Climate Change

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 18th March 2010.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 9:15 am, 18th March 2010

I apologise for the slight delay in starting, but the lens in my glasses fell out and I am completely blind without them.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

I am glad that your lens is now in the appropriate place.

Under rule 8.6.1 of the standing orders, I wish to provide clarity on the position of ministers with regard to amendment S3M-5978.2, in the name of Patrick Harvie. A draft application for the Hunterston proposal, referred to in that amendment, was received by the Government on Monday and is currently going through a formal gate-checking process, subject to a formal application being submitted by Ayrshire Power. The ministerial code says:

"To help ensure the fairness and transparency of the planning system the Planning Minister or any other Minister involved in the planning decision, must do nothing which might be seen as prejudicial to that process, particularly in advance of the decision being taken."

Therefore, at this stage, ministers should not express any particular view other than that they will consider all representations made to them before reaching any decision on the application. It would be inappropriate for the planning minister to speak to or vote on Patrick Harvie's amendment, beyond explaining why he cannot. I add that ministers always speak and vote within the boundaries of collective responsibility. Consequently, in this matter they share the responsibility of the planning minister to

"do nothing which might be seen as prejudicial to that process".

That is, they cannot speak to or vote on Patrick Harvie's amendment. For completeness, I add that the decision to include Hunterston in the national planning framework 2 document is subject to a possible judicial review.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I will answer the first point of order before hearing yours, Mr Harvie.

I am grateful for the minister's prior notice of his point of order. I am advised that there are no rules about live planning applications in terms of either the admissibility or selectability of an amendment. It is therefore entirely up to ministers how they approach the issue in the debate. I am sure that members will take the minister's points into account.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

You have dealt with my point of order, Presiding Officer. It was merely to seek clarification that there are no constraints on the Parliament that mirror the comments about the ministerial code and that the Parliament is entitled to express a view on the matter, even if ministers are not.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am happy to confirm that that is the situation.

That being case, we come to the first item of business, which is a debate on motion S3M-5978, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on climate change.


Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I have great pleasure in speaking to and moving the Labour Party's motion. The Scottish National Party Government has been happy to pay lip service to tackling climate change and to take the credit for the ambitious targets that we all voted through when passing the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, but it has not followed through quickly enough with the decisive action needed to deliver change.

Last month the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change published a report that advised how the Scottish Government's targets can be met. We need more action and less talk and the debate gives us the chance to talk together about how we move forward. It is essential that we tie our action on climate change to tackling the recession. That is why we have focused on action that supports our economy and creates new jobs and training in low-carbon technologies. We need to use the tools that Labour added to the 2009 act—public sector procurement, the public sector duty and the public engagement strategy—to deliver transformational change. I hope that the minister will report today on the progress that he has made on tackling the key issues that we identified when passing the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009—energy efficiency, energy, transport and land use.

We all know that the lack of a global deal at Copenhagen was massively disappointing, but as political representatives our job is to get on and deliver the promise that we made to developing countries and those at the sharp end of climate change and show that we meant it when we said that we would act. Last summer, we all said that a we-will-if-you-will approach was not good enough. Our targets are intended to stimulate action and not just support soundbites. The climate change delivery plan that was published in the spring last year aimed to meet only a 34 per cent reduction target. We need a report from the minister on what he has done to revise his plan upwards to meet the tougher targets to which we all signed up.

The UK Committee on Climate Change report is clear that we need new policies to drive the required step change to deliver our targets. That means working with the UK Government and other European Union countries, but it would be totally wrong of the Scottish Government to absolve itself of its responsibility to use its powers to the maximum. The SNP cannot blame others for its lack of delivery on climate change in the past year. It is absolutely clear from the report that the Scottish Government has to deliver more in the non-traded sector. We have no chance of meeting our other targets if we do not get going on transport and buildings, which are core areas in our current emissions.

We are disappointed by the slow rate of progress, although we know that work has been happening—for example, we campaigned for the council tax discount policy, which now looks seriously unambitious. The intention was not to catch up with best practice in England; it was to go beyond it. Will the minister say whether he is happy with the deal that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has put in place? How many houses has he been told will be insulated in the first year? Why is there no sign of action to progress cavity wall insulation, which affects 700,000 houses in Scotland? Why is there nothing on incentives for household renewables?

Although we are still waiting for the energy efficiency targets, parliamentary question after parliamentary question has revealed that householders are simply not making it through the complex filtering of the energy action programme and housing insulation schemes. Those schemes are promising more than they are delivering. We also have the lowest level of new-build housing for decades, so we are not building the new low-carbon developments that are crucial to delivering economies of scale. I will not dwell on permitted development rights for air source heat pumps or mini wind turbines, except to say that we have lost jobs and the situation has been handled appallingly.

Perhaps the minister will talk about the details of the SNP's boiler scrappage scheme. The minister needs to say when it will start, how many houses it will include and whether it will match the £400 discount in England or the £500 discount in Wales. The minister needs to get a move on. Plumbing companies are now worried that they are missing out because people are delaying ordering their boilers until they see what the Scottish boiler scrappage scheme will consist of.

We need a step change in transport policy. Ministerial cars are symbolic—if they are not low carbon or electric, what message does that send? The rest of the public sector needs a clear lead. The rest of the world is looking at our ground-breaking Scottish companies, such as Allied Vehicles and Axeon Technology, but our companies need to start getting serious orders now, not just three or four cars here or there, but fleets. Prices will not come down until we get economies of scale. Today's big announcement by Nissan shows that we in Scotland have to get going urgently. Public sector fleets are crucial—the national health service, local authorities and the whole of the public sector, including Scottish Water and the police, need a co-ordinated approach to kick-start the market and get the value for money that we can deliver.

The Liberal Democrat amendment strengthens our motion. We do not need just the cars and the vans; we need the infrastructure to support them. Let us start in the cities that have the critical mass and the distances to make it work. Glasgow has already made a commitment to infrastructure and orders; we need other cities, such as Edinburgh, to follow. It is not just about cars and vans; it is also about high-quality public transport, more walking and cycling options. Will the minister commit to spending a higher proportion of the transport budget on cycling? Colleagues will talk later about the much greater work that needs to be done in support of the bus industry.

