“Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reductions Targets 2010-2022 — Report on Proposals and Policies”

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on the report on proposals and policies on climate change targets. The minister will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I will now confirm to the Parliament the package of proposals and policies that will form the backbone of action to reduce emissions over the next decade.

I am grateful to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee for leading scrutiny of the draft report on proposals and policies, and to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee for its contribution.

The publication of the RPP marks the completion of the first period of focused action following the passage of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. We have put in place the annual markers and set the strategic direction required to take us to the interim target of cutting carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and, ultimately, to our long-term target of cutting them by 80 per cent by 2050. We have shown that it is possible to hit every one of our annual targets to 2022, but it will not be easy. Current policies will get us most of the way, but the RPP shows that we need additional measures.

The committees’ calls for evidence asked whether any proposals or policies were not included in the RPP that should have been. After considering evidence for 60 days, the committees did not identify any additional proposals or policies in their reports.

I might be the minister with responsibility for climate change, but we need to remember that, as Stewart Stevenson was often heard to remark, every minister is a climate change minister. That shrewd observation is borne out by the spread of policies and proposals in the RPP. As required by the 2009 act, we have also prepared a public engagement strategy, an energy efficiency action plan, and guidance on the duties of public bodies. Our land use strategy will be published shortly. In addition to our statutory duties, we have also prepared a low-carbon economic strategy and a zero waste plan. With the publication of the final RPP earlier this week, we now enter a new period in which we focus on delivering the programme of action that is required to continue to drive down emissions.

The amendments that I have made in finalising the RPP respond primarily to the hard issues that the Parliament raised during scrutiny. A written statement was laid alongside the RPP that explains in detail the nature of the representations that were made and the changes that correspond to those representations. If members are interested in specific changes, they should read that written statement; I cannot cover all the issues today.

I will, however, cover the two most significant issues that arose: first, the substantive content of the RPP, or the package of proposals and policies; and, secondly, the delivery and monitoring of policies and proposals. The Parliament did not offer any recommendations for additional proposals or policies and the RPP demonstrates that our emissions targets can be met with some room for manoeuvre. However, the committees’ reports recommended that we identify additional proposals or policies if the existing package proves to be insufficient. The Scottish Government will act responsibly and, in that scenario, we will consider whether policies and proposals should be expanded or accelerated, or whether additional ones will be required. I have amended the RPP to further emphasise that point. That applies to all the policies and proposals in the RPP, including the scenario in which the European Union does not tighten its own target to 30 per cent. Scotland is close to the discussions in Europe and we continue to call for a stronger EU target. We will also continue to lobby the United Kingdom Government to match Scotland’s ambition.

Before we start considering whether additional measures might be required in future, however, we must not underestimate the challenge of delivering the proposals and policies in the RPP in a time of budget constraints—caused, in large part, by the spending decisions of the UK Government. We will have to be creative but, if we are to maintain the enthusiasm and commitment of the people of Scotland to reduce emissions, we need to ensure that the effort that we expect of them is fair. We published our public engagement strategy in December, but we still have a long way to go in helping people to understand the role that they might have to play in meeting our targets, whether voluntarily or through regulation, as individuals, or collectively in whatever organisation or business they might be.

The 2009 act provides for two Ps in the RPP: proposals and policies. The provision for proposals reflects that, in some areas, we are stepping into the unknown and looking 10 or more years into the future. We will keep the viability of proposals under review. Just because something has not yet been committed to does not mean that it will not be implemented in the future. Equally, just because something is there at the moment does not mean that it will be considered to be appropriate in the future.

Another question raised in many representations was about what happens after the final RPP is laid and how we will get down to the business of reducing emissions. The RPP is an overview document and is not intended to be a detailed delivery plan for energy, homes and communities, business, transport, rural land use and waste. The delivery of policies and the assessment of proposals will be integrated into the policy process for the relevant sector. That harks back to the comment that I made about every minister having to be a climate change minister. With that in mind, I have not amended the RPP with further detail on how we will take forward individual actions, but I have considerably revised chapter 9 of the report to set out the common issues that will be relevant across all sectors as we implement measures. Full details are in my written statement, but some examples of those issues are the scope to deliver multiple benefits—to health, communities or the economy—alongside reducing emissions; assumptions about the effectiveness of voluntary approaches and the implications of alternative, regulatory approaches; best value, cost-effectiveness and potential sources of funding; and the role of different delivery bodies and sectors. Policy officials in each portfolio will work together with delivery partners, including, importantly, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, to develop an appropriate approach for each policy and proposal over the next few months.

