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Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010

– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:30 pm on 7th October 2010.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 4:30 pm, 7th October 2010

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7154, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 4:40 pm, 7th October 2010

Members will likely be aware that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee voted on Tuesday for the new annual targets order. The committee's consideration of the order followed the deliberations of the working group that I established to consider the issues around the setting of the annual targets. The contributions from members of the working group were constructive and I thank everyone who participated. I believe that the forum could be a model for the facilitation of certain kinds of policy development.

The targets contained in the draft instrument are much more stretching than the targets in the previous order and require all of our current climate change policies to be delivered in full. The new draft annual targets order proposes targets for the years 2010 to 2012 that are approximately 2 megatonnes CO2 equivalent lower each year than those in the previous version of the order. Over the period 2010 to 2022, the proposed new annual targets cumulatively would save 14 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The new targets follow advice from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change on the shape of the trajectory. The committee's original advice has been supplemented by further analysis outlining a potentially larger impact of the recession on Scottish emissions, which justifies setting more stretching targets than the committee's original analysis suggested.

The challenges that we face are considerable, not least because of the tight fiscal situation in which we find ourselves, and will become clearer in the coming months. Everyone in Scotland will need to play their part in helping to ensure that Scotland takes a lead in developing a low-carbon economy. A vital part of a low-carbon economy will be the efficient use of resources. The Scottish Government's energy efficiency action plan, published yesterday, sets out a clear plan of action to deliver energy-demand reduction and resource-efficiency measures throughout the domestic, business and public sectors in Scotland. The plan includes a headline target to reduce total energy consumption by 12 per cent by 2020. Local councils are to be given £10 million in grants to offer free insulation measures and provide energy saving advice to up to 100,000 households.

Together with existing commitments, including the target to generate 80 per cent of Scottish electricity consumption levels from renewable energy within the next decade, the energy efficiency target will be key to delivering Scotland's world-leading carbon reduction target of a 42 per cent cut in CO2 by 2020.

By improving household energy efficiency, Scots could save an estimated £2 billion by 2020 from smaller energy bills, while investment in energy efficiency over that period could directly support around 10,000 jobs in Scotland.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am so short of time that I cannot.

I highlight the Scottish Government's Scottish green bus fund. It has been slightly oversubscribed and we are still waiting for one company to bring forward proposals—we have agreed to accept them late—but it is definitely successful. Launched in July this year, the fund has been developed to incentivise the purchase of low-carbon vehicles by funding up to 100 per cent of the price difference between an LCV and its diesel equivalent. We expect it to deliver more than 50 low-carbon vehicles. We are pleased with the mix of bids, which have been submitted by large and small bus operators in Scotland.

It is vital that we now focus on delivery. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires that we set out a report on proposals and policies for achieving the annual targets after the targets are set. We have committed to publishing a draft report on proposals and policies for parliamentary consideration in November. Work on that is being aligned with preparatory work on the draft budget, which is due after the UK Government concludes its comprehensive spending review.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, has rightly been the subject of widespread praise in Scotland and internationally for the level of ambition it sets out. It is important that we remain united behind Scotland's climate change ambition. Scotland is the only country that can say, year by year through very stretching annual targets, how we will drive emissions down to our 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut.

I am pleased to support the motion moved by my colleague.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:45 pm, 7th October 2010

This is the fifth set of targets to be put forward by the Scottish Government. Criticism of the first set led to changes, making the targets for 2011 and 2012 slightly more ambitious than next to nothing, but leaving those for 2013 onwards unchanged. After that was rejected by the Parliament, the working group was set up. I add my thanks to those of the minister to the members of that group. The work that they have done over the summer has been helpful in making the process more transparent in terms of the options that we have for the future.

The new set of targets reflect the expectation that targets could be lowered because of the recession. When the Scottish figures were published in September, the targets were lowered further because the starting point was much lower than the Scottish Government had anticipated—so much lower that, if we had gone with the targets initially put to the Scottish Parliament in June, we would already have reached the 2012 target and be well on the way to 2013. Therefore, although the lowering of the targets mostly reflects a lower starting point rather than a significant increase in ambition, it means that we have less distance to travel to the 2020 target of a 42 per cent reduction against 1990 levels.

