Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:41 pm on 28th May 2008.

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

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.