I welcome the proposed amendments to the motion from both the Labour Party and the Scottish Green Party. I believe that, unless the debate takes an unexpected turn, we should be able to support both amendments.
In December, I represented Scotland on the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations framework convention on climate change summit in Durban. It was the second year in which a Scottish minister had been part of the delegation to the UNFCCC. The First Minister and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, sent a joint message to the UNFCCC calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the talks, which should witness a collective global raising of ambition on both climate change mitigation and climate justice.
I will return to the climate justice theme of today’s debate in a minute or two, but first I will update the Parliament on the outcome of the Durban conference. In July last year, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister supporting higher global ambition on tackling climate change, saying in particular that it was essential that we work towards European Union agreement to a second commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, given that the first commitment period comes to an end in 2012. David Cameron expressed gratitude for the Scottish ministers’ support and acknowledged that Scotland has a good example to share with European colleagues of low-carbon investments and policies creating jobs and growth.
A second Kyoto commitment period should be an interim step towards a single, legally binding agreement on all parties to deliver the necessary global action to tackle dangerous climate change. Clearly, we were delighted that at Durban the EU did indeed pledge a second commitment period for Kyoto and that, in return, it gained a timetable from the major emitter nations for a new global agreement on climate change to be negotiated by 2015 and ratified by 2020. That is a tremendous example of Scottish political support across all the parties contributing to influencing an outcome on a global environmental issue of the first importance.
In addition, in the months prior to setting off for Durban and in support of United Kingdom influencing efforts, I met a wide range of European ministers from, among other countries, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Hungary to promote the evidence from Scotland on the jobs, investment, trade and growth potential of the low-carbon economy in order to assist in moving thinking within the EU towards increasing the drive for green growth.
In Durban, as part of the UK delegation, which included two UK secretaries of state and a minister of state, I took part in speaking engagements and meetings with the business sector, states and regions, Governments, non-governmental organisations and members of the European Parliament to promote Scotland as a model of international best practice on climate change and to promote our messages about the economic potential of low carbon. I am very grateful for the support of Scottish NGOs and young people in Durban in promoting the positive messages about Scotland.
Over the past two years, international recognition of Scotland as a country pursuing high ambition on climate change and the low-carbon economy has undoubtedly increased markedly. We have a presence on the international climate stage, and we were struck this year by how many countries are beginning to echo Scotland’s messages, in particular the need to provide certainty in a framework for investment to drive low-carbon growth.
Durban has been widely hailed as a success for EU climate diplomacy, and its leadership position is underpinned by progressive EU countries such as Scotland setting high climate change ambitions. The fact that 120 countries formed a coalition behind the EU’s roadmap was key to securing the Durban platform agreement, which keeps the major emitter nations at the negotiating table and now has a timetable. Agreement was also reached in Durban on the establishment of the green climate fund. However, although the overall result was far better than expected, we acknowledge that concerns remain about the shortfall in pledges to limit global warming to 2°C.
Returning to the climate justice theme of today’s debate, I note that on the radio this morning Alan Miller and Mary Robinson suggested that this is the first ever parliamentary debate worldwide on the concept. All of us in the chamber are playing a role in that first.
What is climate justice and why does it matter? The Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice aims to secure global justice for the many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten: the world’s poor, disempowered and marginalised. By the way, I should point out that that does not exclude people in our own communities. This is not simply an international issue.
The following definition, provided by the foundation, captures the essence of the climate justice agenda:
“Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.”
Such an approach to combating climate change focuses on people, is informed by science and seeks both to protect the vulnerable by supporting developing countries to increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change and to ensure that they have access to the benefits that come from the developed world’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
What is the global problem that the climate justice agenda seeks to put right? Speaking in Edinburgh last September, Al Gore set out his belief that clear evidence from events in Pakistan, China, South Korea and Colombia shows that climate change is directly responsible for extreme and devastating floods, storms and droughts. He said that nearly every climate scientist actively publishing on the subject now agreed that there was a causal link between carbon emissions and the increase in intense and extreme weather events across the globe. Via television and the internet, we are all familiar with the effects of extreme weather events, but those events are experienced in all-too-vivid reality—and all too often—by those in developing countries.