The UK Committee on Climate Change is clear that, on the current trajectory, the non-traded emissions in Scotland are above the level that we need to reach to meet our 42 per cent target. In all cases there is a gap between projections and targets, so we need new policies and a step change. The UK Government played a leading role in trying to secure a deal at Copenhagen and has not given up. A raft of new policies will come into effect this year that will help the Scottish Government to meet Scotland's targets. Renewables will be crucial in meeting those targets. The feed-in tariff kicks in next month and will be a big help in persuading people to introduce into their houses renewables that produce electricity. We need work on low-carbon cars, the electric cars discount, the low-carbon buses initiative and the commitment to high-speed rail, to which we will return in future.

The EU is crucial. In last month's agriculture debate, I raised the subject of supporting our farmers to continue changing their practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need the EU landfill targets to keep pushing us to do more on recycling. Every level of Government needs to do its bit, but the Scottish ministers must tell us how they will up their targets in their delivery plan. We need vision, policies and finance to deliver results. We need a step change and we need not only talk about climate change but action. Meeting our aspirations requires a much more collective approach to politics. I hope that the debate will stimulate the Scottish Government to act faster to make the big changes in our economy. We do not want excuses for inaction; we want vision and a timetable for delivery.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the publication of the UK Climate Change Committee Report, Scotland's path to a low carbon economy; believes that the Scottish Government needs to review its Climate Change Delivery Plan to take into account the passing of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009; believes that there are economic opportunities to be gained from investment in low-carbon technologies and that the Scottish Government needs to take a lead through public procurement, particularly in the fields of transport and construction, and specifically calls on the Scottish Government to put in place a programme to replace its own fleet with low-carbon or electric vehicles and to enable the public and businesses to make the practical changes required to meet the targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 9:25 am, 18th March 2010

I hope that it will aid the debate if I say that we are prepared to support Mr Johnstone's and Ms McInnes's amendments.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government. The debate comes at a timely moment, when we have had the chance to absorb and reflect on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference at the end of last year.

Like Sarah Boyack, the Government feels that the Copenhagen proceedings were very disappointing. They did not deliver the hoped-for commitments to emission cuts or a timetable for a new treaty, but the Copenhagen accord can be seen as a first step towards a new legally binding international agreement. It captures recognition from major players—the USA, China, India and Brazil among others—of the need to keep the global temperature rise within two degrees of pre-industrial levels and to support adaptation in the developing world. That is an important step forward, as it brings countries to the table that had expressed varying degrees of reservation.

The United Nations tells us that 70 countries have submitted mitigation targets and plans to the accord, representing more than 80 per cent of global energy emissions.

Scotland retains its position among the leading nations prepared to commit to high ambition in tackling climate change. One of the interesting things in the UK Committee on Climate Change's advice is that it draws attention to the fact that, on the basis on which the UK Government has set its targets, our 80 per cent is equivalent to 84 per cent, because of our inclusion of shipping and aviation. We will continue to work with other nations, states and sub-state organisations to influence targets across the world and we will, of course, work closely with the UK and the EU, two of our most important partners that have influence over the majority of the emissions in Scotland—an issue that my amendment addresses.

The UK Government wants to broaden, deepen and strengthen the commitments made at Copenhagen, to secure a legally binding framework and increase the EU commitment from 20 to 30 per cent reductions by 2020, provided that there is high ambition from others. We want that to be converted to an unconditional offer of 30 per cent, and we will campaign and engage to try to achieve that.

As part of our commitment to being a responsible nation, I announced in Paris earlier this month our intention to plant 100 million trees by 2015 as part of a 1 billion tree commitment by the Climate Group's states and regions alliance. That is in the context of a commitment by that alliance to plant one tree for every person on the planet; we are planting 20 for every person in Scotland. That is the kind of policy change that we are implementing. The aims to encourage Governments, businesses and communities worldwide are clear.

We will see a shift in the year ahead to domestic delivery. We are committed to the economic opportunities presented by the low-carbon economy to which Sarah Boyack referred. We provide the certainty that businesses and communities need to plan for a low-carbon future. We are now seeing examples of the low-carbon economy developing at every level in society: in communities, businesses, districts, towns and local authorities. All of society needs to take action. We provide the political driver, working with our colleagues in COSLA, through the new public sector climate action group. Membership is drawn from across the public sector and I co-chair the group with Alison Hay, the COSLA spokesperson for sustainable development.

The subject of Government cars has already arisen. Three years ago, the typical car that we bought had emissions of 138g of CO2 per kilometre; today the figure is 119g. There have been even bigger reductions in respect of ministerial cars. We have put ourselves on the road to setting an example and implementing the agenda that we need to pursue.

The advice that we have had from the UK Committee on Climate Change is complex, but very useful. It shows that it is possible for us to meet the 42 per cent objective that we have set ourselves and we will, of course, continue to work towards that 42 per cent, even in the absence of the European Union stepping up its ambition from 20 to 30 per cent. I am sure that that will reassure many in the chamber.

I thought that I heard Ms Boyack say that she campaigned for what has turned out to be an unambitious council tax discount policy. I think that councils are engaged on the issue. Members will remember that we structured things in the way that we did to allow us to continue to have access to carbon emissions reduction target—CERT—money. I think that that is the right approach for us to take.

We are making the kind of progress that befits our ambitions as the leading country on climate change. We have good relationships with the UK Government at both official and ministerial level. I attended two environment councils with Ed Miliband and we have discussed this subject. We have shared ambition. Scotland has a huge contribution to make to UK ambitions and we will work effectively to ensure that we help the UK deliver its ambitions while also ensuring that we in Scotland do the absolute maximum that we can.

I move amendment S3M-5978.1, to insert at end:

", and urges the European Union and UK Government to take action to support Scotland's ambitious plans and targets."


Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I am grateful that the minister has committed to supporting both my amendment and that of the Liberal Democrats. Earlier today, Alison McInnes mentioned that my amendment was ungenerous but, typically, the Liberal Democrat amendment is extremely generous with public money. I believe that the two, put together, come to a consensual position that we will be able to support. Consequently, we will support the Lib Dem amendment. I find absolute common ground with the issues that have been brought to the debate by Sarah Boyack's motion, so I will not oppose anything that it mentions.

In the limited time that is available to me, I will concentrate on one aspect of the motion, which is the issue of replacing Government vehicles with more fuel efficient electric or hybrid vehicles in the long term. We face an enormous problem and it is only partly related to the fact that we have a problem with global warming caused by carbon emissions. We also have a problem that oil reserves will run out in the long term and we have to find an alternative way to operate and run our economy.

