Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:01 pm on 28th May 2008.

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Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat 4:01 pm, 28th 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.