable development and climate change initiatives.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am pleased that the minister mentioned the second annual report. In neither the transport section of the report nor the preamble is there a single mention of aviation. How is one to take that seriously?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The member will know that we are supporting the UK Government's efforts to have aviation and, indeed, maritime transport included in emissions trading across Europe. During my visit to Brussels yesterday, I raised that specific issue with the directors general of environment and of energy and transport. The Government is on the case.

Emerging technologies will be pivotal in helping us to move forward. We have seen wave energy take a step forward in Orkney and we are leading the way in the world with the £10 million saltire prize to stimulate innovation in marine energy.

We have tripled funding for community and microgeneration and we are making £15 million available for sustainable travel communities over the next three years. To ensure that the public sector is setting a programme of continuous improvement, we recently announced the launch of a high-level group to provide leadership to the wider public sector on environmental performance.

Adaptation is an equally important part of the agenda. Urgent action is required to reduce Scotland's vulnerability to the impacts that are already seen in our changing climate. Over the next 30 to 40 years, there will be unavoidable impacts determined by past and present emissions. We need to take action now.

We have consulted on the future of flood risk management in Scotland with a view to introducing a draft bill this year. We are jointly sponsoring the marine climate change impacts partnership, which is playing a vital role in helping us to understand what we need to do to tackle the problem of climate change in the marine environment.

To help and encourage businesses and organisations, including local authorities, in the development of their own adaptation response, the Scottish Government has had a significant role in the establishment of the Scottish climate change impacts partnership.

Transport Scotland has identified a range of actions that it will implement to improve the resilience of the Scottish trunk road network to any long-term changes in climatic conditions. Several actions have already been progressed, including changes to drainage design parameters, construction contractual terms and trunk road inspection procedures.

We are also working closely with other UK Administrations to ensure the sharing of best practice and cross-border co-operation, particularly in areas such as research. That will include our involvement in the national risk assessment to be required under the UK Climate Change Bill.

Building on that activity, we will shortly consult on Scotland's climate change adaptation framework, which will identify strategic principles and priority actions as a means of providing leadership, guidance and consistency of approach to Government and non-Government decision makers.

Ultimately, addressing the urgent social, economic and environmental challenge of climate change will be successful only if every one of us accepts responsibility and acts sustainably. The Scottish Government is confident that government, business and all the people of Scotland are ready to rise to that challenge. We intend to work with them to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour 3:30, 28 May 2008

The debate is significant. The climate change bill might become the most important legislation that the Parliament passes in the next three years, so I welcome the opportunity to debate climate change. I was delighted to hear the minister say that 21,000 people responded to the consultation—they include the children of the island of Eigg in my area of the Highlands and Islands.

I make no apologies for stressing the international context of climate change—to be fair, the minister did that, too. Greenhouse gases are no respecters of boundaries and no invisible barrier exists at the Channel or Hadrian's wall. A terrible injustice is that the rich, developed north has created the bulk of the emissions while the poor, developing south is experiencing severe climatic events, such as those in Burma and in China. Oxfam is respected throughout the globe for its development expertise. It talks about climate change affecting poor people who rely on crops that require rainfall that is no longer predictable, whether in the Philippines or Zambia, while the residents of Bangladesh struggle to cope with the effects of severe flooding.

As Al Gore argued in his excellent film "An Inconvenient Truth", the peer-reviewed scientific community are united on the problem and the solution. We all know—the minister touched on the issue—that it is crucial to keep the average rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels to try to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change. We all know what those impacts are: severe summer droughts, damaging winter floods, the loss of our coastal communities and crippling economic damage. As we heard from the minister, the solution is that greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by between 50 and 85 per cent by 2050, but current scientific opinion emphasises the top of that scale.

As the introduction to the Scottish Government's second annual report on climate change says, the Bali summit set out a new road map to reach a new deal on international climate change—a sort of son of the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. Our debate also takes place in the context of the UK Climate Change Bill, which will make the UK the first country to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

Labour welcomes many of the practical suggestions in the second annual report—particularly on the key emission hot spots of transport and energy. We know from the Stern report, which describes the economic effects of climate change as the great depression meeting world war one, that early quick wins are effective, neat and important to achieving the correct trajectory to meet the target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. It will be crucial to keep on target year on year in the Scottish bill's infancy. If that does not happen, there will be a mountain to climb by 2020, never mind 2050.

As Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has said, the melting of summer sea ice in the Arctic has significantly accelerated. The 2007 melt was 23 per cent greater than that in 2005 and scientists predict that the Arctic might be free of all summer ice by 2030, which is 100 years ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's projection.

Closer to home, as the minister hinted, Scotland's emissions have risen by 8 per cent since 2005-06. That is mostly a result of changes in the fuel mix of Scottish electricity generation. We already need to start short-term course adjustments. The Scottish Government must take action now to meet the climate change targets, so I was disappointed that neither the second annual report nor the minister mentioned establishing a statutory, binding carbon-reduction target of at least 3 per cent per annum. Just in case the minister has misplaced it, I have the Scottish National Party's 2007 manifesto, which says on page 29:

"In government we will introduce a Climate Change Bill with mandatory carbon reduction targets of 3% per annum".

I note that the minister's colleague Mike Russell is to reintroduce an extinct native species—the beaver—to Scotland, which he is right to do. I respectfully suggest to Mr Stevenson that he might want to reintroduce an extinct native clause from the SNP's manifesto to strengthen the proposed bill.

What should the bill aim to do? In simplistic terms, the Government should lead by example and set a framework to make it easier for people to make the right environmental choices. Doing that is not rocket science.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Are the member's colleagues at Westminster looking at mandatory carbon reduction targets of 3 per cent per annum?

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

I thought that the minister would raise that issue. We did not make such a commitment in our manifesto, of course, and there are much better yearly and interim targets.

Labour's proposed Scottish climate change bill would have delivered a council tax reduction for householders who recycled more and householders who had installed energy-efficient resources and microgeneration facilities. I commend Sarah Boyack's work on that. Will the minister undertake to consider including such a measure in the proposed bill?

In our ambition for Scotland we need to set the bar high, and we must see the Scottish climate change bill as the foundation of a truly low-carbon Scotland. Innovation, technology and skills brought about the industrial revolution; the same factors will lead to the environmental revolution in green-collar jobs, supported by legislation and policies to drive down emissions and avoid environmental decline. That is why we need a Scotland-wide rail electrification plan, not just a plan for the central belt. We need to plough investment into public transport, give people real modal-shift choices, reintroduce the rural transport fund, speed up rail services and aim for true integration, because buses do not always meet trains and ferries. I also stress the importance of getting freight from road to rail through the freight facilities grant. In that context, I commend the work that both the minister and Tesco have done. Tesco recently decided to take 22 lorries a day off the A9 and put products on to rail instead.

I appreciate that the minister has no power over the seasons that we experience in Scotland—although he might like to have—but could he attempt to bang together heads in the bus, rail and ferry companies so that people agree on when winter timetables stop and summer timetables start? That would result in true integration.

We have fantastic renewables potential in Scotland. With the support of emerging marine and tidal power technologies as well as proven wind power technologies, that potential will create jobs and reduce carbon emissions. Of course, the siting of developments must be environmentally sensitive and acceptable, but we need to speed up approvals across the continuum of renewables, such as for marine energy projects. A good example in that context is the tidal-flow project at Dounreay.

We also need the capacity to expand. I ask the minister when the Scottish Government will make a determination on the Beauly to Denny line and whether he shares my view that we need both west and east undersea cables to form a green line as part of the European supergrid.

On energy production, does he agree that carbon capture and storage represents a good bridge from the highly polluting natural resource of coal to a low-carbon energy source with security of supply? Security of supply is vital in energy sources.

The minister will be aware of the key importance of exporting technology to emerging nations. The very low emission project in China is an excellent example of collaboration between the Chinese Government, the United Kingdom Government and the private sector.