The suggestion in the motion that the Government should begin now to replace its fleet of cars with hybrid or electric vehicles is a very good one. It seems likely that, over time, there will be some competition over the technology that we choose to use, but the signs are that the consensus may be heading towards batteries rather than fuel cells as the way to power cars in the future. I understand that the Honda FCX Clarity, which is the most advanced fuel-cell-operated car that is currently available, still costs almost £1 million a unit and, consequently, is unlikely to have an impact in the next 10 or 20 years, so it looks very much as if what we are looking at are electric and hybrid vehicles. For that to happen, we need the Government to commit. That means that I support the principle that the Government should be looking at such vehicles when cars are to be replaced. I would not suggest for a moment that we should be selling off brand new BMWs and replacing them with hybrids this very day, as that is neither energy nor carbon efficient, but when the opportunity arises it should be taken. We also need to look slightly further ahead to find out exactly how the ministerial Prius, or whatever it is, will be refuelled on its long journey to Strichen and back. As a consequence, we must look carefully at the suggestion made in the Liberal Democrat amendment.

If people are to take the risk of buying electric or electric hybrid vehicles, they must believe that they will be able to refuel them as they go around the country. Consequently, it is essential that the Government takes a lead in ensuring that recharging points are available. If we make that move, we will be able to encourage people to make cost-effective decisions to exchange hydrocarbon-fuelled cars for electric or electric hybrid cars, which will benefit the environment, the economy and the owners of those vehicles, as it will be possible to achieve much lower running costs, especially if the system for refuelling them is more broadly available.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

The Green amendment contains some views that I am highly sympathetic towards, but unless I hear otherwise from the minister during the debate, I believe that it is inappropriate for us to force the Government to express views on an issue on which it is sitting in judgment.

I move amendment S3M-5978.4, to insert at end:

", also noting that, while preserving the environment must not be seen as being in conflict with economic growth, it is vital that current economic circumstances are recognised and that all public expenditure offers value for money to the taxpayer."

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Thank you. I am sorry to hurry everyone, but we are very short of time.


Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

The UK Committee on Climate Change's report has made it clear that we can reach our interim goal of a 42 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, but it will be hard work. To misquote a famous political saying, we must act early and we must act often. Making early cuts in carbon emissions will be extremely important in easing the path towards that target.

I was delighted that the minister reaffirmed the Government's commitment to reaching the 42 per cent target during the launch of the CCC's advice. We are under no illusion that meeting that target will be easy, but by staying the course, Scotland is setting an example for the rest of the world to follow, and I am truly hopeful that we can put pressure on the EU to shake off the disappointments of Copenhagen and toughen its commitments. Let us remember that as well as being key to making a real difference in tackling climate change, stronger international targets will help us to meet our national targets.

I am interested in Sarah Boyack's decision to focus on the Government's car fleet. Although I recognise that heed must be paid to the cost to the taxpayer, I fully agree that the Government should be looking to shift to low or zero-emission vehicles. In the Scottish National Party's first two years in power, the Government car service bought 18 new cars—14 diesels and four hybrids. I acknowledge what the minister said about emissions, and we cannot pretend that reversing that trend will have a huge impact on Scottish emissions—unless I am significantly underestimating the extent to which Mr Stevenson and his colleagues are driven around—but it will set an example. If we are to see the step change in reducing emissions from transport, as well as from buildings, waste and electricity, the need for which the CCC's report highlighted, the Government must take the lead.

I am sure that the minister will recognise the language of my amendment from last summer's climate change delivery plan, in which the planning and development of a battery-charging infrastructure is identified as a must-do for the "transformational change" of a wholesale switch to electric vehicles in the 2020s. Of course, such a switch cannot happen overnight, but if it is to happen at all, people will need to be sure that the right infrastructure is in place—or, at the very least, that it is properly planned for. Until a comprehensive charging network is planned for, electric cars can never be much more than gadgets—cars for short journeys—with petrol-fuelled cars remaining kings of the A roads. Once plans are in place for a charging infrastructure and there is evidence that the Government and the country are serious about making that change, even if it will not be completed for some years, people can at least start to give electric cars genuine consideration. Nissan's announcement today is very welcome. The private sector is stepping up and the Government needs to match that action.

The UK Government launched its plugged-in places infrastructure framework in November by offering funding to create charging infrastructure in lead cities across the UK. London, North East England and Milton Keynes were successful in the first round, and several other cities and regions were marked as having made strong bids. Disappointingly, no Scottish city or region was mentioned. Given that the second deadline for submissions is in June, I strongly urge the Government to work with local authorities, businesses and other organisations to share its expertise and seriously explore whether a suitable submission could still be made. I am sure that the minister would agree that it would be a crying shame if Scotland were to miss out not only on the chance to support the early market for electric vehicles, but on helping to shape the future of Britain's transport infrastructure. From this point on, it will be a crying shame if Scotland misses out on any such opportunity.

The Committee on Climate Change made it clear that a step change is needed right across the country. In Parliament and in Government we must show that we are happy to set an example but, equally, we must show that we are serious about providing the infrastructure that is necessary if the rest of the country is to make that change.

I move amendment S3M-5978.3, to insert after "vehicles":

", to bring forward the planning and development of a national vehicle battery-charging infrastructure".

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am grateful that you finished 20 seconds early.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 9:40 am, 18th March 2010

The last time that we debated climate change I expressed a little boredom with simply restating the very partial consensus that exists. We have established consensus of intent on where we want to get to, but we have not established consensus on the action that we should take.

It is clear from the Labour motion and what Sarah Boyack said that action is needed on a wide range of policy issues. We all agree that reducing energy demand in the home is a good thing to do, but no Government has yet set out an energy descent path for housing in Scotland and said how we can achieve it.

I agree strongly with what has been said about electric vehicles—indeed, I have made the same case in the past—but until the same issues around demand that we take for granted in relation to energy use and waste are expressed in relation to transport and we recognise that ever-increasing mobility is no longer a public good, let alone a sustainable policy, we will not make progress.

On land use, on food production, on consumerism and on the values that underpin our economy, we need a transformation.

In general, I welcome all the amendments. I am even happy to support Alex Johnstone's amendment, which someone who was less generous than I am might have described as another attempt to demonstrate the message, "If you vote blue, you don't get Green." I agree with Alex Johnstone to the extent that limits on growth should not be seen as a source of conflict, as they are simply the natural state of life in an ecosystem. Therefore, I will not object to his amendment.

Energy is key. A contentious energy proposal has been put forward in recent days—the proposal for a new, largely unabated coal-fired power station at Hunterston. I understand that we cannot force the Government to state its view at this point, but I do expect the Parliament to express its view on the proposal at this point.