Of course, there are examples of such severe effects being felt in the developed world, too; I think, in particular, of the increased death rate among older people in France during an unexpectedly very hot summer a couple of years ago. In the Pakistan floods of 2010, 20 million people were affected; several hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed; 6 million people were left without access to clean water; and 3.5 million children were at risk of contracting deadly water-borne diseases. An increase in extreme weather events, driven by climate change, will further drive widespread climate injustice.
Al Gore praised Scotland’s leadership on climate change and the First Minister has received the South Australia international climate change leadership award. It is important that we capitalise on Scotland’s enhanced international profile on climate change to make the case for those on the front line of climate impacts. In his speech to the Central Party School in Beijing in December, the First Minister joined Mary Robinson in championing climate justice and highlighted in particular the gender dimension to the issue. In situations of poverty, women suffer more than men from the effects of climate change. In the less developed world, it is generally women who travel increasing distances to forage diminishing quantities of wood and who go further to get water for their families and villages. We must take account of the fact that the impacts are differential.
As I said at the outset, the First Minister and Mary Robinson sent a joint message to the UNFCCC, calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the Durban talks, and the First Minister has also urged world leaders to make this year the year of climate justice.
Our actions go beyond simply championing a concept. For the past two years, we have been strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change. The Scottish partnerships that were announced in Copenhagen and Cancún support developing countries on renewable and clean energy through, for example, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. Our international development fund has supported the University of Strathclyde’s work on community solar power in Malawi. To coincide with the Durban conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and I announced the next call for project proposals to the international development fund for renewable projects of a value of up to £1.3 million in the countries of Zambia, Rwanda and Tanzania. Most recently, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs announced a significant contribution to our efforts on climate justice—a £1.7 million programme of renewable energy activity in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, to help set it on the road to green growth.
I will say a bit more about our support on climate change mitigation, in particular through the Scottish Government’s international development fund, which is already bringing Scotland’s world-renowned knowledge and expertise in the area of renewable energy generation to communities in vulnerable countries such as Malawi. In a fast-developing world, it would be easier for countries such as Malawi to adopt high-carbon solutions to their energy needs, but it is imperative that, as they aspire to western standards of living, they benefit from our knowledge and go straight to cleaner, low-carbon energy, rather than duplicating our processes and causing further damage to the climate. In addition, that will give them the opportunity to acquire leading-edge skills that may well, in time, surpass those in what we term the developed world.
As I have mentioned, a great example of that is the work that is being done in promoting sustainable energy and providing access to reliable electricity in rural areas of Malawi as part of the University of Strathclyde’s renewable energy acceleration programme, which the Scottish Government awarded more than £1.7 million in February. The programme has multiple benefits, including those of reducing poverty and tackling climate change, which are two of the key themes of climate justice. The project will enable disadvantaged communities to be empowered to address their own energy needs and to develop their own renewable energy projects, which will provide access to more reliable electricity for rural towns and villages. In the comfort of the western world, we forget how little reliable electricity there is in the less developed world.
By providing research technology, collaboration, educational and training support and entrepreneurship, the University of Strathclyde will work with the people of Malawi to develop their renewable energy capabilities and climate change policies, thereby putting Malawi on the path to green growth. In addition, the programme will provide support at an institutional level in Malawi to support the formation of policies, including Government policies, for renewable and community energy projects. Our approach and expertise fit with the European Commission’s priorities as set out in “An Agenda for Change”, as well as the work of the United Nations high-level group on sustainable energy for all.