The second annual report made interesting references to the development of the carbon assessment tool and the Government's old single CO2 target. Perhaps the minister could explain and amplify in his winding-up speech where the extra 9,000 tonnes of CO2 that will be created by abolishing tolls on the Forth road bridge will be balanced by mitigation on the other side of the green carbon sheet.

I have a number of brief questions to ask in my remaining time. Will the bill include all greenhouse gases, as the minister hinted, rather than only CO2? Will it include aviation and shipping?

Statistics already exist for aviation emissions under the memo requirements of the Kyoto protocol. They can be disaggregated for Scotland.

Shipping uses very heavy oil. What advice has the minister given to Caledonian MacBrayne and NorthLink in that context? Friends of the Earth has said:

"Excluding aviation and shipping is a bit like introducing a drink driving ban that excludes whisky."

In conclusion, the clock is ticking—in the Presiding Officer's mind as well as mine. The icecaps are melting in Greenland, wildfires are raging in tropical forests and oceans are acidifying. Planet Earth cannot wait any longer for action on global warming to be taken. We need international direction and political will now.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 3:39, 28 May 2008

Some people think that subject debates of this nature are not very productive, but I welcome this debate being programmed for today, because we should have the opportunity to discuss the general issues surrounding climate change before the publication of the results of the consultation and of the bill later this year.

Many people might be surprised to discover that the Conservatives have become a party with genuine green credentials. The Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament have supported the measures that have been taken so far. However, as we move towards the publication of a bill, I take this important opportunity to restate in Parliament some of the things that I have stated privately to the minister and others.

The target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions of climate change gases was, in the eyes of many, ambitious; nevertheless, it may yet also be adopted by the Westminster Parliament. Some of us suspected that the reason for that higher target was political competitiveness, but it has been proved to us since that, in the system that we have, Scotland's potential to generate progress and the baseline from which it comes are different enough to justify separate Scottish legislation.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The member referred to our target of an 80 per cent cut compared to the UK's target of a 60 per cent cut. We are getting tremendous support from the UK for our target. The differences reflect the different opportunities that the individual nations of the United Kingdom have—for example, Wales will have difficulty in achieving a 60 per cent reduction. We have to do our best and we can do better.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Indeed. I accept the fact that the targets ought to be different in different countries, as that is appropriate. However, I remain worried that, in passing legislation in this Parliament, we may ultimately pass burdens on to our public bodies and private businesses that are greater than those to which organisations in other countries are subjected. For that reason, the Conservatives will seek to ensure that, whenever possible, our targets represent equal burdens on our businesses and public bodies to those that are placed on businesses and public bodies in Wales, Ireland and England.

When that is not possible, we will seek to ensure that mechanisms are in place to prevent our businesses and public bodies from suffering as a result of our higher, more ambitious targets. We will be interested in looking at trading mechanisms and the opportunity that exists to extend and develop them to ensure that opportunities are afforded to our public bodies and businesses, so that they are not subsequently disadvantaged.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I understand the point that Alex Johnstone makes about not wishing to see Scottish businesses or public bodies subjected to additional burdens or given higher hurdles to get over. At what level should the decision be made about the extent of the burdens or the height of the hurdles? Is it not the case that the Parliament should not just legislate for Scotland, but show leadership to the rest of the UK?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Indeed, we should show leadership, but it is important that we have a level playing field. For that reason, we must be responsible in setting targets.

I am willing to go down the route that others have taken in saying that, in considering the bill, we should consider how we can effectively set annual targets. Those targets should be achievable yet flexible in the Scottish context given the fact that weather changes can significantly change domestic energy consumption.

I would like the minister to clarify how he proposes to measure Scotland's output of climate change gases, as I do not think that that was clarified when he appeared before the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee. On that day, he appeared to say that he wanted to judge that output against what we produce in Scotland, but there are many who believe that the figure should relate to what we consume in Scotland.

As I have said many times before, I have concerns about the effects of our targets and ambitions on our economy. I worry that, if an industry in Scotland finds itself closed down as a result of economic pressures that have been placed on it in order to cut climate change emissions, that industry will simply be exported to China and we will have the problems of the climate change emissions associated with transporting products back to Scotland. If that happens, we will have exported not only our emissions, but a part of our economy with them.

The Conservatives support the principles behind the climate change bill and will engage seriously and conscientiously with the process that we are about to go into. However, we will not see Scotland's businesses disadvantaged when a little serious thinking might result in our being able to reap the benefits of the world's first genuinely green economy.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat 3:45, 28 May 2008

A little more than a year ago, we sat in the chamber and listened as the First Minister outlined his new Government's priorities. Among some of his more questionable policies, he devoted a good deal of time to talking about the environmental challenges that we face, the need for a Scottish climate change bill and the all-encompassing nature of action against climate change. I am sure that I can speak for members of all parties when I say that we welcomed those priorities.

However, a year has passed and every day it seems more and more as if the First Minister's words were just words and nothing more. Twelve months on, and we are yet to see the much-heralded climate change bill. The minister said that it will be introduced in late 2008. I hope that it does not slip any more than that.

While we are waiting, the Government could be taking action. With every week that passes more harmful emissions are produced. Although Scotland's impact is relatively minor in global terms, we have an opportunity to take the lead in tackling climate change and to set an example to the rest of the world. At the moment, that example is continued inaction.

During the past year, the Government could have introduced positive measures designed to reduce emissions, but we have seen no concrete action on energy use and sourcing, nothing on waste production and disposal, no new guidelines on estate management and no positive moves on sustainable travel and transportation.

We cannot accuse the Government of doing nothing since it has come to power; quite the contrary. As Mr Stevenson said, it has found time to ditch its manifesto commitment to binding targets for an annual carbon reduction of 3 per cent, which is deeply disappointing to the environmental community. It has committed to a huge increase in spending on roads at the same time as delivering budget cuts to public transport. It has cut funding for sustainable travel initiatives.

Organisations such as Sustrans are facing reductions to their budgets that will result in important projects that could play a vital role in promoting sustainable travel falling by the wayside.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

I can hear the minister saying, "Nonsense", but I have his answers to parliamentary questions that demonstrate what I am saying. We have also seen planning applications for wind farm developments set aside.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Will the member accept that the number of plans for wind farms that have been approved in the past 12 months is many times the number that were approved in the preceding 12 months?

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

What I accept is that the minister has turned down some major and significant applications that would have helped us to meet the targets.

For all its rhetoric, we have yet to see evidence that the Government has any substantive policies that will help us to meet the bill's targets. Indeed, just nine pages out of 85 in the consultation deal with supporting measures. Setting an emissions target is important, but taking action that will allow that target to be met is where the real work lies, and that work should have started already. The climate change bill must be robust enough to result in specific actions across government, industry, and organisations, and to encourage individuals.

While the SNP has dithered over its plans, the Liberal Democrats have taken the lead. In Opposition at Westminster, we set out comprehensive policies on climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as specific measures that will work towards our goal of making the United Kingdom carbon neutral by 2050. In the previous Administration at Holyrood, we led the way by investing more in renewable energy and support for energy efficiency measures than in any other part of Britain, and by ensuring that Scotland's first target on renewables generation was met three years ahead of schedule. Such strategies have seen the Liberal Democrats praised by environmental groups as the greenest of the main parties.

Given that the SNP's actions are falling so short, perhaps it is worth asking if it is getting the framework right. Unfortunately, the answer is again no. I welcome the fact that the Government has set an ambitious long-term target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. That was a positive move but, as so often seems to be the case, the SNP's commitment goes only so far. By going back on its pre-election pledge to introduce binding annual targets, it has demonstrated that it is willing to put political coverage ahead of achieving reductions.

It is not just the Liberal Democrats who see the necessity for annual targets. We have been listening to consultation responses and WWF Scotland says:

"The Climate Change Bill should include statutory targets of at least 3% per year. This is the absolute minimum annual reduction needed to ensure we do not emit more than our fair share of greenhouse gases."