Let us listen to the views that we have heard from outside the Parliament. RSPB Scotland said:

"This proposal at Hunterston would cause direct environmental harm and result in significant additional greenhouse gas emissions, and should not go ahead as currently proposed. RSPB Scotland does not believe that new, largely unabated coal fired power stations are appropriate in light of our ... climate change targets."

It will come as no surprise that Friends of the Earth Scotland made similar comments, although it was much more succinct and to the point. It said:

"Scotland needs neither new coal nor new nuclear power."

The convener of the church and society council at the Church of Scotland said:

"This proposal represents the first real challenge for the Scottish Government's much applauded climate change act".

On carbon capture and storage, he said:

"This technology is still in its infancy and has never been proven at the scale required to work".

He asked the Parliament

"to reject any new coal fired power station"—

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I, too, am opposed to the Hunterston proposals as they stand, but is it fair to lodge an amendment in the knowledge that ministers cannot vote on it, given that they will have to consider what is a live application? The rest of us can vote on it but, as Alex Johnstone said, it puts ministers in an invidious position.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Had you been here on time, Mr Gibson, you would have heard a point of order on that very issue.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

As the Presiding Officer made clear, my amendment is admissible. It is entirely appropriate for us, as members of the Scottish Parliament, to express our view on the issue at this point.

Others views include that of Labour's Lewis Macdonald, who said:

"A new plant in Hunterston now is the wrong technology in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Ross Finnie's proposed members' business motion also makes serious criticisms of the proposal, and I have circulated a paper that contains criticisms of carbon capture and storage technology, which it suggests may be

"a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of ... emissions."

Let us kill off this proposal right now—let us vote against it at 5 o'clock.

I move amendment S3M-5978.2, to insert at end:

"; also opposes new unabated coal power capacity, and therefore calls on the Scottish Government to reject plans to build a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston, given that large-scale carbon capture and storage at existing coal or gas plants has never been successfully demonstrated."

Photo of Marlyn Glen Marlyn Glen Labour 9:44 am, 18th March 2010

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate, particularly as I am a newer member of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.

As has been said, the Parliament's passing of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was an historic landmark. Members worked hard at amending and strengthening the legislation, which was a collective piece of work. After all, we could not have achieved everything we had hoped to achieve without the support of community-based and non-governmental organisation coalitions, and again we have to look to communities for solutions. Now that the act is in place, the Scottish Government has to follow it up with actions that deliver on its intentions.

Transport and buildings contribute the largest share of emissions in the non-traded sector. However, by concentrating work on those areas, we can make a difference, and efforts to tackle climate change can generate many jobs in new sectors such as alternative energy production and building insulation. We also need to link in essential training for such jobs. Indeed, I was pleased to hear an update on that very matter at Monday's job summit at Dundee College with UK minister Ann McKechin, at which it was pointed out that over recent years many courses in the college have been developed to train people for exactly such job opportunities.

Last year, the trade union group of the campaign against climate change organised a conference of 200 union activists, and the resulting report called for a million new green climate jobs across the UK. It is essential that we in Scotland play our part in reaching that target.

In responding to the report from the UK Committee on Climate Change, which analyses in depth our path to a low-carbon economy, the Scottish Government will have to review its climate change delivery plan. Will the minister ensure that guidance to public bodies has a strong focus on low-carbon procurement? Emissions from transport are, in fact, increasing, but there are still many actions that ministers can take. The Labour motion specifically calls on the Scottish Government to replace its own car fleet with low-carbon or electric vehicles to provide a lead to others. As the Liberal Democrat amendment makes clear, to drive the required step change, the Scottish Government needs to support the provision of electric car-charging infrastructure by, for example, following up and extending the joined cities plan in which Glasgow has been chosen to participate.

Such action would have positive knock-on effects for jobs. For example, in Dundee, advanced battery manufacturer Axeon Technology is developing new high-energy battery chemistries that are ideal for plug-in electric vehicles. That work is particularly essential given that from next January the £5,000 plug-in car grant, which is intended to persuade people to transfer to more environmentally friendly electric cars to reduce carbon emissions, will be available throughout the UK.

Climate change is an international issue, and its serious consequences do not respect national boundaries. Indeed, it must be the least nationalist and most internationalist issue that we will have to face in the coming decades, and the maxim "Think globally and act locally" is still relevant. One example of that is the University of Dundee's work on and involvement in the ACQWA—assessing climate impacts on the quantity and quality of water—project, which is a European Commission-financed five-year international project examining the consequences of climate change for communities in places such as Chile and the Alps, where the melting of mountain glaciers and snow contributes significantly to water resources. However, although the University of Dundee carries out global research, it also acts locally. Last week, it was in the news as the first employer in Tayside to receive the cycle friendly award for encouraging its staff to cycle to work.

It is up to every one of us to change our behaviour in order to reduce our carbon footprint, and I urge the minister as a matter of urgency to take up the challenges that have been identified this morning.


Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 provides the substantial foundations for this country's contribution to the collective international battle against climate change. However, putting down those foundations was, in many respects, the easy part. The hard part is to build on that powerful start by taking the tough decisions that will ensure that we deliver on our targets, and the UK Committee on Climate Change's report leaves no doubt about how tough that work will be.

The 2009 act was passed unanimously by Parliament last June. In the same month, the Scottish Government published its climate change delivery plan, which, as it points out, was prepared as a

"precursor to the more detailed statutory Report on Proposals and Policies to be produced" this year,

"which will set out how we will meet our annual targets".

That report will, as this morning's motion demands, take full account of the passing of the 2009 act and the UK committee's own recent report.

The motion draws specific attention to transport and, in particular, low-carbon vehicles. That very point has already been covered in the Government's initial delivery plan, in which it is accepted that almost complete decarbonisation of road transport is needed by 2050 with significant progress by 2030 through wholesale adoption of electric cars and vans.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

We are all tight for time this morning, so I will not.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Against that background, it is appropriate that the Government plans a programme for ensuring that its fleet comprises only low-carbon or electric vehicles. However, such a move must be combined with the development of the infrastructure required to support the use of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles across Scotland. Indeed, that step, which would make the decarbonisation of the Government fleet significantly easier, is also referred to in the first delivery plan.