In addition to providing increased support for climate change mitigation, we have already recognised the need to enhance our support for climate adaptation. In our manifesto last year, we committed to establishing an international climate adaptation fund. Given the clear link between the need for adaptation in developing countries and climate justice, I can announce today that we are renaming that commitment as Scotland’s climate justice fund and that we will launch the fund in the next few months.
I said to the Parliament in December, ahead of the Durban talks, that we believe that action is needed now to grasp the opportunities that are presented by higher ambition on emissions reduction to drive and incentivise investment in new low-carbon markets, and to deliver our energy security, environmental and climate justice objectives. I hope that the Parliament agrees that Scotland can make a meaningful contribution to championing and delivering for climate justice worldwide.
That the Parliament understands that it is poor and vulnerable people in developing countries who are most affected by climate change and are least equipped to respond to it; supports Scotland acting as an international model of best practice on climate change and promoting the moral, environmental and economic reasons for action by other countries; strongly endorses the opportunity for Scotland to champion climate justice, which places human rights at the heart of global development, ensuring a fair distribution of responsibilities, and welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring respect for human rights and action to eradicate poverty and inequality, which are at the heart of Scotland’s action to combat climate change both at home and internationally and strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change as part of Scotland’s international profile.
I am delighted that the Parliament is discussing climate justice and that we are all part of a global first. That is extremely important. I fully support the sentiments that the minister expressed: the poor and vulnerable of the world are at huge risk unless we collectively change our behaviour. We are not just witnessing but living the greatest on-going silent crisis in human history. The crisis is of such magnitude that we could be blinded by its complexities and forget that there are solutions.
I thank the minister for his analysis of climate justice, for his gender analysis and for the information on our commitment to Malawi and other international commitments that Scotland is making. The focus that the minister described must also be directed at activity at home, to ensure that the world-leading climate change targets that were set by all parties in the Parliament are met and that the move towards a low-carbon economy is fair to all the people of Scotland.
Climate justice is a deeply complex issue. Climate change knows no boundaries. It cannot be controlled by individual Governments and its effects cannot be mitigated by people working alone. Although the effects of climate change are skewed, they are indiscriminate and threaten us all. We live in a global village in which everyone has a responsibility to protect our planet for future generations. If we are to combat climate change, there must be a common endeavour. There must be a sharing of knowledge, ideas, technology and skills, and there must be a shared vision, to help all people in the most vulnerable places on earth.
The First Minister spoke on the issue during his recent visit to China. He said that we introduced our targets
“to set our own house in order, to be part of the solution not the problem, but also to lead by example.”
Those sentiments are correct. To deal with climate change globally, we must lead by example. That means that we must redouble our efforts to reduce emissions and work with local government, public services, business, communities and trade unions to respond to the growing threat.
For those reasons, we were disappointed by the Government’s decision to cut the active travel budget by almost 40 per cent. I acknowledge that the position improved after cross-party work, but the budget has still been cut by 20 per cent. Demand reduction is also imperative. The target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 is jeopardised by Scottish Government budget cuts.
The Scottish National Party commitment to work with partners to build a Scotland-wide adaptation fund—I think that the minister said that it is to be renamed the climate justice fund—is welcome. Scottish Labour thinks that the Government should take forward the initiative and work with the UK Government to find leverage to put greater pressure on global financial institutions to contribute funds. Given that the Scottish Government is only to co-ordinate the fund, perhaps the minister will talk about the steps that can be taken to ensure that the private sector invests in it. I am sure that Patrick Harvie will talk about such issues when he speaks to the amendment in his name.
The climate challenge fund is another good initiative that the Government has championed. A few weeks ago, Humza Yousaf and I attended the launch of an awareness-raising booklet by the first steps initiative in Glasgow. The initiative comes from a black and ethnic minority group, who expressed to me and to Humza Yousaf their concern that in the current set-up only communities of place are entitled to apply to the fund, so communities of interest are precluded from applying. We asked the Government to look at the issue, working with Keep Scotland Beautiful to ensure that the fund can benefit the widest possible number of people in the next application phase. Equality must be at the heart of the fund.