Oxfam and Friends of the Earth Scotland agree with that view.

By rejecting its own policy of annual targets and instead opting for targets over five-year budget periods, the SNP has set not-in-my-term-of-office targets. Even with annual reporting, five-year budget targets will make it impossible to hold ministers to account for their actions or, indeed, their inaction.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrats want to increase ministerial accountability. We want not only binding annual targets but annual targets that are broken down by sector, so that each minister can be held to account for emissions from within his or her remit. However tempting it may be, we cannot hold the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change alone responsible for any shortcomings. We must recognise that the issue demands joined-up thinking across Government portfolios. It is also essential that we find a way of including aviation and shipping in the targets.

If the Government is willing to work with all parties and to listen to views that are raised in the consultation, Scotland's climate change bill may yet prove to be the world-leading example that we all desire, but I have my doubts.

Minister, I urge you to address what Friends of the Earth called the most critical shortcoming in your proposals. In the consultation, you note that a total target for cumulative emissions could be constructed and

"would give greater certainty about the level of Scotland's contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change than a single point percentage reduction target."

However, in the very next paragraph, you state that, as

"a cumulative emissions target will be more challenging and more costly to meet ... the Scottish Government proposes to adopt a point target for 2050".

Minister, I find that attitude deeply troubling.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I remind members that their remarks should be addressed to the chair. We move to the open debate.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 3:51, 28 May 2008

In the current state of play of the climate change debate, there is a whole section of the debate on which we need to take the public with us. There is a huge paradox in people's behaviour, in that although they show great interest in all the means by which we might adapt and reduce our CO 2 emissions, they are reluctant—as was pointed out in this month's energy section of The Press and Journal —to stump up and pay for them. Indeed, one speaker at a recent conference pointed out that, because the alternative is easier, people are reluctant to pay a little more for measures inside the home that would reduce CO 2 emissions.

The point is that, arguably, there must be a better means of getting people onside. People show willingness—as I am sure others will mention—but the evidence also suggests that too many people are not prepared to take part. Indeed, anticipating the members' business debate that will follow decision time, one might say that that can be seen most in the issue of reducing the fuel consumption of cars and lorries. We need to begin to bring the two sides together and to deal with that paradox if we are to make progress in securing support in the country for the kinds of big changes that we seek.

In an exercise to work out what our use of energy resources would be like if we achieved the previous target of reducing emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, Scottish Renewables suggested that we would use a third less energy and electricity in 2050 than we did in 2002. We need to ensure that people understand the scenarios that would allow such targets to be met, because meeting them will change people's lives, including how they move about and how they heat their houses.

Although some members might claim that annual targets need to be statutory, I do not think that any evidence allows us easily to pin down the figures that would enable us to set those targets. As the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee has heard, gathering statistics takes much longer than a year, so we need to get up to speed and ensure that it is possible for us to have the most up-to-date information.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

If it is so difficult to set such targets, why did they emerge in the SNP manifesto?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

One good thing to learn as we go along—which I hope the member will learn also—is that, in government, we have been able to measure many things that were not measured by the previous Government. We are now tackling the issue and we are looking for the help of other parties.

As individuals going about that education process, we should note the little exercise that was undertaken by the five members of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee who visited London and Brussels at the end of February. As part of its coverage, Holyrood magazine did a carbon footprint study of our voyage, which showed that by going by train, Eurostar and Superfast ferry our CO2 emissions totalled 156kg, whereas if we had gone by air from Edinburgh to London, from London to Brussels and from Brussels to Edinburgh, the figure would have been 475kg. In the argument that we are having about individual carbon accounts, such information must be easily available in an educational form, so that people can see how they are contributing to climate change and how they must change their behaviour to mitigate the effects.

I agree strongly with Scottish and Southern Energy that it is high time we started delivering on our energy potential. Given that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe's wind potential, we have a great opportunity not only to meet our own needs but to export energy to places that do not have such resources. In that respect, this week's hooking up to the grid of the tidal power machinery at Eday on Orkney is a fantastic step forward. Tidal power, which is available to us every day of the year, will become an increasingly important part of the equation.

We must reach the stage of being able to deliver power from such sources throughout Scotland so that every part of the country can play its part in generating more clean power. I ask the minister to address my points about education, accountability and delivery when he sums up.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 3:56, 28 May 2008

In its consultation document, the Government set out four reasons why a climate change bill is necessary. It proposes

"to create mandatory climate change targets:

• to drive decisions in government and business; • to create and enable new means of reducing emissions and adapting to climate change; • to play our part in global action on climate change; and

• to provide a strong example to other countries showing what can be done."

It is vital that we add a fifth dimension, which is the need to help people in Scotland to understand and respond positively to climate change.

In Scotland, we have some terrific examples of what can be achieved through legislation, the most important of which is the successful Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005. By taking that legislative step, we helped to bring about a significant change of behaviour that went beyond what we could legitimately have expected to achieve through the act's measures. By changing the climate of expectation, we encouraged people to change their habits, which led to cleaner air and healthier lives. That is in microcosm what we need to achieve on a broader scale with a climate change bill.

The test of a climate change bill is whether it will allow us to capture the enthusiasm and commitment of the ordinary people of Scotland, so that we not only make them more aware of climate change but get them to begin to accept that they have a significant contribution to make to reducing carbon emissions. That will involve them in changing how they shop, how they travel to work, how they plan their holidays and how they use motorised transport. They must decide whether to continue to use a car or to opt for public transport alternatives. If they decide to keep a car, they must think about the size of its engine.

Every individual in our society makes such decisions. We must produce a bill that does not just pass through Parliament and get forgotten but which sets a framework for change that is embraced by the people of Scotland and which embraces the individual changes that are necessary. If we do that, we will begin to make substantive progress.

The point of the exercise is not symbolic. The Government could be criticised for focusing too heavily on achieving an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, which has had the result of tilting the balance against what it is necessary to do now. The test of the Government is not the target that it sets for future Governments but what it achieves in its term of office between now and 2011. If it, and we in the Parliament, can achieve the kind of step change in attitudes and behaviour that creates a virtuous circle for a reduction in emissions, we will begin to make a significant difference.

There are issues for which the Government can claim credit. However, as an Opposition member, I must highlight a couple of areas in which the Government can be claimed not to have acted in the most credible way. The minister has already heard me talk to him about the bus service operators grant, the decision on which has contributed significantly to increases of up to 25 per cent in bus fares in greater Glasgow and to increases in bus fares in Edinburgh, Fife and other parts of Scotland.


"In Scotland, we have some terrific examples of what can be achieved through legislation, the most important of which is the successful Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005. By taking that legislative step, we helped to bring about a significant change of behaviour"

What a load of rubbish. Who the hell do you think you are that you can dictate our "behaviour"? It's all about control, you do more to control us so that you can rape us for more taxes to pay for something that isn't even agreed in science - two things; the affects of second hand smoke and man-made climate change. All based on cherry picked reports in order to line the pockets of corrupt individuals. What you are actually achieving is turning people against the government and authority - that is the ultimate consequence and you're all too blinded by greed to see it. There is a change coming though and we will take great delight in watching you and your kind fall, as we have with the would-be dictator Gordon Brown.

Submitted by Paula

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

I know that the bus service operators grant is not the only reason for bus fares going up, but it has been a contributory element, as the Competition Commission recognised. The minister might return to that decision.

I will highlight another issue that the minister must address. Nine major planning infrastructure decisions were announced shortly after the publication of the climate change bill consultation. Why has the Government proposed those major projects in parallel with climate change consideration? Why is it not considering properly the climate change implications of the projects and harmonising the timetable? There is no sense in closing the door after the horse has bolted, so there is no sense in the Government announcing that it will take steps on, for example, the new Forth crossing without considering how it can reduce the crossing's climate change implications. Another example is the decision to have a public inquiry on the Aberdeen western peripheral route that does not address climate change and other issues.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

The minister must do joined-up things on climate change.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat 4:01, 28 May 2008

Climate change is hugely complex. The Liberal Democrats are pleased to see the climate change bill consultation being progressed, albeit not as quickly as we would like. We have proposed ambitious but achievable targets, as outlined by Alison McInnes. Work to tackle climate change must begin now, because the Stern report emphasised the importance of speedy action.