Although it is important for the Scottish Government to lead from the front and change its fleet of 209 vehicles to low-carbon vehicles, I find it difficult to resist the temptation to compare such a move with the carbon reduction that could have been achieved if last week the UK Government had committed to a high-speed rail link all the way to Scotland instead of allowing it to hit the buffers in Birmingham. Moreover, work to deal with the wider public sector fleet has already begun. Very shortly after the 2009 act was passed, the Government issued a consultation on low carbon vehicles, which included the proposal of 100 per cent LCV use in the public sector by 2020. It is a shame that that vision is not shared by Labour's colleagues in the administration at South Lanarkshire Council, which has stated that any updating of electric vehicles is 20 years or more away, or by Glasgow City Council, which has urged the setting of a less ambitious target.

The motion also calls for a programme

"to enable the public and businesses to make the practical changes required to meet" our targets. No one can disagree with that, but unfortunately time does not permit anything approaching a detailed discussion of the work that is already going on in that respect, including the climate challenge fund and energy assistance package, to name but two of the many projects that are already under way.

The motion is also right to highlight the economic opportunities of investing in low-carbon technologies. The Scottish Government is helping to facilitate such investment with, for example, its decision on the Beauly to Denny line and the £10 million saltire prize. Those are two further examples of the work that is already going on.

The first bricks have been laid on the foundations put down by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Of course, as we all agree, there is much more work to be done, and I look forward to the Government's statutory report on proposals and policies, which will be published later this year.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 9:52 am, 18th March 2010

We all know that we face an enormous challenge, given that, if there are no changes to the EU emissions trading scheme, a 47 per cent reduction in emissions will probably be required in the non-traded sector. As a result, we must be very bold in the positive actions that we take and avoid the negatives at all costs. In that respect, I totally agree with Patrick Harvie that we should reject the largely unabated coal-fired power station proposal for Hunterston.

Of course, good things are happening. For example, I was very pleased by this week's leasing announcement, particularly as it included Pelamis Wave Power, which is based in Leith. However, the announcement was put into perspective by comments from Professor Stephen Salter of the University of Edinburgh, a key figure in the development of wave power, who said that all that was given was a licence and none of the necessary financial support. A month ago today, I visited Pelamis and heard about the issues that it faces. For example, although it does not use a large part of the building in which it is based, the size and height of the building are still taken into account in the rates bill. I have written to the minister on the matter but I believe that, if something cannot be done about such issues, other kinds of financial support must be given to Pelamis and other such companies. The previous Administration's wave and tidal energy support scheme is now closed to new applicants. I know that money is tight but in such times we must look to the long term and few things are more important to Scotland's future than the development of renewable energy.

In any case, the issue is not always money; will is also an issue, and that is certainly the case with regard to cycling. A couple of weeks ago, I praised the tackling obesity action plan's commitment to creating

"environments that make walking and cycling part of everyday life for everyone".

However, when a day or two later I received at my house the bulletin from the cycling organisation Spokes, I was alarmed to read on its front page that

"the SNP government could end up the only Scottish administration" since devolution

"with total cycle investment lower in every year of office."

Simply moving a small part of the enormous roads budget could make an enormous difference to cycling.

I point out that at the moment very little cycle training is available for young people. Indeed, an article in the Edinburgh Evening News suggested that only one in six children in Edinburgh primary schools receive such training.

The motion refers to public procurement, including public sector vehicle procurement, which is highlighted in the climate change delivery plan. Five years ago, when I was a minister, I was driven around in a hybrid car, which the driver took great pleasure in, and I am astonished to hear that the majority of cars bought by the present Administration have been traditional vehicles. The Government must do something about that, and it must put something about low-carbon procurement in the guidance to local authorities that it must issue under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

The built environment is obviously key. We must get a move on with universal home insulation and with the council tax rebate for energy efficiency and microgeneration measures. The scheme that was announced in Edinburgh this week is inadequate. It comes to only £60, and people have to use Scottish Gas for the work. It is a start, I admit, but much more is needed. We must also get on with permitted development rights for microgeneration. I am sorry to mention my own time in office again, but despite my consulting on the matter in 2006, there is still a proposal on requiring microturbines to be 100m away from the nearest building.

Can we do something about listed building and planning consent for double glazing and similar measures, applications for which are often rejected? The whole Government needs to work across departments on the climate change agenda.

Finally, we must get on with the public engagement strategy.


Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I believe that there is more that unites us than divides us in the debate. As it is such an important subject, I am really sorry that it has been allowed only half the time that it deserves. There are many details that we cannot deal with in the very short time that has been allocated. If Labour really believed in having the debate, it might have given it all the time available this morning. [ Interruption .]

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

We can see the work that is being done on the abatement of carbon emissions in land use. A nice addition would be to have support from across the Parliament for investment in retaining peat lands. I am glad that Sarah Boyack, Liam McArthur and I have proposed a motion on that. If we invested about £60 million a year, we would get £120 million back by saving carbon—simply by changing the land use, blocking up drains and so on. We can do that work, but it raises the whole question of money. In these tight financial times, each time someone asks for money to be spent we have to know where it will from.

I wonder whether Malcolm Chisholm and others who want more money to be spent on public procurement, engagement and so on will join me in campaigning in a united fashion against the possible increase in rental charges by the Crown Estate commissioners for our sea bed. That is the rumour. The matter is not within our power, but we should be able to harness the funds to spend in Scotland. Transmission charge costs are huge in the north of Scotland, where the main power sources lie. Do we have a united voice in Parliament to get that money and put it into efforts to address climate change?

It is important for the Government to take a lead and it is a good idea for MSPs to do so, too. I have done so in a small way recently, by using the Energy Saving Trust's scheme to set up thermal solar panels on our house. That followed the recent challenge to MSPs.

Everybody who has £3,000 or £4,000 to invest could be improving their own house. Many people could, instead of going on a holiday to Australia, easily be carrying out those measures in their own country. Of course, many others cannot do that, and we must find the money to support them, too. That is the task before us. I suggest that the moneys that are wasted on rents to the Crown Estate and on paying for transmission charge access could be recycled in that direction.

We will discuss cycling in greater detail when we come to debate the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's active travel inquiry. In the meantime, I have a question for Labour members. If they wanted more money for cycling in the budget, where was their amendment? If we are to discuss such matters, we must ask Labour members to decide, when money is allocated, whether they want it to be used for such purposes; then we can see what the Parliament decides.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

It is important for energy to be made more affordable if vehicles are to be able to run both on electric batteries and on hydrogen. In our area, a hydrogen corridor is being planned between Aberdeen and Inverness. Large fleets of vehicles, such as those that are run by the Royal Mail—it has are more than 30,000 vehicles throughout Britain—will be powered by electricity by 2020. Royal Mail already has a hydrogen vehicle operating in Stornoway, and it is seeking sites for others. We have been involved in supporting such measures, and the Government has supported the hydrogen corridor. It is precisely those elements, involving the private sector and major bodies working in partnership with the Government, that will allow us to achieve the aims that we all want to achieve.