I highlighted that issue because it is important that we ask ourselves whether we are setting the best possible example in all areas. There are many good initiatives that the Scottish Government is taking forward, but if we are cutting back on the very programmes that encourage transition to a low-carbon future, are we setting the right example for others to follow?
We support the Government’s ambitious renewables targets, but constant reassessment is necessary. There has been much debate in relation to wind farm applications. I am glad that, from April, there will finally be a dedicated community benefit register. However, the very structures of ownership are a climate change issue. When communities are empowered by joint ventures, virtual turbine ownership or co-operatives, the attitude to wind farms is different from the attitude when a multinational company is involved, often not with the best community benefit. I ask the minister and the Scottish Government to be sure that, as we begin to consider seriously the development of marine renewables, we learn from the concerns of communities and work together to develop an inclusive vision for the future. Needless to say, that applies to renewable heat, green transport and all other new ventures.
Our amendment emphasises partnership working with local authorities, public services, business and individual communities. I draw members’ attention to a model that is not from Scotland, but from China, where there is a pilot involving 25 cities through which buyers of new energy vehicles will receive joint subsidies from central and local Government. In Shenzhen, there is a plan to have 2,000 more green public vehicles on the road in 2012, which will reduce pollution and provide transport links for the community. Perhaps China can teach us a thing or two. Does the Scottish Government really always work in partnership? For instance, it could give direction to the national health service on local food sourcing to address issues of carbon miles or freshness and to help develop local employment. That was highlighted to me by a constituent, Greg Flowerdew, as part of a medical school project.
I raise those issues because it is essential that our environmental transformation does not in any way become stagnant and that we constantly refresh it in pushing forward. In the words of WWF Scotland, the publication “Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022: The Report on Proposals and Policies”, which should be the guiding document on our path towards reaching our climate targets,
“falls well short of providing confidence that these targets will be hit” and
“fails to commit to the ... step-change in policy action described as necessary by the UK CCC”, which is the UK Committee on Climate Change. The new report on proposals and policies for 2023 to 2027 will be carefully scrutinised by many people, not just those in the Parliament.
As we call on the Government to ensure that Scotland’s domestic plans are in place, so we support the Government’s position in the motion. We need to find ways forward together to help the most vulnerable internationally to deal with the ravages of climate change. I thank the minister for giving an update on Durban. We will provide as much support as possible to the work in the lead-up to Rio. We are interested in continuing dialogue with the Scottish Government where appropriate.
Kofi Annan, in his introduction to “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis”, spoke passionately of the risk to the millennium goals and the all-encompassing threat to the economy, health and safety that is presented by climate change. My colleague Neil Findlay will speak of the importance of the green economy here in Scotland and of green skills. While those skills grow our economy here, it is important that we find ways in which to export that knowledge to the developing world and to share it with them. All too often, the west speaks of the importance of the developing world not following in our footsteps with its own industrial revolution. However, the “Do as we say and not as we do” approach simply will not work, unless we back it up with the offer of shared technology and innovation so that, as the minister highlighted, countries can develop their own technologies for the future.
As we join together on 31 March to switch off our lights for earth hour, let us remember that it is not just a gesture, but that it is about people coming together to celebrate the appreciation of our precious world and to call for action to protect it. We have a stake in the future of our planet. We are all on the same side in the fight for climate justice. Let us work together, share what we know and push ourselves further so that Scotland can truly be a beacon for the world to follow.
I move amendment S4M-02156.1, to insert at end:
“, and calls on the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts to reduce emissions and target climate change in Scotland by working with local authorities, public services, business and individual communities to ensure that all are equipped to respond to this growing threat in a manner that puts environmental justice and equality at its heart, developing new and transferrable skills and encouraging the sharing of knowledge internationally to benefit the world”.