Liberal Democrats support the headline target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, but there is no clarity about how the Government will achieve that. Constituents in my region of South of Scotland often complain to me about the lack of decent integrated public transport. The complaints are endless: there are not enough buses, routes do not match and we are still waiting for the Borders railway to start. People are forced to use their cars to get to and from work—their cars are necessary tools. I live in the heart of the region in the south, but I am 12 miles from the nearest town and, of course, bus stop, so like many others I have no option but to use motorised transport. However, at least I tend to use two rather than four wheels to get around. It would be interesting to hear whether the minister will get on his bike at some stage; perhaps he will do so in 2011, if we do not get the bill right.

The Scottish National Party has increased funding for motorways, but it has also slashed funding for public and sustainable transport, which Alison McInnes mentioned. Members on all sides of the chamber have asked where the annual legally binding targets have gone.

I hope that the Scottish Government is serious about tackling climate change, but I hae ma doots, as does Transport Scotland, which said:

"It is difficult to believe there will be reductions in emissions from transport if we are to see spending on roads go up by a third."

Of the extra £30 million to tackle climate change, Friends of the Earth said:

"even this extra investment will not ... deliver the Government's commitment to deliver emissions reductions of at least 80% by 2050".

I concur with Alex Johnstone, who unfortunately has left the chamber, that many will be surprised that the Tories have taken an interest in green issues. I point out that Friends of the Earth and the like acknowledged that the Lib Dems had the greenest manifesto at the previous election.

Liberal Democrats in Westminster and Holyrood know what must be done to tackle climate change. We have produced a comprehensive set of policies on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the UK, and we have a clear long-term strategy for tackling climate change and reducing emissions across the whole economy, with outlined measures to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050. Those plans are the first attempt by any British political party to tackle carbon emissions from every part of the economy: transport, energy, housing, offices and factories.

Let us look at the evidence. Liberal Democrats led the way by setting the first ever Scottish climate change target of exceeding our share of the UK carbon savings by an additional one million tonnes in 2010. I am sure that the minister acknowledges that Liberal Democrats in the previous Administration invested more in renewables and support for energy efficiency than was invested in any other part of the UK. Scotland's first target on renewable energy generation—18 per cent by 2010—was met three years ahead of schedule.

We need clearly defined and detailed plans from the Scottish Government on how it will tackle climate change. We have heard the rhetoric from Mr Stevenson and his colleagues about how climate change is the biggest challenge that the world faces, but we need real answers, plans and annual targets. I am sure that the Presiding Officer agrees that there are enough greenhouse gases going around in the chamber. We must tackle climate change now, with real annual targets.

Photo of Bill Wilson Bill Wilson Scottish National Party 4:05, 28 May 2008

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the age—if not the greatest. There is no longer serious debate about that in the respected scientific community. If we fail now, future generations will look back on this time with not inconsiderable anger.

UK Government policy gives grounds for disappointment. The target for a mere 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 is not good enough. Of course, some people will argue that Scotland cannot race ahead of the pack, because even if we reduce emissions by more than 60 per cent other countries will not do so. They will make the argument that if others will not act, we in Scotland should not act, because we will endanger our businesses and industries. That is an old, well-tried and rather cowardly argument. A few centuries ago, people argued that we should not stop selling slaves, because others would not stop selling slaves. A few years ago, people argued that we should not halt arms sales to Indonesia, because other countries would not halt their arms sales. Today, people argue that we should not attempt to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions, because others will not make such an attempt. We all agree that the slave trade was wrong—I hope—and most people agree that selling ground attack aircraft to Indonesia was wrong. Settling for a 60 per cent reduction in emissions would also be wrong.

We have a moral duty, as a wealthy nation, to cut our emissions not by 60 per cent but by 80 per cent by 2050. Anything less would be a betrayal of the billions of the world's poor. I welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to cut emissions by 80 per cent and I welcome the saltire prize and the commitment that goes with it to building the renewables industry in Scotland.

However, how much more could we do in an independent Scotland? A Scotland that was not committed by Westminster to squandering billions of pounds on illegal wars might instead spend the money on carbon capture and lead the world in that technology. A Scotland that was not committed to wasting £100 billion on the son of Trident over the next 20 years might spend those billions on renewables and lead the world in those technologies. How much more satisfying would it be to know that Scotland's wealth was being used to fight not wars but climate change?

However much we commit to building a better future, we should bear in mind the fact that the real problems, like pantomime villains, are often behind us—out of sight, or at least not in our immediate field of attention. I have no doubt that we can and will achieve what we set out to achieve, for example on wave and tidal power, but I am concerned that what we achieve might be undermined from unexpected directions. I give one example of an organisation whose activities could easily negate everything that we achieve, and which is likely to slip under our radar. The European Investment Bank is one of the world's largest sources of investment capital—greater than the World Bank. The EIB is supposedly committed to sustainable development, but the report from the EU-funded counter balance coalition sets out a very different picture.

I wanted to give a few examples, but I do not have much time. The Chad-Cameroon oil project, which involves 300 wells in Chad and more than 1000km of pipeline from Chad to Cameroon, is a clear example of EIB failure to take environmental issues seriously. The EIB insisted that its investment in the project depended on environmental and social conditions being met, but Chad has slipped on the United Nations human development index. A major beneficiary of the Chad-Cameroon project was ExxonMobil, a company that funds climate change sceptics. Since 1998, ExxonMobil has spent about £20 million to fund climate change deniers such as the Heartland Institute. Should EIB be funding ExxonMobil?

As a result of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project, coastal rainforest has been destroyed, rivers have been polluted and thousands of farmers have been forced from their land. There is no sign of the promised social development projects, but climate change sceptics have been funded and non-European oil companies have made huge profits courtesy of the European taxpayer. We must be vigilant if we are to ensure that money and commitment that is offered in Scotland is not undermined by our investments elsewhere.

The Scottish Government is correct to commit to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions. For Scotland, our size and overall contribution to global warming is neither here nor there: the moral imperative is for us to push forward on the climate change agenda. We must do all that we can. I do not believe the doomsayers when they tell us that any attempt to lead the field will harm Scotland; indeed, I argue the contrary.

Morality aside, leading in renewable energy will benefit Scotland. It will ensure our future energy supply and our ability to capitalise on a growing market. Leading the field in carbon capture will benefit Scotland. The globe cannot convert to clean energy overnight. In the interim, carbon capture technologies will form a vital part of the strategy to fight global warming. Leading the field in reducing emissions will benefit Scotland. It will enhance our international reputation and generate a positive attitude towards our country, both of which will benefit us socially and economically.

In committing fully to the fight against climate change, we have little to lose and much to gain.

Even if that were not the case, the moral imperative is for us to act.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:10, 28 May 2008

The debate is timely, not only because of the strong public response to the consultation on the Government's proposed bill, which we all await with interest, but because of the host of issues that are now high on the political agenda. From the Westminster proposals on carbon quotas—which show that political parties across the spectrum are catching up with the Greens, again—to the current furore over fuel prices, energy issues have never been further up the political agenda. The UK Government's approach to so-called green taxes is attracting a justified degree of cynicism from many people across the country.

The minister referred to the Government's annual report on progress on climate change, which it published last week and which lists a number of steps that are being taken in the right direction. The trouble is that the Government has left out all the steps that are being taken in the wrong direction. It lists the positive moves, but ignores a host of moves in the other direction. For example, the report makes no mention of aviation or road building schemes. Alison McInnes mentioned the huge increase in spending on roads. She also claimed that the Liberal Democrats are

"the greenest of ... the main parties".