Photo of Lord George Foulkes Lord George Foulkes Labour 10:00 am, 18th March 2010

I congratulate Shirley-Anne Somerville on one of the best arguments in favour of the Edinburgh tram scheme that I have heard. I look forward to her continuing support for it outwith the chamber.

Scottish Executive ministers are rightly asking us all to be aware of the dangers of global warming and to recognise that we all contribute to climate change by our individual actions. They urge us all to change our habits and reduce our carbon footprints. However, as Alison McInnes said, as MSPs—particularly those of us in positions of leadership—we need to lead by example. I commend my colleague Sarah Boyack for setting a very good example by regularly travelling here and elsewhere by bike. I also commend Stewart Stevenson, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change—and I really mean this—for regularly using public transport for official engagements.

There the leadership comes to a sudden, dramatic stop as far as the Scottish Executive is concerned. For the past three years I have been asking parliamentary questions to try to shame ministers into changing their travel arrangements so that they are more environmentally friendly. Apart from Stewart Stevenson, they all seem shameless. One PQ covered a random three-week period in which Stewart Stevenson took 15 journeys by train, Richard Lochhead managed one, but none of the other ministers took to the railways.

In August 2009, I asked for information on all the rail journeys that were undertaken by cabinet secretaries and ministers during the previous financial year. Again, Stewart Stevenson led the way, but Nicola Sturgeon, Keith Brown, Adam Ingram, Alex Neil, Stewart Maxwell, Kenny MacAskill, Fergus Ewing and even the Minister for Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, could not be prised out of their luxurious ministerial limousines on to public transport. Who wins the trophy? The First Minister, of course. He probably has the biggest carbon footprint of anyone in Scotland. He has never travelled by public transport on any official engagement. His journeys by official car include one from Bute house to 10 George Street. I could do that in two minutes. [Laughter.] I mean on foot.

Photo of Lord George Foulkes Lord George Foulkes Labour

The minister can make his point when he replies to the debate.

The First Minister regularly rides in style on the short journey from St Andrew's house to Holyrood, missing the glory of the Royal Mile. It is a journey that he and I could do to our advantage if we walked it regularly. Indeed, that is what I do, probably because I know that there is a guarantee that I will not meet the First Minister as I walk.

I also lodged a number of parliamentary questions asking what each individual minister and cabinet secretary is doing to reduce their carbon footprint, but I have received only holding answers.

The greatest hypocrisy and irony came last December, when the First Minister went uninvited to the Copenhagen conference on climate change, taking with him no fewer than 10 officials, at a cost of nearly £3,000 and adding to the climate change problem. He compounded the irony by agreeing a statement with the President of the Maldives, and now he is going to fly to the Maldives, where the water is rising. If the First Minister keeps flying to the Maldives, they will be covered with water before long.

For Alex Salmond—this is a serious point—it is not do as I do but do as I say. If we followed his example, the dangers of climate change would increase exponentially. We all have to set an example. Until Alex Salmond is removed from office—which will not be very long from now—I urge everyone to follow the examples of those of us who are proud to travel using the excellent bus service in Edinburgh and the excellent railways throughout the United Kingdom.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 10:04 am, 18th March 2010

I think that George Foulkes's recent parliamentary questions have given us good value for money. I am sure that I can say with confidence that he has forsworn ever to use domestic aviation again for travel from London back up to Scotland.

In my opening speech, I referred to a research paper—which I have circulated to Opposition parties and to the Government—that informs our comments on carbon capture and storage and our attitude to the Hunterston proposal. I have no doubt that the paper will not be the last word on carbon capture and storage and I agree that research should be undertaken to explore whether the technology is possible. However, let me quote from the abstract of the paper, which was published in the Journal of Petroleum Science & Engineering. It states:

"Published reports on the potential for sequestration fail to address the necessity of storing CO2 in a closed system. Our calculations suggest that the volume of liquid or supercritical CO2 to be disposed cannot exceed more than about 1% of pore space. This will require from 50 to 200 times more underground reservoir volume than has been envisioned by many, and it renders geologic sequestration of CO2 a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions."

Under "Conclusions", the authors state that the findings of the research do not bode well

"for geologic CO2 sequestration and ... clearly suggest that it is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions, although it has been repeatedly presented as such by others."

As I said, the research paper will not be the last word on CCS, but it throws serious doubt on the technology.

CCS might work one day, but we do not know that yet. Therefore, it would be quite wrong to approve new coal-fired capacity, whose emissions would be largely unabated even with an element of CCS, simply on the basis of a technology that currently remains speculative and which might—only might—be available in future. If CCS does not work, we will be left with the suggestion—the words are, I think, at least a couple of decades old—that a recent Friends of the Earth conference heard from Nimmo Bassey, who said simply:

"leave the coal in the hole".

Therefore, I am happy to sign Ross Finnie's motion opposing the Hunterston proposal, but that cannot be enough. The Parliament should reject the proposal by agreeing to an amended motion at decision time today.

On electric vehicles, which have been the subject of much focus during the debate, I agree with much that has been said, especially about charging infrastructure. In our big cities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, much of the property is composed of tenemental accommodation. I live on the third floor of a tenement. If I was going to buy a car, why on earth would I buy a car that I could not charge even in my own street? The installation of charging points in such streets is possible—they could run off street lamp or domestic electricity supply—but will not be cheap or easy. Thought needs to be given to how it will be done, otherwise no one will buy those much more efficient cars when they come on to the market. I agree that opportunities exist for public sector procurement. Changing how we use procurement does not mean spending more money; it means spending it differently.

On cycling, which Malcolm Chisholm highlighted, some of the small-scale, cheap-and-easy transport measures simply do not have anything like the political momentum behind them that has been given to the most vast, wildly expensive transport projects that will actually make climate change harder to deal with. One example of that is high-speed rail, on which there are two views. Unless we are willing to constrain domestic aviation, high-speed rail will not bring an environmental benefit. We must challenge the prominence of mobility in the transport debate.


Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

This has been a brief but useful debate, not least in confirming that George Foulkes is stalking the First Minister's every carbon footprint. The debate has also re-emphasised that, despite all the talk of world-leading pieces of legislation, the action that we take—and that alone—will determine whether we achieve what the UK Committee on Climate Change report describes as "challenging but achievable" targets.

