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
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.