I think that that was the phrase that she used. It is a great phrase. The Liberal Democrats should keep on using it, albeit that the claim is as credible as someone claiming to be the butchest drag act in town. I will enjoy hearing that line time and again. I am always happy to know that others wish to steal our crown. In claiming that they are

"the greenest of ... the main parties" and criticising the road building programme, we have to remember that the Liberal Democrats supported that programme. In fact, they put much of it in place—one of their members was the Minister for Transport.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat

It was not the Liberal Democrats who stated that our manifesto was the greenest manifesto, but Friends of the Earth. Is the member opposed to Friends of the Earth's view on the matter?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Friends of the Earth did not describe the Liberal Democrat manifesto as the greenest manifesto, full stop, as Jim Hume did.

On a day when the First Minister is in Glasgow for the M74 northern extension ground breaking ceremony, which the Liberal Democrats and every other party, bar the Greens, supported, I have to express a degree of scepticism about what the Government is saying in the debate when it also lauds such road building. The announcement should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The same is the case with the Government's record on aviation. We are about to see the Government's national planning framework, which will include implicit planning permission for airport expansion at Glasgow and Edinburgh. At the same time, the private sector is starting to tell us that it wants to fly less and take rail more. The Government should put its planned investment in aviation into better rail links.

We await announcements on other transport sector works. We hear many warm words on the carbon balance sheet, but I have yet to see it—indeed, I wonder if anyone has. I find it difficult to take seriously criticisms of the decision to scrap the bridge tolls from members who supported that measure before they had even seen the balance sheet and who only now are asking to see it. That said, there is huge interest in the subject of the debate, as the consultation showed in attracting 21,000 individual responses. More than a dozen organisations made contact with members ahead of today's debate.

I turn to the specifics. The targets are hugely important. Getting broad acceptance across the political spectrum for long-term targets is important, but annual targets are equally important. I look forward to working with David Stewart and his colleagues in the Labour Party on strengthening the bill in that regard, once they have decided whether they think annual targets are good or bad. They cannot continue with the idea that, just because annual targets were in the SNP manifesto and not in theirs, Labour can take a different approach here from its approach at Westminster. Targets are either a good approach or a bad approach—I think that they are a good one.

A host of other issues arise that we do not have time to go into today, but we will have time as the Parliament scrutinises the forthcoming climate change bill. However, in the long term, fundamental questions arise that no individual bill will resolve. To what extent can we continue with the delusion of everlasting economic growth on a planet of finite resources without consequences such as climate change? To what extent can we continue to ignore population issues? To what extent can we continue to fetishise consumption and greed in our society without consequences? What do human wellbeing and happiness mean in the age after cheap oil—human relationships and health, or cheap holidays? The bill cannot answer those questions, but the Parliament will have to.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 4:15, 28 May 2008

It is not every day that I welcome an announcement by SNP ministers, and certainly not twice in the same day. However, on this occasion, I am happy to be able to make an exception. When we debated the issues in January in the context of the UK Energy Bill, I pressed ministers to conclude their discussions with UK ministers on carbon capture and storage and to allow initiatives on carbon storage in Scottish waters to progress as part of the UK Energy Bill, through a legislative consent motion in the Parliament. I am delighted that this morning, at the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, Jim Mather did precisely that and confirmed that an agreed approach is now in place. I welcome that and I am glad that the delay in reaching agreement was not too prolonged after our debate in January. The joint approach by Holyrood and Westminster to the licensing of carbon stores offshore creates the necessary framework to allow the development of carbon capture technology, which is welcome in the context of climate change. The issue now is to make progress with the development of the technology. I hope that we will see early funding of projects from UK ministers and clear and unambiguous support for that from Scotland's devolved Government.

I would like to be equally positive about the Scottish ministers' support for renewable energy generation, but on that the record of the SNP's first 12 months in power is distinctly mixed. In that time, the Scottish ministers have approved, under the Electricity Act 1989, major wind power developments with a combined capacity of less than 600MW, whereas they have rejected major developments with a combined capacity of nearly 900MW. That is a disappointing record, however ministers choose to present it. Wind power is not the only way of generating low-carbon electricity. Ministers should not close the door on any power source that has a low-carbon impact. Scottish Government support for the development of wave and tidal power technologies is welcome and builds on initiatives that were taken by the forum for renewable energy development in Scotland, with ministerial support, throughout the past five years. Hydro power is capable of further development as part of a diverse energy mix.

Reducing the impact of carbon emissions also depends on greater energy efficiency and on reducing landfill disposal of waste. Yesterday evening, the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on renewable energy and energy efficiency and the cross-party group on wastes management met jointly to consider the potential environmental benefits of well-designed approaches to obtaining energy from waste, which is clearly one of a range of important and diverse initiatives that are relevant to the debate.

If ministers are serious about using low-carbon electricity as part of tackling climate change, they must acknowledge that onshore wind is the one renewable energy technology that is most capable of making a substantial difference in the short term. The opportunities for new large-scale hydro schemes are limited, precisely because of the success of hydro power two generations ago. The opportunities for large-scale offshore wind are real enough, but developments are not yet in place in Scottish waters, other than the Robin rigg development, which is currently under construction in the Solway Firth. The new marine technologies of wave and tide are capable of delivering environmental benefits and economic advantages for Scotland, but they are unlikely to contribute either soon enough or on a large enough scale to put us ahead of the curve on reducing carbon emissions in the next 10 or 12 years.

When, some weeks ago, I put to the First Minister his Administration's record on wind power applications, he did not dispute my figures. He should know—one of the rejected projects was in his constituency. Instead, he said that there would soon be renewables capacity in Scotland of 3GW, and that we therefore had more to celebrate than to regret about his Government's approach. The reality, of course, is that most of the existing capacity was approved by previous Administrations. Ministers could have chosen to add 1,500MW of new capacity over the past 12 months—such is the rate at which proposals for new developments are still being made—but they have rejected most of the opportunities so far.

When ministers come to consider some of the outstanding applications before them, I suggest that they acknowledge the need to send out positive signals to the wind power industry that Scotland is still a place where it can do business, and that decisions will be quick and positive. Making such decisions will help ministers to meet targets for renewable energy and to work towards emissions targets. We will need to meet targets here and now if we are to meet the long-term targets that have been described.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party 4:21, 28 May 2008

I welcome today's debate on Scotland's role in tackling the global threat of climate change. The debate offers an important opportunity—before the consideration of crucial legislation later this year—to take stock, reflect on what has and has not been achieved, and consider the best course of action as we progress towards becoming a low-carbon society.

It is clear that tackling climate change requires commitment and co-ordinated effort at local, national and international level, and across every field of government. Where responsibility is devolved, the Scottish Government is showing leadership; but moving towards the low-carbon society that we all seek will require a fundamental shift in attitudes and behaviour from individual citizens and communities.

Although the Government has a vital role in facilitating changes in behaviour, the most meaningful and effective changes are those which are driven by, and not forced on, local communities. One of the most exciting examples of the think globally, act locally approach to the climate change challenge is the transition town initiative. A perfect example of the ground-up approach, the project began in a small village in Ireland and has now been adopted in five towns in Scotland, including Portobello, which is Scotland's first transition town.

The transition model assists communities to develop a clear vision for their town, identifying and using local resources to help to make the transition towards a low-energy future. It offers clear benefits for the cohesion of communities, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint in their areas. The movement is building momentum and I am delighted that a steering group is now looking at adopting the model to make Edinburgh a transition city.

I know that the Scottish Government appreciates the aims of the transition town initiative, and I know that the minister has met representatives of relevant groups. I am sure that we will do all that we can to facilitate the setting-up of more transition towns and cities across the country.

Work in schools is another important driver of change at community level. Future generations will have to live with the consequences of the decisions that we take today. Therefore, it is vital that young people are actively and meaningfully involved in the debate. The children's climate change project, which is being organised by WWF Scotland in co-operation with Children in Scotland, is one project designed to ensure that they have that opportunity.