Like my colleague Alison McInnes, I welcome the minister's commitment to the 42 per cent interim target. I acknowledge that the process of getting there will not be easy or straightforward, but progress will not be made any easier if ministers and their officials fail to engage fully and in early course with those who are expected to contribute. The attempt to put NorthLink Ferries sailings to the northern isles on reduced power is a case in point. I trust that the minister has learned lessons from the way in which that consultation was handled.

Although ferry sailings might be lower down the list of priorities for other members, common cause can surely be found—this was demonstrated during the debate—on the development and roll-out of low and zero-carbon vehicles. As Alison McInnes rightly pointed out, the Government has as yet failed to grasp the opportunity to lead by example. If we are to see the widespread take-up of electric vehicles that was part of the transformational change called for in the climate change delivery plan, ministers must make early efforts to remove obstacles by making a commitment to put in place the necessary infrastructure. Alex Johnstone made some excellent points about the link between Government commitment and public confidence. At this stage, that might go no further than ensuring that such infrastructure is being properly planned for, but we certainly need to see evidence that the issue is being taken seriously by ministers.

As Alison McInnes pointed out, in contrast to south of the border where charging infrastructure has been introduced under the plugged-in places project, nothing appears to be happening so far in Scotland. Ministers must work with local authorities, businesses and others to explore options for submitting a bid later in the year. I know that there is certainly an appetite for that in my constituency. Notwithstanding Sarah Boyack's and Patrick Harvie's comments about Glasgow and Edinburgh, Orkney seems, on the face of it, ideally suited to developing electric car infrastructure, given the limited mileages that are travelled. Likewise, given the on-going restrictions of grid capacity—an issue that I hope can and will be resolved in the near future—piloting an electric vehicle roll-out in Orkney would help to mop up excess local electricity generation that cannot be exported at present. The offer is there, if the minister chooses to take it up. In return, I can confirm that the Liberal Democrats will support the minister's amendment at decision time.

We will also support Patrick Harvie's amendment. I entirely agree with what has been said about the impact that the addition of 1,200MW of unabated emissions from a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston would have on our climate change objectives. CCS has an important role to play in the abatement of existing emissions. That is why we support the proposals for Longannet. By contrast, the proposal for Hunterston would in effect drive a coach and horses through the Government's stated ambitions.

The Tory amendment could be interpreted as a wish that efforts to tackle climate change be put on the back burner. Like others, I welcomed the emergence of Alex Johnstone's late-blossoming green side during the passage of the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. While not entirely convincing, his performance was undoubtedly touching to watch. However, I was reassured by his opening speech in the debate, so we will support his amendment.

The time constraints, as others have observed, have prevented any real, substantive discussion of the range of issues on which detail is crucially needed, but the message from today's parliamentary debate has been clear. I hope that the minister will now heed that message and, in the words of Alison McInnes, act early and act often.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative 10:12 am, 18th March 2010

I am pleased that the Labour Party has chosen to make climate change the topic of its debating time today, given the pressing need for Scotland to make progress towards a low-carbon economy in order to achieve the targets in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. However, like others, I think that the subject would have been worthy of a full morning's debate to allow a more in-depth discussion of the important issues that have been raised in the recently published UK Committee on Climate Change report and by many members this morning.

It is clear that Scotland's interim target of a 42 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, in comparison with 1990 levels, is ambitious. With some sectors unlikely to achieve that target, others will need to achieve significantly more if the economy-wide target of a 42 per cent cut in emissions is to be reached. However, there are real opportunities for reducing emissions from the energy-intensive industries that are covered by the EU emission trading scheme, particularly in the power sector, where the investment in renewable electricity that is already well under way also has the potential to open up significant employment and other economic benefits. In that area, the Government is well aware of its important enabling role. However, my party believes that, in order to ensure secure, affordable, low-carbon energy, we need a balanced mix of energy provision in which renewables and nuclear are complementary.

In the short time available, I will touch briefly on the non-traded sector, which the Committee on Climate Change believes will need to achieve up to 47 per cent cuts in emissions if we are to meet the economy-wide target of 42 per cent. That is a tall order, for which sustained co-operative working will be required among Government, businesses large and small, and individuals. However, the target is reckoned to be achievable by adopting a wide range of measures—which have been amply expanded on by Sarah Boyack and others—such as improved energy efficiency, increased levels of heat penetration, cars that are more fuel and carbon efficient and reduced agricultural emissions.

Ahead of the debate, members received two briefings from RSPB Scotland, of which I declare my membership, and NFU Scotland, which make some important points about land use and climate change. RSPB Scotland highlights the opportunities to reduce emissions significantly through the restoration and conservation of our peatlands—an issue that Rob Gibson touched on. Our peatlands are of international repute and are recognised as important carbon sinks. Peatland restoration is cited as being cheaper than many other forms of carbon abatement, and it has the benefit that a single initial expenditure can lead to indefinite carbon reduction and long-term carbon sequestration. It also brings financial benefits through local employment and tourism.

NFU Scotland rightly stresses the importance of farming to food security while accepting that food production will always lead to some emissions. If our growing world population is to be fed, a sustainable agricultural industry is essential, and appropriate management of nutrients, livestock and soil can ensure that food production methods become more sustainable. Further research into those areas will help the industry to continue its fight against climate change. There has already been some success, with UK emissions of methane and nitrous oxide down by 17 per cent since 1990 and CO2 emissions down by 5 per cent since 2006.

I mention the RSPB and NFUS briefings to illustrate the important contribution that land use can make in fighting and adapting to climate change. We must urgently develop a strategy to manage the complexities, conflicts and opportunities around land use so that its future potential can be realised. I hope that the Government will produce its proposed land use strategy soon.

Today, we have heard several important and interesting speeches from members, but we have only scratched the surface of how we can reach our targeted low-carbon economy. I have no doubt that the topic will be revisited many times in the chamber in the months and years ahead. We will support the motion and the Liberal Democrat and SNP amendments.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 10:17 am, 18th March 2010

Parliamentary debates on climate change have thus far produced consensus, and today's debate has been no exception. I join other members in welcoming the £220 million that the European Investment Bank is providing to Nissan to build a facility at Sunderland where up to 50,000 electric cars a year will be produced. Nissan states that it will provide the first mass-market, affordable electric car. We will watch that with considerable interest.