We should put in place some early warning signals on softer measures to ensure that we can strengthen or compensate for any that do not achieve the intended outcome, but there is no single approach to determining the point at which a voluntary or incentive-based measure may be insufficient to deliver the required reduction in emissions.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets out a robust framework for monitoring and reporting on annual targets and assessing progress with measures in this and future RPPs—I remind members that work on the next RPP will have to begin before the end of the year. To complement that, we are developing a low-carbon management system, which will be central to our internal monitoring of practical actions to reduce emissions. That has evolved further since it was first mentioned in the draft RPP, and the RPP has been updated to reflect that.

This Government’s purpose is to focus public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, by increasing sustainable economic growth. One of the points of agreement to emerge from the Parliament’s scrutiny of the draft RPP was that action to reduce climate change should deliver more than just emissions reductions. I whole-heartedly agree with that. The low-carbon market is already worth £8.8 billion to Scotland and by 2015 the figure could rise to more than £12 billion, which is over 10 per cent of the Scottish economy. By 2020, there could be 130,000 low-carbon jobs in Scotland, which would represent a doubling of jobs to over 5 per cent of the Scottish workforce. Energy efficiency measures will lead to lower levels of fuel poverty and warmer homes, and greater levels of active travel and improved air quality will bring health and lifestyle benefits.

In conclusion, the RPP confirms a package of proposals and policies that continues momentum in 2011-12 and shows how annual targets can be met each year to 2022. That package will form the forward work programme for this and successive Governments over the next 10 years.

This parliamentary session saw the introduction of the world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The next parliamentary session will witness a transition to a low-carbon society. A low-carbon society makes sense for consumers, for business and for public services. It makes sense for Scotland.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The minister will now take questions on the issues raised in her statement.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

In our first debate on climate change in this session, John Swinney said that the Scottish Government would not wait until a Scottish climate change act had been passed before beginning to act on reducing carbon emissions, but the first thing that the Scottish National Party Government did was to dump its promise to set a statutory annual target of 3 per cent year-on-year reductions in CO2 emissions.

We are still waiting for the final land use strategy, the national strategy on electric vehicles has been delayed until after the election and there has been a cut in the energy efficiency programme. Little has been added since the consultation and it is not fair to blame the committee for not meeting the challenge.

What is missing, in particular, is a sense of urgency and clear priorities, especially on transport. As there is little prospect of the EU signing up to the 30 per cent reduction target to which the minister referred—it has now published a 25 per cent target—what does the minister intend to do? Does she accept that we should now produce policies to reduce that gap and allow us to plan for the future to ensure that we fill the gap between the initial 34 per cent target and the 42 per cent target that the Parliament voted for? Or is it a question of the SNP watering down that commitment through a we-will-if-you-will approach? All the detail is being left to the next Government. What does the minister now say to the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaigners who thought that they were getting real action on climate change in the current Parliament?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Dearie me. I say to Labour members that their constant negativity and carping does them absolutely no favours whatsoever. In all that, I did not hear a single positive comment from Sarah Boyack that suggested anything that would, in practical terms, be delivered by Labour.

Sarah Boyack mentioned the EU. Let me be clear about this. Where the EU is going with its targets continues to be a contentious issue. The RPP makes it clear that we will consider whether existing policies and proposals may be accelerated or expanded and whether additional policies and proposals may be required if the EU does not get to 30 per cent. Can we please not give away the argument before we get there? At this week’s meeting of European environment ministers, an expanded group of seven countries, led by the UK, signalled its support for the EU to increase its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to 30 per cent. Greece, Sweden and Portugal are now on side for the first time, alongside the UK, Spain, Denmark and Germany. Let us not give away the argument and make it easy for those who want to gainsay the 30 per cent target to turn around and say that we do not need to set it. If we want the EU to set it, we must keep up the pressure.

It is pretty obvious that Labour has nothing positive to contribute to the debate.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

I observe the usual courtesy in thanking the minister for advance sight of her statement and I thank her for the pragmatic way in which she addressed the committee’s report and the work that it did.

I was particularly struck by the minister’s comments on the need to engage the public and the public engagement strategy. Does she agree that a considerable amount of work remains to be done to get the public on side, that we must not be defeatist about our ability to do that, and that we should not rush to a regulatory framework in advance of the success that we might achieve?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That is a fair point to raise. Public engagement is at an early stage, but we are going about it in a concrete and determined way. The point that Jackson Carlaw has raised in respect of where we need to be with that is precisely why the Government has continued the climate challenge fund, which we have found to be a very good mechanism for getting money right down into the grass roots to do the things that we need to do.

Just the other day, I attended a public engagement stakeholder meeting that I had specifically asked to be set up. It involved people who are doing things at the level of that interface right down at the grass roots. Rather than sit around the same tables with the usual suspects who already know the script and what needs to be said, we need to ask what obstacles and challenges require to be addressed when we are getting the message across. That was a useful meeting in identifying where some of the specific obstacles and challenges lie. We will now take that information away and work out how we can overcome those obstacles and challenges.