Children between the ages of nine and 14 from across Scotland will soon get together to debate climate change. They will then be coming to the festival of politics and to the Scottish Parliament later on in the year. I look forward to seeing them at the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, presenting their arguments to us.

Although many committed individuals of all ages are already doing their bit, many people still need to be persuaded that small changes in their lifestyle can make a difference and are worth making. One important way to do that is for the public sector to lead from the front. That is why climate change considerations must be at the heart of all public service decision making. From the design of capital projects to public procurement—not just in local government, but in the further education sector, the prison service and the health service—the public sector must take into account the impact of its decisions on the environment.

Signing up to a climate change declaration is simply not enough. Therefore, I am pleased that councils across Scotland are now adopting ecological footprint analysis, with the City of Edinburgh Council among eight councils joining the local footprints project in October 2008. I hope that others will follow its lead and that such analysis can be adopted by other sections of the public sector in future.

As has been said, the Scottish Government will need to work with the Westminster Government to progress towards our common goals in this area. There has been a lot of good work and common consensus. However, I was disappointed that the United Kingdom Government did not use the opportunity offered by the Energy Bill to introduce legislation enabling the roll-out of smart meters or a feed-in tariff scheme for households producing energy from microgeneration. The latter has been extremely successful in other European countries; for example, the German Government calculates that in 2007 savings of 57 million tonnes of CO2 were directly attributable to the country's feed-in tariff legislation.

Co-operative action is needed at all levels of Government and throughout society. Much work has been done, but there is still much to do, and time is running out if we are truly to begin to make a difference.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 4:25, 28 May 2008

I was listening to the radio recently, and it was clear that quite a few people still prefer to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the personal implications of climate change—the doubting Thomases, prepared to seize on any suggestion that climate change does not exist. At the other end of the spectrum are the prophets of doom, arguing that what we are doing is too little, too late. Sadly, there is some truth in that, but it would be a bigger disaster if that dented our determination to tackle the problems that face us. We cannot avert climate change, but there are significant actions that can minimise its extent and impact. Internationally, we must pursue contraction and convergence as an equitable solution to tackling climate change.

As part of that strategy, there is much that can be done in Scotland. We need ambitious targets, and we need to stick to those targets and not leave them to one side when the going gets difficult. If we promise a 3 per cent annual reduction in emissions, we should deliver a 3 per cent annual reduction in emissions. We can and should extend microgeneration to schools and other public buildings and remove the barriers that are holding back microgeneration and energy efficiency measures in the home.

The Government's consultation on its climate change bill has recently ended. I have no doubt that many worthwhile proposals will have been submitted by a wide range of organisations. Within my local communities, there is support for measures to support the reduction of emissions through reform of planning and building standards to facilitate energy conservation and renewable generation. Incentives could be incorporated into local taxation. I am sure that much can be done in areas such as food production and distribution and by promoting local sourcing and reducing food miles.

Scotland has enormous expertise and natural resources that make us supremely well placed to be a world leader in renewable energy. As we have heard, just this week we took a significant step forward, with our first tidal device, in Orkney, which will supply electricity to the national grid. Increasing support for our renewable energy industry would be good for the environment and for jobs. We must ensure that developers operate not just to minimal standards but aspire and adhere to higher environmental standards, incorporating microgeneration technologies as standard.

We must make it easier for people to upgrade their homes with small-scale microrenewables such as wind turbines and solar panels, and we must provide grants for doing so. Where possible, combined heat and power schemes should be incorporated into developments. We need to be able to monitor our progress reliably and demonstrate that we are making the progress we desire in reducing emissions year on year.

We can do more to reduce waste and increase recycling. We can do more to reduce congestion and unnecessary travelling, through the use of new technology, flexible working and better use of public transport. We can do more in the Parliament and collectively as a nation. The climate change bill is an opportunity to make it easier to do more to address the challenge of climate change. I will do my utmost to ensure that the bill rises to that challenge.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 4:29, 28 May 2008

In a climate of consultation fatigue, I join the minister, Patrick Harvie and others in paying tribute to the more than 21,000 people who took the time to respond to the Government's consultation on its climate change bill. It amply illustrates the interest in and importance of the issue. As my colleagues have indicated, the Scottish Liberal Democrats welcome the consultation and the spirit of consensus. I agree with Alex Johnstone that this afternoon's debate has provided a useful opportunity for members to contribute to the process.

However, although we welcome the proposed bill and the consultation, we share with many others a concern about the Scottish ministers' determination to walk the talk in tackling climate change. That appears to be part of a growing concern about the Government's approach on a range of issues.

Earlier this afternoon, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth treated the Parliament to a rerun of the statement that he originally delivered at Heriot-Watt University last week on the shambolic Scottish futures trust. In describing an earlier performance by Mr Salmond on the same topic, Hamish McDonnell of The Scotsman stated:

"Ministers are slowly starting to find out the difference between the superficial and the easy—the populist issues—and the deeper, detailed and complicated policies which make a long term difference—the weighty issues."

That provides a perfect illustration of the problems that ministers face on the proposed bill.

Members should be in no doubt that, as David Stewart said, the proposed bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we will see not only in the Parliament but in our lifetimes. It presents a unique opportunity to maintain Scotland's leadership within the UK and, notwithstanding Bill Wilson's rant about independence, will rightly be the focus of international attention, as Scottish Environment LINK made clear.

The proposed bill's headline target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 is ambitious, correct and achievable. Sadly, there is little evidence yet of how the Government will actually achieve it. For example, achieving the target will require annual reductions of 3 per cent, yet the Government U-turned on its earlier commitment to binding annual targets. That move has understandably been condemned across the environmental community as a betrayal of previous Scottish National Party commitments—an echo, perhaps, of the Scottish futures trust and other flagship policies.

The lack of binding annual targets and interim targets to map out what David Stewart called a reasonable trajectory will reduce the ability of the Government, public agencies and others to respond to events. I certainly do not advocate digging up the roots every year for an examination that could sidetrack Government from fulfilling its longer-term objectives but, as recent increases in fuel costs have demonstrated, predicting what will happen in the future is a notoriously difficult business. Not only that, but the Royal Society of Chemistry makes the valid point that the science of climate change is evolving rapidly and it is vital that flexibility remains to take account of the latest developments.

In other words, the Government needs to be ready to adapt and respond; it also needs to be accountable. Not only has it ditched its commitment to annual targets, but it is proposing five-yearly targets instead. Given the Parliament's four-year electoral cycle, that appears to be a brazen example of saying "Not in my term of office." That will do nothing for accountability and risks undermining the Government's ability to stay the course and drive the behavioural changes to which Des McNulty, Rob Gibson and others referred.

The lack of detail is a source of serious concern. In February, Stewart Stevenson admitted to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee that the Government had

"not actually proposed any measures in the consultation".—[Official Report, Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, 5 February 2008; c 427.]

Consultations are helpful in eliciting a wide variety of views from expert, independent and other sources, but they should not be an excuse to abdicate responsibility for setting out a stall—not only a vision, but an understanding of how that vision is to be achieved. Without detail, it is not a vision; it is a fantasy.

A number of members have rightly pointed out the need for any emissions policy to be part of a cross-cutting approach. As the former future President of the United States, Al Gore, once said, it is not a magic bullet that is needed, but magic buckshot.

An energy strategy is key to achieving our objectives. In that context, it is scarcely credible that, as we approach June 2008, the Government has yet to propose a comprehensive and coherent energy strategy. In fact, although it has promised such a strategy since last summer, it is entirely possible that we will get to the summer recess this year still none the wiser about its overall intentions for meeting Scotland's future energy needs. In fact, we were told by sources earlier this year that the overall strategy had been downgraded to an overview. Since then, even that appears to have been shelved and we are being told to expect a renewable energy action plan.