When the Parliament united to pass the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009—a good piece of legislation that brought together all sides of the political debate to vote yes when it came to the moment—we did something that very few other jurisdictions had been able to do. We united over the underlying principle political parties that often fall out over other issues and wind each other up. We were not always united on how we wanted to implement the 2009 act or on how we would get to the low-carbon future, but we were united on the principle and on the objective of reaching that future. If the Parliament unites on today’s motion and, I hope, on the amendments, we will have done something even more interesting. We will be a Parliament that brings together political parties to recognise that we need to make radical change in the way in which we run our economy, and to take responsibility for that globally.
Scotland has a historical responsibility as one of the countries that created the modern world and the enlightenment. In coffee shops and taverns up and down the Royal Mile, people put together the ideas that underpinned the modern world and the industrial revolution. We bear a responsibility for the beneficial consequences as well as the harmful and destructive ones. We have an historic opportunity to live up to that responsibility—not to wait for global action, but to lead it. If we can unite on a motion that discusses that responsibility in climate justice terms, that will be significant, and I welcome the Government’s motion.
The human rights approach that is mentioned in the motion is important. I welcome the support for that debate from Mary Robinson and Alan Miller, which the minister mentioned. I think that they understand not only the present but the future challenges around the world, of food, energy, population, health, migration, the impact of climate change on economies—not only domestic national economies, but local economies—which cannot be avoided, in whole or in part, and their resilience to climate change, which will be happening, as well as attempts to address the underlying poverty and inequality.
The paper from the Scottish Human Rights Commission that was circulated to members before the debate calls for a human rights impact assessment to go alongside an environmental impact assessment. We should endorse that call.
I am glad that the motion is not too self-congratulatory about Scotland’s track record; rather, it is aspirational about the role that Scotland can take on. Before we live up to those aspirations, we have far more to do domestically on energy, transport, and food. Too often our priorities benefit those who are already doing okay, particularly when we look at how we spend our money in Scotland. They benefit those who are already able to consume the energy that they wish to consume, to eat the food that they wish to eat, and to travel in their chosen manner. We place a much lower priority on those who do not have those options. Globally, the trade and competition rules that are imposed by the wealthy countries, which all too often benefit the wealthy countries, perpetuate unsustainable energy use and inequality around the world.
The two specific items that I included in my amendment are the adaptation fund and consumption-based targets. I welcome the minister’s commitment that the Scottish climate justice fund will be launched soon. I encourage him to use his closing speech to give us a little more detail about what that fund will involve. It must be additional to what the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments are doing on international development, and it must be informed by an equalities and human rights analysis, including the gender analysis that the minister mentioned in his speech. It must also support locally led projects. Any private sector additions to the fund must not be seen as an offset or an excuse for those companies that contribute to take less action on mitigation. I encourage the minister to endorse those principles in his closing speech.
On consumption-based targets, one of the changes that was agreed to during the passage of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was the inclusion of a duty on ministers to produce a report for each year from 2010 to 2050, setting out, as far as reasonably practicable, the greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by or otherwise associated with the consumption and use of goods and services in Scotland.
The three aspects of our responsibility on climate change are the emissions that we produce in Scotland; our consumption, or offshored emissions; and the extraction. If we dig up the fossil carbon, it will end up in the atmosphere. We will have to address all three of those aspects. The legislation achieves the first; consumption targets will achieve the second; and the third will be for later debate.
In closing, I again welcome the debate and the concept of adaptation debt proposed by the World Development Movement, and I ask the minister to say something about what he regards as Scotland’s share of that debt. Not included in my amendment, but highly relevant, is the question of how to fund all this action. I urge the minister to give the Scottish Government’s support to a measure such as the Robin Hood tax, which would allow all countries around the world to make their contribution fairly, from both private and public sources.
I move amendment S4M-02156.2, to insert at end:
“, and calls on the Scottish Government to announce a timescale for the creation of a Scotland-wide climate adaptation fund as outlined in the SNP manifesto and for the development of a system of consumption-based reporting targets as specified in section 37 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009”.