Cycling has been raised several times. I, too, read the Spokes bulletin. Spokes chooses to focus only on what the Government spends, not on what is spent on cycling in Scotland, and one can reach very different conclusions if one looks at the whole picture. Particularly in cycling, delivery works well if it is led at the local level. In the past, I have referred to the efforts of Moray Council, but there are many other councils with cycling initiatives, including East Lothian Council, which has good schools practice. I mention those two councils only because I am familiar with their initiatives, not for any other reason.

We published a sustainable procurement action plan in October 2009 that includes guidance on climate change issues, low-carbon vehicles, renewable energy and so on. We also have contracts in place for information and communications technology improvements and for lighting and water supply to our offices that show that we are taking action. Public sector engagement has been mentioned several times. Work on a strategy and a linked behaviour change research programme is under way, and the public engagement strategy is being developed.

Time permits me to turn to only a few of the things that have been said in the debate. Alison McInnes welcomed our continuing commitment to a 42 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. We will work together with the Parliament on that.

Patrick Harvie made the point that we must reduce energy use in the home, and we are engaging on that subject. However, he said that, even in the context of electric vehicles, increasing mobility is not a public good. There will be less consensus across the Parliament on that. Given the present climate in which we continue to burn oil out of the ground for much of our transport infrastructure, I accept that while we have seen huge improvements in the fuel economy of vehicles it is not appropriate for people simply to increase the amount of travelling that they do, as that would lead to a rising curve of oil consumption. That points to some of the limitations of viewing tackling climate change as simply an engineering problem. Particularly in relation to oil use, it is an issue with a human aspect to it as well.

Malcolm Chisholm rather unwisely referred to the use of hybrid vehicles in his time as a minister. The hybrid vehicles in which he travelled emitted 215g of CO2 per kilometre, whereas the vehicles that we now procure—which all have diesel engines—emit only 149g of CO2 per kilometre. That is a 31 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I do not have time. My apologies.

I use that illustration to make the general point that considerable work is going on to improve all the technologies that are deployed in transport. Governments of all shades, including the Scottish Government, do not have a particularly good track record in betting on winning technologies. We must, therefore, ensure that we have a variety of technologies going forward, as we just do not know what will work best. Hydrogen fuel cell technology will complement the work that is going on to develop electric vehicles.

George Foulkes provided some good, knockabout stuff. He referred to the three weeks in which Stewart Stevenson made so many journeys. It is true that I did. I am going to upset a former school colleague. I went to school with Nina Myskow, who is one of the ladies who appear on "Grumpy Old Women". I am a grumpy old man who does not like Christmas, and I happen to be the minister who was on duty for four days over the Christmas period, therefore my travel plans were entirely different from those of other ministers. Believe me, we get the message and we are on the case.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that, on that happy note, you must stop, minister.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 10:22 am, 18th March 2010

The minister said that Scotland is leading the way on tackling climate change. Sarah Boyack called for vision, policy and action. Much has been made of the ground-breaking nature of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and rightly so. Now, we need to move forward rapidly on the basis of that legislation, matching it with equal ambition and action.

Sarah Boyack highlighted the crucial importance of action in the domestic, non-traded sector. Housing and transport clearly offer scope for individual and collective action. The Scottish Government must facilitate and encourage such action through awareness raising, public engagement and, as George Foulkes pointed out, leading by example. It must also create the mechanisms to provide adequate resources to encourage people to make changes in their lifestyles as well as improvements in their homes and travel arrangements.

Rob Gibson talked about the Government leading by example, not only in respect of its own property and vehicles but through its ability to direct public bodies and local authorities and through its influence on business, the voluntary sector and home owners.

As Malcolm Chisholm and Marlyn Glen showed, there is the potential to develop more active travel and adopt cleaner, lower-carbon vehicles. We must, however, ensure that active travel is safe and easy. There is little point in encouraging children to use bicycles if it is not safe for them to cycle on the roads to school. We must also ensure that early adopters of electric and hybrid vehicles are properly supported by an expansion of the charging infrastructure. I welcome Alison McInnes's suggestion that the Scottish Government should develop a network of charging points.

Malcolm Chisholm spoke about Pelamis Wave Power, which is based in his constituency. Renewables are an essential element of our climate change programme, and it is difficult to understate the importance of green jobs to our economic future, as Marlyn Glen said.

The Scottish Government's role in promoting action is particularly important when it comes to public procurement and public engagement. Beyond what is provided for in the 2009 act, Scottish ministers must make further provision for public duties. I know that they have consulted local authorities and other public bodies, but it is about time that they came back to Parliament with the results of that exercise and a recommendation for those public duties. Of course, a timescale for some action would be helpful.

It is vital that public duties recognise the role that procurement can play in setting examples and stimulating innovation in the development of low-carbon products and services. It is equally vital that that is done in co-operation with the public, local authorities and communities. We will not be successful if we do not win the hearts and minds of the Scottish people. When will the Scottish Government properly take that on board and set in motion a comprehensive programme for public engagement? It is vital that people sign up.

Alison McInnes talked about taking action early and often. Infrastructure is vital. Let us get on with it.

The subject of the next debate this morning is a good example of a way in which we can fulfil our climate change and other objectives. We can stimulate the economy, save jobs and provide accessible public transport and greener and environmentally friendly transport. All that we need to do is to introduce and support improvements and commit to them in the long term. When it comes to climate change, we cannot wait for the long term; we need to act in the short term.

Alexander Dennis Ltd is a prime example of a successful Scottish company—based in Falkirk—that will continue to be a successful Scottish company if it overcomes the economic downturn that has come about as a result of the recession. We need new hybrid bus technology. There are enormous benefits to building technology here in Scotland—benefits to people and in terms of the economy and climate change. I urge the Scottish Government to heed the voices that are being raised in support of that.

At the Copenhagen conference, the Scottish Government was delighted to receive praise for the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and I was proud that this Parliament had passed such legislation. We need to demonstrate that we can deliver on that legislation and meet the targets.

We must not allow the Scottish experience to become one of delays and missed opportunities.

In Copenhagen, there were posters everywhere that showed world leaders saying:

"I'm sorry. We could have stopped the catastrophic climate change... We didn't."

We need to act now so that we do not have to say sorry to future generations.

I am pleased that we have had this debate. I hope that we have many debates on this subject and that the Government has the chance to come to the chamber to report on its progress. I hope that we all participate in that progress and continue to push for real action to be taken. I hope that the Scottish Parliament can be proud of the legislation and not say, "Hey, it was a good idea, but we're sorry it didn't work."