Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 28th May 2008.

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

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.