Indeed, we are halfway there because of the recession. That is not a point for celebration, and it leaves for us all a sting in the tail: in future years, as the country comes out of recession and there is economic growth, it must be sustainable and low. That is why the figures are so challenging. We cannot sit back; if anything, we have to work harder in future years. We cannot just restore emissions that have been cut due to recession.

What will we do when the economy speeds up? That is the key issue in how the cuts will be implemented. The minister will no doubt bring forward many ideas. Our view is that we have had a waste of three years. As the minister has acknowledged today, we finally have the energy efficiency action plan. The challenge will remain early action, and we believe that tackling fuel poverty along with reducing CO2 emissions must be the way to drive down our emissions in Scotland, so that people on lower incomes do not suffer disproportionately. They need to be protected.

We are still waiting for the final sign-off on the public duties guidance. That is all taking far too long and we are worried. We know that the minister is looking to pilot programmes to show us the way forward, but we are worried that pilots cannot give us certainty because we cannot have definitive figures. We remain particularly concerned that the biggest reduction in the years to come relies on European Union action and the emission trading scheme.

There is a lot of hope in the targets; there is less definitive action. That is our key criticism. The recession has given us a breathing space on greenhouse emissions, but we need political will and new policies to deliver on the targets. Setting targets is normally the easy part, but even that has not been straightforward.

The Labour Party will abstain today. We will not vote against the targets or attempt to bring them down, because we need targets in place, but by abstaining we register our unhappiness at the lack of concrete proposals to deliver on them.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative 4:48 pm, 7th October 2010

Colleagues will not be disappointed to realise that I have lost my voice, so I shall not take up much of their time.

We support the Government's proposals and the order. Indeed, we supported the previous order—it is an unfortunate fact that not all of my colleagues pressed the right button on that afternoon, so we are where we are. We had the working group during the summer, which productively discussed the issues in more detail. Not only did it do that but, if there was any doubt prior to that about the scale of the challenge that we face, the working group came to terms with it.

In many respects, the working group recognised that it will be difficult for this Parliament and this country unilaterally to take action to move significantly towards the achievement of the targets that we have set. I think back to Harold Macmillan's words, "Events, dear boy, events", because, to an extent, it appears that we are relying on technological advances that will make a material contribution to the output of emissions from many of the major industries.

Having said all that, I think that the working group did a productive job, and we will support the proposals this afternoon. I acknowledge what the minister has said in relation to the publication of the report in November. My party feels that it is important to recognise that there is a public anxiety to see an early and sustained economic recovery, and all of the actions have to work in parallel with that.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat 4:50 pm, 7th October 2010

Four months ago, we rejected the Government's first set of annual targets for being too unambitious. The Liberal Democrats decided to vote against them not for party-political reasons but because, through every step of the climate change legislation process, we have been led first and foremost by the science.

During the debate in June, I called on the minister to set up an open-book cross-party working group to allow us all to consider the targets and ensure that they fully took account of the impacts of the recession on emissions and to discuss what improvements could be made. I am pleased that the minister took that advice, and I, too, thank everyone on the group. I think that we all worked well and constructively with the minister and his team throughout the summer, and we now have a set of annual targets that is improved to the tune of 14 million tonnes less CO2-equivalent emissions over the next 10 years, which is an amount that is broadly similar to that which would be achieved by taking all the cars in Scotland off the road for two years. That figure alone should serve as a vindication of our decision to vote no to the original statutory instrument.

Some claim that the annual percentage targets in the new Scottish statutory instrument are still disappointing. Taken out of context, perhaps they seem so. However, although annual reduction percentages are useful as indicators of progress, it is the cumulative emissions that tell the whole story. In that regard, the SSI is a real improvement.

It is important to remember that the revised short-term annual targets will be by no means easy to achieve, as Sarah Boyack pointed out. By altering the 2010 baseline target to take into account the decrease in emissions resulting from the economic downturn, we are making it slightly harder to make reductions in subsequent years. That is because, as well as finding cuts to make, we must take into account the need to manage the fact that emissions will start to increase as our economy recovers to pre-recession levels of activity.

Indeed, in many ways, the important part of our work on climate change has not yet started. With the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, we got our framework. With this SSI, we will get our targets. However, the real challenge will come in setting out the policies that will allow us to meet those targets. The Government must soon set out its proposals and policies for reducing emissions in Scotland. Getting to this stage has been a struggle, but I hope that the minister is under no illusions that, once he has passed the annual targets—with our support—our scrutiny of his climate change policies might let up. That will not be the case.