I will be honest: a lot of work needs to be done. Although the Government wants to stick, as far as possible, to a voluntary approach, there is some regulation built in and we may have to come back to other regulation in the future. Nevertheless, we want to win hearts and minds first, if possible.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

I will return to the European issue. I do not think that it is giving away any argument to ask how we can meet our robust targets if the EU does not go as far as we want it to. Much of the Government’s confidence that its policies and proposals are sufficient to hit the target of 42 per cent has been based on the EU target of 30 per cent. We know that, last week, the European Commission recommended 25 per cent. I am interested in the minister’s assessment that we are still able to reach 42 per cent. In an earlier debate in this Parliament, the point was made that we would need to hit every policy at 100 per cent to be wholly successful.

During the consultation period, more actions were called for in terms of transport, including reducing speed limits and bringing forward demand-management measures. In response, the Scottish Government stated that it is possible to meet the targets within the policies and proposals that are in the RPP. Given that the EU’s recent moves might entail our having to make additional cuts in the non-traded sectors, such as transport, does the minister stand by that dismissive stance towards the need to consider additional policy proposals?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I do not think that the stance is dismissive at all; I think that it is pragmatic. The debate is on-going at the EU level and we must be engaged at that level to press for the 30 per cent target. If the EU falls short—I know that there is a specific point of disagreement between two EU commissioners, which shows that the EU is not as joined-up on these issues as we would wish—we will need to readdress the issue.

I remind members that the work on the next RPP must begin by the end of the year. We would be looking for proposals and suggestions from everybody. I do not for a minute expect the committee or anyone else—ourselves included—to be the sole repository of wisdom on this matter. However, it is a bit much for some parties to criticise the lack of proposals and policies without generating any ideas of their own.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party

Will the climate change duties that were agreed between the Scottish Government, local authorities and other public bodies form part of future single outcome agreements that are produced by community planning partnerships and local authorities?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We ought to be clear that the climate change duties of public bodies are statutory and arise from climate change legislation. As a rule, statutory obligations are not repeated in single outcome agreements. I appreciate that single outcome agreements are at a relatively early stage in terms of people’s understanding of what they might expect in that regard.

Single outcome agreements focus on local actions to deliver local outcomes. Acting on climate change involves a partnership between the Scottish Government and local authorities and we are working closely with local authorities to develop guidance that will assist them to comply with the statutory duties that were placed on them by this Parliament.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

We know that the Government resisted placing a duty on the public sector. Although the duties came into force in January 2011, guidance was not launched until early February. Local authorities have a key role, but they tell me that public duties simply cannot be fulfilled by part of a single outcome agreement. I welcome what the minister said, but, clearly, local authorities have a point in that regard.

What has been agreed by COSLA with regard to the implementation of the climate change public duties?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

COSLA has been particularly helpful to me in the months since I took over this portfolio. Although there was some suggestion that COSLA would come out in opposition to the targets that the Parliament set, that is not in fact the position that it is taking, and it is being clear about that.

I ought to clarify to the chamber that the draft public bodies guidance was published by the end of December, although the final version was not able to be published until later. Those are deadlines that were included in the legislation.

At the moment, we meet regularly with the public sector as a whole, which includes COSLA, to discuss issues that affect all parts of the public sector. The member might be interested to know that those meetings are co-chaired by me and the appropriate COSLA representative. We are operating on the basis of an equal partnership. It is for local authorities to decide how best to meet the duties that this Parliament placed directly on them.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Turning to rural land use, we all welcomed the funding for Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland last December for research into wetlands. When does the minister consider that our knowledge of soil and emissions science will be ready to allow a decision to be made on investment in reducing and rewetting peatlands? Will it be in time for Scotland to play its part in the incorporation of wetland management figures into international reporting in 2013?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The member might be aware that there has been no agreement on the inclusion of those figures in international reporting. We are currently working hard to decide how to incorporate them into our own methodology, and we hope that a decision will be made—which I am sure the member will want to see—at Durban this year.

Funding has been made available to SNH and the RSPB to carry out the necessary research to establish how practical restoration will be in areas in Scotland where it might need to take place. However, members must be aware that there are difficulties with reconciling different research, which shows that the possibilities are not agreed across the board. The Scottish Agricultural College has come out with figures that are very different from those of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, so we need to resolve some of the issues that that raises.

Money is also available through the Scotland rural development programme. The RSPB has, in addition to the £150,000 that we gave it for the peatland projects, received another £370,000 in SRDP funding for such projects. When that research is done, we will be in a better place to make decisions about taking forward more widespread projects with regard to restoration.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The minister made a great deal of there being no proposed amendments or recommendations for additional policies and proposals. However, the problem is not a shortage of policies, proposals, plans or strategies, but a lack of clear identification of how we will implement any of those, particularly in relation to the budget.