Like many others, I dutifully made my way to Aberdeen last week for the all-energy conference. The great, the good and the downright curious were gathered. The minister, Jim Mather, was allocated his slot and we all sat back to be wowed by the renewable energy action plan. Never have so many been so underwhelmed by so few. To call it a damp squib would be to seriously understate the moistness of squibs. It was a sad anticlimax at a time when, in my constituency, OpenHydro successfully connected the first tidal device to the national grid in the UK.

The fact that the Government has undertaken the consultation is welcome. The opportunity for Parliament to discuss the issues that it raises is also positive. As Alison McInnes said, it is to be hoped that the bill that is planned for the autumn will not slip further. However, there remain serious gaps in the approach that ministers have set out and serious concerns about their commitment—and, indeed, ability—to deliver. I hope that the minister and Government will take on board the views that have been expressed today and by a wide range of interested and expert bodies. If they do, there is still every likelihood that the proposed bill will be able to help deliver the change that we all wish to take place.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 4:35, 28 May 2008

Bill Wilson was right to suggest that climate change is probably the most serious issue that we face as a planet. There was little else in his speech with which I agreed, although I probably agreed with more of it than the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change did, judging from the puzzled looks he gave me.

I will pick up on one important point that the minister made in his statement. He said that we will soon receive the figures for the 2006 carbon emissions and that, unfortunately, it is thought that they will show an increase. This is not a criticism aimed at the Government, but it worries me slightly that only now will we receive figures for 2006. If we are to get a serious handle on climate change—to be fleet of foot and make the necessary adjustments to help us hit our targets and avert global warming—we need to invest serious energy in ensuring that we get our figures far quicker than that. I am sure that we do not ever get instantaneous figures by sticking our hands in the air, but we need to consider how we can get much more up-to-date figures so that we can change course when we need to.

I will comment on a number of issues that have cropped up. One is the question of the gases that are to be included in the Scottish climate change bill. I offer no great answer, but I have a couple of observations. I have learned that 20 per cent of Scottish greenhouse gas emissions are not carbon dioxide. Most people who read the literature on climate change would be wise to assume that carbon dioxide is the only gas with which we must concern ourselves. However, in Scotland at least, 20 per cent of the problem is not CO2—it is other gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur. That is important, because if we are going to ignore 20 per cent of emissions completely, then we have a problem, given that the overall objective of the bill is to try to avert climate change. I have also been told—although I have not had a chance to examine this properly—that pound for pound, methane is a lot more damaging than CO2. If that is the case, we need to examine the matter very seriously, because methane is the largest non-CO2 gas emission. It would be unwise to exclude the basket of other greenhouse gases.

Annual targets have been discussed a lot today, and of course the Government has been beaten with its commitment on page 29 of its manifesto. I will not dwell on that too much, other than to say that we need to get the right figures and take the right decisions for the whole 42-year period and more, instead of putting something in place just because it was in the manifesto. It would be prudent of the Government to admit what was in the manifesto and say that it has taken advice on it since then and decided not to run with it, instead of trying to hide from the issue—that would probably put the matter to bed.

Mandatory annual targets are important if we are to make serious progress towards the 80 per cent figure. I draw a comparison with the tourism target that was set in 2005, which was a 50 per cent increase in tourism over a 10-year period. No annual targets were put up and no review mechanisms were in place; and now, three years into the process, we have gone slightly backwards, and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee is examining ways of addressing the issue. If that can happen over a 10-year period, members should consider the potential for drift over a 42-year period. That is why the targets are so important.

Anyone in business probably has quarterly targets, and certainly annual targets. There is a real danger of slippage if we do not meet our annual targets in one particular year. In relation to any form of finance, debt is a lot easier to pay off with regular instalments, which is why some form of annual target—without saying today exactly what, and how rigid it must be—is important. Without such a mechanism, there is a serious danger that we will not achieve our end result.

It is important to have proper scrutiny of the results each year. Laying things before Parliament is important but, in their alternative bill, the Conservatives south of the border proposed an environmental commission. Made up of experts and scientific bodies, it would be independent of political parties and would examine the figures rigorously so that we would know that they were absolutely correct. It would take away the danger of the issue being used as a political football and would force political parties and everyone else to acknowledge any bad news, reach a consensus and come up with clear strategies for progress.

The other important issue, which Alex Johnstone raised and which we must take seriously, is whether we measure consumption or production. We must not simply go for the one that will enable us to hit the target most easily or the one that suits Scotland the best. Ultimately, a global perspective is needed if we are to be successful. We want every country in the world to cycle on the same side of the path on this issue. Every country must either go for consumption or for production, or else large areas of emissions will be completely missed out and we will still have a problem with climate change, even though every country will say that they hit their targets. We might have to consider what China, India and the United States of America are most likely to accept and work hard to ensure that we get global consensus on that.

Stern said that if we act now and act internationally, we have a good chance of averting climate change. Let us hope that we can do both.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:41, 28 May 2008

Today has demonstrated that a subject debate does not have to be a debate with no bite. This has been a good debate and there have been many interesting exchanges around the chamber. We are all way past the point of agreeing that we need to tackle climate change; the key thing is how we do it. It has been interesting to focus on the process and the policies today.

I will not be the first person in the chamber to say that, so far, the SNP has been a big disappointment. As Liam McArthur said, it is not enough to talk the talk on climate change; the Government must also walk the walk. In the briefings that we have all received today, we can see the disappointment that various organisations feel. Most of them are too polite to say that the SNP has dumped its big idea, which was to have a binding annual target of a 3 per cent reduction in emissions, which is what is needed if we are to meet the 80 per cent target.

I will deal with Patrick Harvie's point directly. Our criticism is that, in the election campaign just over a year ago, many of us took part in hustings debates in which the SNP candidates waxed lyrical about the party's twin policies of an 80 per cent reduction and a binding annual target of a 3 per cent reduction in emissions.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

No, I am still in the middle of answering Mr Harvie's point.

For the SNP to come to the chamber and simply ignore those commitments is not credible, as Gavin Brown said. In an otherwise excellent speech, Rob Gibson let the cat out of the bag. The SNP has not thought through the implications of those policies.

A year on, there has been precious little delivery on the targets. On energy, there has been painfully slow progress on household renewables. The SNP ministers' draft proposals on permitted development rights for microgeneration mystified everybody. Where were they coming from? It was not good enough to follow the UK approach—albeit a year later. Instead, they had to invent a process that would mean no automatic planning permission for mini wind vanes and heat pumps if they were within 100m of the next house. That policy is not just an urban problem; it rules out most of Scotland.

In its recent report, the Energy Saving Trust said that we need grants. Grants are good, and there is support for them across the chamber.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

If Mr Stevenson would like to announce a ministerial U-turn, I would be delighted to do so.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I have been criticised for not including proposals in one consultation and I am now being criticised for proposals in another. I have previously said that we will think carefully about whether the criteria for domestic turbines should be based on a certification on noise rather than one of distance, and I repeat that today.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

That is an excellent contribution to the debate. I wish that the minister had made that point earlier in the debate, because the Government has created great uncertainty in the microgeneration industry with its distance-based approach.

Tax incentives are crucial. The Energy Saving Trust said that we need a co-ordinated approach and a range of initiatives. I hope that the minister might change his mind on this issue as well. If the minister were to think again on local tax reductions, members would be delighted.

I share Liam McArthur's disappointment at Jim Mather's speech last week. It was an opportunity to set a high-level agenda on renewables, but there was hardly even a cursory mention of our existing building stock. We know that 80 per cent of our current buildings will still exist in 2050. That is where we have to start if we are going to tackle the big emissions now, get ordinary people involved in the process and tackle climate change and poverty at the same time.

Another SNP manifesto policy was to install renewables capacity in every public building. The manifesto commitment was

"to ensure there is a renewable capability in each public building—starting with a commitment to renewable generation in every Scottish school."