I am pleased to take part in the debate, which is, I think, the first major debate that we have had on the climate justice angle of climate change policy. I thank the various organisations that have provided briefings for today, including Oxfam and Friends of the Earth Scotland.
The Scottish Conservatives recognise that climate change is one of the gravest threats to the planet, and that urgent and co-ordinated action is required at home and abroad to cut carbon emissions and decarbonise the world economy. We also recognise the moral duty that countries such as Scotland and the UK, and indeed the rest of the developed world, have in being aware that it is often the least-developed countries that suffer most from, but are least able to respond to, the effects of climate change, which in many cases they have done little to cause.
There are many examples of countries that need international support to tackle the impact of climate change on their people’s lives, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Mozambique and large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The desperate plight of individuals who have lost their families and homes in flooding, or have died from hunger, is all too often etched on our television screens. The Mary Robinson Foundation wants a human-centred approach, and that approach is right and civilised, and will count.
There is no doubt in my mind that weather patterns have changed. On Loch Awe, where I live, last year’s rain gauge managed over 140in—nearly double the normal amount. Fishermen in the North Sea are catching fish from southern waters that are moving north in search of food, attracted to the cold waters. That is causing the displacement of native stocks and big problems for quota allocation within the common fisheries policy. Even in this country, where recent gales have caused endless damage, there have been floods in many parts of normally dry England while other parts, such as the south-east, are suffering severe drought. It is obvious that changes are occurring even in our own green and pleasant lands and heather-covered hills, and we must all do something about it, starting with saving as much energy as we can.
Returning to the justice theme, the UK Government is to be commended for its commitment to climate justice, demonstrated by the £2.9 billion of international climate finance that it has announced, specifically to help developing countries to pursue low-carbon growth and adapt to the impacts of climate change. It is also to be praised for seeking to drive private sector investment into tackling climate change in developing economies, noticeably through the capital markets climate initiative. The CMCI aims to unlock the private sector’s ability to help to meet the estimated $100 billion of new green investment that it is estimated will be required annually by 2020 to tackle climate change in developing countries.
Greg Barker, the UK minister with responsibility for climate change, is correct to argue that in general terms private sector finance is an essential component of climate solutions, while recognising that, as there will be some places that private finance will never reach, international governmental support will also be required.
That subject would take far too long to cover in this debate, when I have only a minute or two, but I will come back to Claudia Beamish on it.
If, as the motion suggests, Scotland is to act as a model of best practice, we must meet our climate change emissions reduction targets and our carbon reduction targets. Energy is a very big element in that. We are positive about renewables, but we remain clear that the Scottish Government’s energy policy needs to be broader and more diverse. The secure and affordable low-carbon energy supply that we all want must come from a balanced mix of energy provision, in which nuclear power plays a part.
We are clear that preserving our environment must not be seen as being in conflict with economic growth; it can go hand in hand with sustainably growing our economy and those of developing nations. Sustainable economic growth and free trade remain the key way of lifting the world’s poorest people from poverty.
I was struck by comments that I read in a recent interview with Professor Sir David King, who is the head of the University of Oxford’s prestigious Smith school of enterprise and the environment, which is doing excellent work in advising the Governments of developing countries such as Rwanda on how to develop sustainable transport systems and economic growth. When he was asked whether the main responsibility for cutting carbon lay with consumers, businesses or Governments, he said:
“You cannot separate responsibility ... Voltaire has a fitting quote: ‘No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.’ We’re all responsible, whether we are consumers, producers, or in government.”
I concur. I add that politicians and Governments in the developed world have an extra responsibility to assist the developing world in dealing with the challenges and threats of climate change that face the world’s poorest nations, which are least able to cope with that on their own.