One of the concerns that the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee raised was that the report on proposals and policies did not come out at a time when it would help to inform budget making, and was effectively being led by rather than leading the budget. Will the minister give an assurance that the report will help to inform future budgets, and that future revisions to it will appear at a time that will allow them to inform rather than be led by future budgets?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

A considerable amount of that is in the hands of the Parliament itself. One of the difficulties that we encountered with the first round was the timing, because of the deadlines that were put in place for the legislation on delivery and the way that that worked in relation to the budget process.

If there is a better way to do it—which I think is probably the case—it would be helpful if we could sit down and talk about those things across the board, because the Parliamentary Bureau will need to make a decision on how that might be managed.

I remind members that we will very quickly enter the next round of the RPP. It is difficult to see how one can always keep the budget process totally separate from processes such as that, given the way in which the Parliament works on an annual basis.

Photo of Marlyn Glen Marlyn Glen Labour

Behavioural change and continued funding for energy efficiency and home insulation are essential for cutting emissions in homes and communities. How well are programmes such as the loft insulation scheme monitored? Critically, how much is spent on remedial roof ventilation, for example? Is more detailed monitoring in place?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

This Government has done a great deal in respect of insulation over the piece. Since 2009 we have enabled 380,000 homes throughout Scotland to be offered energy efficiency advice, discounted or free insulation measures—which includes the insulation that Marlyn Glen mentioned—and interest-free loans, together with referrals to other schemes. That was complemented by an extra £10 million in 2010-11 in respect of the universal home insulation scheme.

There is money, and it is being rolled out. In fact, insulation measures have arguably been one of the biggest successes in terms of alerting people and getting them to understand the advantages of doing such things and how important they are.

Of course, against a background of rising energy costs, I guess that there will be even greater interest in the provisions; moves down those roads are even more likely. The issue that the member raises is an interesting example of where we can put forward a policy that will achieve the climate change objectives that we are trying to achieve and demonstrably save people money at the same time. We will therefore have a much bigger win in public engagement terms than might otherwise have been the case.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Not for the first time, I am looking at the transport section of a climate change document and seeing a wonderful picture that has been painted of a happy passenger loading her bike on to a train. It is hard to take that seriously when I know that we have been buying new trains that have no dedicated cycle spaces. Those trains will be running on Scottish railways for years to come.

Does the minister accept that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee made clear recommendations for elements of transport change, including a hierarchy that sees demand reduction ranked first, followed by active travel, public transport and then—and only then—techno fixes. Does she think that a phrase such as

“the proposals set out are being considered for future adoption subject to their affordability and further feasibility work”. sums up the appropriate degree of urgency on the transport side?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Once again, we are dealing with nothing but negativity. An enormous amount of work is being done. Can more be done? Of course it can. Over the coming years, the work will undoubtedly be done, especially if this Government is returned. I make an absolute guarantee of that.

Much has been delivered, including substantial funding in the 2011-12 budget. I would have expected Patrick Harvie to have welcomed that, but instead he attacks the Government on the matter. We have delivered a great many programmes, including active travel and the freight facilities grant that was requested. We have looked at a number of different things and made huge amounts of investment.

I appreciate that the point of view of the Green party is that nothing that any other party says or does about transport is satisfactory, but the truth of the matter is that we are making substantial changes. We are beginning to shift people’s perceptions, which is the first and most important part of getting them to change their behaviour.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I must ask the remaining two members to be brief in putting their questions and the minister to be brief in her replies.

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

Like the original draft, the new report on proposals and policies records the on-going discussions with the United Kingdom Government on the £1 billion that will flow to the UK Exchequer by 2014-15 in the form of proceeds from the carbon reduction commitment energy efficiency scheme. Unlike revenue from the fossil fuel levy, will Scotland’s share of the CRC proceeds be made available to be invested in Scottish Government projects to tackle climate change? That would allow us to set our own priorities on the issue.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The point is an interesting one. It brings into play the much bigger question of the powers that are available to the Scottish Parliament to effect some of the changes that it might wish to make. The issue that the member raises is the subject of current and on-going dialogue. That is the most polite way I can put it.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

I have a helpful question for the minister. Last summer, the Scottish Government was helpful enough to provide to the independent budget review a figure of £8 billion for the estimated costs to the public purse of delivery of the RPP by 2020. Given the refinement work that has been going on over the past six months, is there an updated figure? Does the £8 billion figure stand or has it been increased or decreased? What is the current estimate?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I think that no new estimate has been developed, but the figure is being kept under review for reasons that the member will understand. The issue is bedevilling the European Union scenario, where the figure is seen as a cost, and benefits tend not to be balanced off against costs. This Government wants to see the benefits that arise. Although we do not have an update on the £8 billion, we are very conscious of the matter.