Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:10 pm on 28th May 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

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

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.