The policies that the minister brings forward will have an impact that will be felt for the next decade and more. They must be ambitious, far-reaching and comprehensive. Once the policies are published, we will continue to hold the Government to account for its shortcomings and we will continue to work constructively to make improvements. Getting the policies right will be a mammoth challenge, but we on these benches are committed to playing our part in meeting that challenge.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:53 pm, 7th October 2010

When the Government brought its previous proposal to Parliament, I was, of course, deeply disappointed with it, as it featured flat-line targets for the early years and deferred all serious reductions in Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions to halfway through the next session; even then, it pinned its hopes on changes to the emissions trading scheme. What a difference that order was from the SNP's original proposal for annual 3 per cent cuts—the SNP indicated that that would be a policy target from day 1, even before it became a legislative target.

The Opposition parties had to make a difficult judgment. What was the right thing to do with the order? Would it advance the case to reject the order and demand that the Government came back to Parliament with something better? The decision was finely balanced. However, as others have indicated, the 14 million tonnes of additional CO2-equivalent reductions that will be achieved over the course of the targets justify Parliament's decision to reject the original order. Let us be clear: the 14 million tonnes represent not more cars off the road, more homes insulated or more waste reduction in our system, but the effect of calculating in the recession. That is overwhelmingly the case; it is not the effect of new policy. That said, we must live with the targets, regardless of future economic growth. The improvement is therefore a good one.

What is frustrating, particularly from a Government that is nearing the end of its first full term in office, is the continued lack of early action in the first few years, 2010 to 2012. The order that the Parliament rejected had a reduction of around 836,000 tonnes in those first three years. The order that we are debating today has a reduction of about half that, or 426,000 tonnes. The minister is shaking his head, but that is the case. On Tuesday, at the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, I asked the minister why the Government had halved its earlier ambition in a space of less than five months. The minister was unable to answer. I ask him again: what does he expect will happen in those first few years that is different from what he expected five months ago? Five months ago, he predicted recovery during those years; now he predicts the same, but with a degree of uncertainty.

The new order does not represent new policy. The working group—which was, of course, worth while to take part in—saw a succession of new policies floated and new ideas proposed and yet the Government has committed to implementing virtually none of them. I abstained at the committee this week. If I am not to vote against the order tonight, I offer the minister one last chance to answer the question: what will happen differently in these first few years that will result in half the carbon dioxide reduction that he proposed five months ago?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 4:56 pm, 7th October 2010

I thank all members for their contributions, from which it is clear that the Parliament retains high ambitions on climate change. All members who spoke in this short debate spoke of the value of the working group. I single out the chair, Mike Robinson, for his efforts in keeping us on track—[ Interruption .]

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Order. The minister is winding up the debate. I, for one, would like to hear him.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Mike Robinson kept us on track and provided the external objectivity that was of value to the group. I thank him very much indeed. I hope that it is seen that we have responded positively in bringing forward this new order.

Sarah Boyack said that pilots cannot give certainty. I agree absolutely with the point. That said, pilots can give greater understanding of the options that are in front of us. Not all pilots have positive outcomes. When a pilot has a negative outcome—as may well happen in some cases—it stops us from pursuing something that does not work. I hope that pilots continue to be an important part of the way in which we look at things right up to 2050.

I believe that Jackson Carlaw's wife cannot wait to get him home tonight—

Members:

Whoah!

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Laryngitis is an opportunity she has long looked for.

As I said in my opening speech, we must now focus on delivery. Since the Parliament last considered the order, we have seen examples including the zero waste plan, the Scottish green bus fund and the energy efficiency action plan, which I highlighted earlier. Each of those examples contains significant actions that will deliver emission reductions in Scotland. Of course, in the report on proposals and policies that we will produce in November, we will set out how we intend to meet our emissions targets.

Let us absolutely accept that reducing the initial targets by 2 million tonnes in the first year in the new order by comparison with the previous order and having set a trajectory that is much more challenging to 2022, we have set a very challenging way forward for all of us. It is important that we continue to keep focused on the objective of the 42 per cent reduction by 2020. It is also important that we continue to engage with people across Europe and that we get the European Union to step up to our ambitions and support us by increasing its target to 30 per cent. We face a huge challenge, but we are in a position to move forward to the delivery phase. The targets before us are the ones that we should pass tonight. I commend them to the chamber.