When I asked the First Minister about that the other week, no reply came forth. We know that the eco-schools programme has been fantastic and that great work is being done by WWF Scotland, but we must examine what has happened to that policy. It appears to have sunk without trace. There is no reference to it in the climate change programme that was published last week and—worse than that—in Edinburgh the SNP has even removed the proposed renewables aspect of the new schools that Labour signed off before the election. That is a kick in the teeth to Mike Russell's excellent attempts to promote biomass throughout Scotland. The Government has to do better.

Several members have talked about the SNP going backwards on transport. If we want to enable people to travel while causing lower CO2 emissions and without having always to use their cars, we need better alternatives. The SNP is still hostile to trams, which are one of the best ways of reducing CO2 emissions in our growing, economically successful capital city. John Swinney was hostile to them only last week. Incidentally, the SNP's reason for opposing a congestion charge in the city was that we did not have the public transport or trams in place. We need to see more action on transport, including public transport proposals.

Des McNulty outlined what has been happening on our buses. We are already seeing services being cut and bus fares increasing under the SNP Government. That will particularly hit people in rural areas who already have limited access to public transport. We are going backwards. Either there has been inaction or the wrong approach has been taken on easy issues that could otherwise start to deliver the big reductions in carbon emissions that we need.

I think that the minister has got the message today that, throughout the chamber and from all parties, members will push the Government on the climate change bill and what happens now. A core element of Labour's climate change bill would have been a focus on helping people in their daily lives to reduce their own emissions, whether that was through household renewables, sustainable travel or reducing waste. The figures show that recycling is going up, but we could have pushed that further with money off council tax for householders who recycle more.

Colleagues have referred to the coalition outwith the chamber: the 21,000 people who have taken the time to write to the Government. We need action on climate change, not just in a bill but across the whole of the Scottish Government's work. Des McNulty is right that we cannot focus only on the 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 and that we must consider action now.

Jim Hume was right to quote from the Stern report. The reductions that we make now in carbon emissions and other climate change gases will be the most valuable because, once we have delivered them, they will kick in for the whole of the period. The reductions over the next decade will determine whether we can slow down climate change sufficiently to avoid the horrendous climate change that many scientists have said is already in train.

The UK Climate Change Bill will make the UK the first country to have a legally binding long-term framework. We can also act in Scotland, and I am delighted to hear about the minister's constructive partnership work with the UK Government. Lewis Macdonald was right to focus on carbon capture and storage, which is a crucial part of the process. We will need that ability if our emissions continue to increase—although we need to push them down.

Scotland's climate change programme was published last week. It is a hugely important discipline on the Scottish Government to ensure that every part of the system plays its role. I am glad that many of the initiatives that started under the previous Government are being continued and developed, but we need faster action. The SNP budget does not provide an assessment of carbon implications and, although the climate change challenge fund is welcome, at £18 million it is a tiny amount of money compared with the £28 billion that the Government will spend.

Patrick Harvie talked about the national planning framework. It does not address carbon emissions at any level of detail, but it will set the framework of infrastructure investment for years to come.

We need action, not only with a climate change bill, and we need it now. We will push SNP ministers to ensure that it happens.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 4:49, 28 May 2008

I thank all the members who contributed to the wide-ranging debate on this important subject. If I do not respond now to everything that has been said, I assure members that their comments will be taken on board in our consideration of the climate change bill. The debate has had a constructive tone and has been interesting. I even learned something, which is unusual.

One theme that has run through the speeches from members of all parties has been the need to play to Scotland's strengths on renewables and to exercise our comparative advantages. Reference was made to the switching on of the first marine energy facility to contribute to the network, which we all welcome. We are consulting on amending the renewables obligation (Scotland) to ensure the right level of support for new renewables technologies, which should provide incentives to allow us to maintain our competitive edge. We are working with a range of experts on the carbon impact assessment and we will have a working model ready for early next year—that will be a world first.

David Stewart made an excellent speech. The children of Eigg are to be congratulated, as are children throughout Scotland, who are persuading their parents of the subject's importance. Shirley-Anne Somerville, who has an alarmingly personal interest in the subject, referred to children, too.

As David Stewart said, the Kyoto protocol will expire in 2012. That is one reason why we need to address this huge issue.

A few members have referred to the 3 per cent target, which Alison McInnes dealt with in a way that was a little simplistic. If she wants a 3 per cent reduction every year, she needs to achieve a 9 per cent reduction every year, because the climatic variation is 6 per cent. We must therefore have a measurement system that shows that we are delivering on the 3 per cent reduction and which accounts for the variation. Ministers will be accountable every year, so members will have every opportunity not only to question me about my narrow responsibilities—I am responsible for climate change across the Government—but to question the whole of the Government.

I repeat that the climate change bill will provide a framework. The correct place in which to take many of the steps that will address the agenda is secondary legislation. That is so because we will discover questions up to 2050. For example, in 2040, we will have questions of which we have no knowledge today, so we must have the mechanisms to deal with those issues. We will debate that during the passage of the bill.

I say gently to David Stewart that the national planning framework is not about nine projects alone. It contains the aspiration to electrify the whole of Scotland's railways by 2030. The member should read the whole document.

The information that I learned—on which I congratulate David Stewart, because it is interesting and good—is that the winter timetables for the different transport modes start on different dates. That point is great and nobody has made it to me before. We will see what we can do about that.

As for support for an undersea cable, David Stewart knows that we are interested in that.

Alex Johnstone talked about burdens on business, but I prefer to talk about opportunities for business, which will be key if Scotland takes the lead in renewable energies. I have had a constructive and useful meeting with Adair Turner, who will chair the UK's climate change committee, into which we will have input. When he gave evidence to a Westminster committee, he said that the effect of incurring the cost of 1 per cent of gross domestic product to which the Stern report refers is that the economic growth that is projected today to be delivered in January 2050 would be delivered in July 2050. That gives us a sense of how, if properly managed and dealt with, the impact can be almost invisible. However, if we take no action, nobody will need to measure the 20 per cent impact that Stern talks about, because we will all know that it has happened.

To Alison McInnes I say yes, we are acting now, and yes, I am responsible for the whole shebang.

Rob Gibson, like many other members, talked about tidal power. It was useful that he focused on that subject.

I do not always have the friendliest exchanges with Des McNulty. However, he said that there is a fifth reason for having a climate change bill: to help people in Scotland understand how they can respond as individuals to climate change. That is a critical point that goes to the heart of the matter. I have made the same point before, but I absolutely agree with him. We cannot simply change systems and technologies; we must also change individuals. His point was well made, and I thank him for giving us credit for something for the first time in a long time.

However, I disagree with what Des McNulty said about the bus service operators grant. The Westminster Government has managed to cream £500 million out of the coffers of fuel users, so it ill behoves him to say that that grant is a decisive contributor towards rising bus fares throughout Scotland. It is fuel prices that are rising—

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Excuse me for interrupting, minister, but far too many conversations are taking place in the chamber.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I shall, of course, continue my conversation with you, Presiding Officer, as ever.

We are talking seriously to the bus operators about the bus service operators grant and about taking a more environmentally friendly approach rather than simply rewarding bus operators for running empty buses. We are seriously engaged with them and receiving great support from them.

Jim Hume talked about me getting on my bike. I will be on my bike the week after next to ride 6 whole miles—that is 6 miles more than I have done. I am in energetic training. As a minister, I have used trains more than 250 times. Perhaps I will get my bike on the railway next time—one never knows.

Shirley-Anne Somerville talked about the transition town initiative, on which Portobello is to be congratulated.

There have been a couple of exchanges on microgeneration. I think that members can see that we are moving forward on that.

Liam McArthur talked about "magic buckshot". I ask him to explain that term to me afterwards, in case it is a bit risqué.

Gavin Brown used circumlocution to a masterful extent when he talked about bovine flatulence.

This is a critical time for climate change. What we do now is critical for establishing a pathway to a low-carbon economy. Climate change affects all of us. The relatively consensual nature of the debate and the engagement of all parties in it are helpful pointers to our being able to move forward collectively in a positive fashion.