Section 1 — The 2050 target

Climate Change (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:21 am on 24 June 2009.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 9:21, 24 June 2009

We start with group 1. Amendment 6, in the name of Patrick Harvie, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

After working on the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill for so many months, I am gratified that, throughout the process, the debate has been characterised by an almost universal acceptance that our approach to climate change must be science led and based on an acceptance of the urgency of the task that is before us and its importance to the future of human civilisation on our planet.

At stage 2, a number of amendments were debated in committee that specified the trajectory of the emissions cuts that we seek to achieve. That implies a recognition that the end point is not enough, and that we need to think about how many greenhouse gases we emit in the period between now and any target dates; about the relationship between annual targets and long-term targets; and about the points at which those long-term targets should be set.

It is now clear that although we have broad agreement on the principles, we are basing our work on science that is already out of date. We are basing our work on the assumption—which the United Kingdom Government holds, and from which the Scottish Government has not demurred—that the global objective must be to limit climate change to 2° of warming throughout the world, as that is the generally accepted danger zone and the tipping point beyond which much more unstable change becomes very likely.

To give ourselves any chance of keeping warming to 2°, a debate is needed about the overall level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the amount that we can emit over a period of time. It is clear that the scientific community has already moved beyond the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which effectively informed the 80 per cent long-term target that the Scottish Government is proposing for 2050. If we are going to include specific targets in the bill, they should be the right targets rather than the wrong ones.

Those who have studied the subject in detail now understand that an 80 per cent target is already out of date and will need to be changed. I suggest, on the basis of evidence from the Tyndall centre, which is the UK's leading research centre on climate change, that 90 per cent is a more appropriate target at the current time. As the bill makes clear, it will still be necessary to continue to receive advice on the developing science from the UK Committee on Climate Change or from a successor body, and to revise that target as we go along. However, we could just say that in the bill. We could say that we will take whatever target the Committee on Climate Change suggests.

If we are to include a specific target for 2050, we should make it the right one. My suggestion is that a reduction of 90 per cent is a more appropriate target for 2050, and in the debates on future groups, I will argue for other aspects of that trajectory, including a 50 per cent interim target and a more ambitious annual target. If we all accept that the objective is to keep global warming within the 2° danger zone, we should include in the bill numbers that have a credible chance of achieving that objective.

I move amendment 6.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Like Patrick Harvie, I acknowledge a degree of satisfaction that there has been universal acceptance of the importance of the climate change agenda, of the need for urgency and of the need for science to lead us. There has also been acknowledgement of the overwhelming contribution that human effects have made to the issue, so it is clear that we open our consideration of this important part of the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill with a broad agreement on principle, as Patrick Harvie said. We do not diverge from the need to contain the rise in temperature to the range 2° to 2.4°, and it is important that we keep hold of that.

Amendment 6 would raise the 2050 target from a reduction in emissions of at least 80 per cent to one of at least 90 per cent. It is identical to an amendment that Robin Harper lodged at stage 2, which only Patrick Harvie supported. There is no great division on the need for us to use expert advice. We need advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change that is specific to Scottish circumstances and which gives us targets that relate specifically to us. It is premature to deviate from the 80 per cent figure, which is founded on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's definitive and internationally recognised fourth assessment report. Similarly, the UK Committee on Climate Change has advised that the UK's 2050 target should be set at 80 per cent.

The 80 per cent target in the bill is, of course, a minimum requirement. The annual target for 2050 will not be set until 2036, which is 27 years from now. I am sure that we can all agree that our understanding of climate change has come a very long way over the past 27 years, and it will undoubtedly continue to grow over the next 27 years. We should not prejudge that future understanding. As it stands, the bill allows for an annual target of 80 per cent to be set for 2050. If we need to increase it, that is rightly a decision for our successors. I ask members not to support amendment 6.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

It is clear to me and, to be honest, it is probably clear to members across the political spectrum who have been greatly involved in considering the bill that there is a serious mismatch between the pace at which our scientific knowledge of the subject develops and the pace at which global or even domestic political consensus can move forward.

The minister sets great store by the IPCC's fourth assessment report. Even the majority of the people who contributed to that report have already acknowledged that its findings are out of date. Its findings were not wrong at the time, but the science and our understanding have moved on, and the task before us is more urgent than it was then understood to be. The minister also sets great store by seeking the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change. I again express my surprise and disappointment that he has not yet formally sought its advice on any matter in the bill. Despite that, he seems quite happy to interpret its letters according to his own whim.

I will press amendment 6, not in expectation of a sudden conversion, but simply as a marker of the fact that our position is that the science has moved on, that an 80 per cent target is inadequate and that that will be shown to be the case over the coming months and years.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?



Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

There will be a division. As this is the first division, there will be a five-minute suspension.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 1

For: Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Allan, Alasdair, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Claire, Baker, Richard, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Ted, Brown, Gavin, Brown, Keith, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Aileen, Carlaw, Jackson, Chisholm, Malcolm, Coffey, Willie, Constance, Angela, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Margaret, Don, Nigel, Doris, Bob, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, FitzPatrick, Joe, Foulkes, George, Gibson, Kenneth, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Annabel, Gordon, Charlie, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harvie, Christopher, Henry, Hugh, Hepburn, Jamie, Hume, Jim, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Adam, Jamieson, Cathy, Johnstone, Alex, Kelly, James, Kerr, Andy, Kidd, Bill, Lamont, Johann, Lamont, John, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Ken, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Stewart, McArthur, Liam, McConnell, Jack, McGrigor, Jamie, McInnes, Alison, McKee, Ian, McKelvie, Christina, McLaughlin, Anne, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McMillan, Stuart, McNeil, Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Mulligan, Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Neil, Alex, O'Donnell, Hugh, Park, John, Paterson, Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robison, Shona, Rumbles, Mike, Salmond, Alex, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Elizabeth, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Somerville, Shirley-Anne, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stewart, David, Stone, Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, John, Thompson, Dave, Tolson, Jim, Watt, Maureen, Welsh, Andrew, White, Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Whitton, David, Wilson, Bill, Wilson, John

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 2, Against 119, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.