My view in this important debate is that climate justice cannot be left to others. We can see the symptoms of extreme weather patterns before our eyes. On 4 January, Scots once again faced hurricane-force winds, as 100mph gales battered the country and caused widespread damage and disruption. The wind speeds on that day exceeded those of the gales on 8 December last year, which pawky Scots dubbed hurricane bawbag. However, the subject is very important and much less jokey than that.
The debate allows us to home in on the fact that the global impacts start right here. We can see that from not just the gales, but a story in The Observer last Sunday, which said:
“Food prices to soar as drought hits key crops ... Most of the south-east of England was officially declared to be in drought last week, and large swaths of the Midlands and south of England were confirmed as ‘at risk’, with hosepipe bans and other restrictions likely to be introduced soon.
Farmers are particularly at risk as the spring growing season approaches.”
Even in south-east England, we can see symptoms that are magnified in many other parts of the world.
On 29 February, The Economic Times reported:
“The record-breaking cold that gripped Europe this winter could be tied to a surprising culprit, a steep decline in sea ice in the Arctic following a warming of the polar region ... Using ... observational data and computer modelling”, scientists have claimed that, when the Arctic sea ice melts, that results in
“changes in atmospheric conditions, increased moisture levels to colder temperatures and increased snowfall across North America, Europe and Asia.”
Those are the symptoms that are on our doorsteps.
Oxfam has pointed out that, in relation to disasters in many parts of the world, women make up 20 million—80 per cent—of the 26 million people who are estimated to have been displaced by climate change. Women were hardest hit by the disasters in Bangladesh—the death rate of women was almost five times higher than that of men, because women had not been taught to swim and did not receive warning information.
That shows the extent and range of the issues. As the Scottish Human Rights Commission has pointed out, the complex range of climate change issues directly or indirectly affect human rights, including the right to life, the right to adequate food, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and many others. Our debate on climate justice gives us an opportunity to show how we can add, through the climate justice fund, to the international fight against the problems of climate change, and conduct that fight here, at home.
The First Minister was praised by the Scottish Human Rights Commission and others when he went to China to make his remarks about human rights. We have to think about the impact of our activities on other parts of the world. The United Nations has a programme for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. We know that many of our farmers import soya from South America. We have to ask what impact that has on the biodiversity of the areas in which it is grown. Although REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation”, there is another meaning, which is “reaping profits from eviction, land grabs, deforestation and the destruction of biodiversity”. That is a common problem. We must ensure that we conduct ourselves in a fashion that sends a signal that this country takes seriously the effects that we have on others.
Following Durban, a tremendous effort has been made to move forward in the way in which we count carbon. That will help other countries, too. Peat soils can now be measured, and they will be. They cover just over a fifth of Scotland’s land area and we have two thirds of the UK’s blanket and raised bog habitat, so we have a major job to do. Scotland’s deepest peats store about 6,500 megatonnes of carbon, which is 10 times the amount that is stored in the whole of the UK’s forest biomass, as I pointed out in a debate on peatlands in November 2010. We can measure our peatlands to help us to reduce our emissions, but we have to invest to ensure that they remain wetted and are part of the global fight against climate change. They are that big.
I will finish with some brief remarks on local action. A farmers co-operative that is based in the Black Isle is spearheading a drive to develop locally owned, small-scale wind energy projects across the Highlands. Highland Business Services Ring, which is based at Tore, is better known for using for its buying power help its 1,100 members secure better terms when they buy fuel or tractor parts.
However, the aim of its new social enterprise is to maximise the benefits of renewable energy in retaining as much income as possible in the local economy. That is a model for Scotland and many other countries in the climate justice debate.
When Claudia Beamish asked me to take part in this debate, I did not realise that it would be the first time that the issue has been discussed in a Parliament anywhere in the world. I am pleased that I acceded to her request. I cannot disagree with any of the statements in the Government’s motion or the sentiments that have been expressed by speakers in the debate so far. It is indeed the poor and vulnerable in the poorest countries of the world who will be, and already are, worst affected by climate change.
In the previous debate on climate change, before the minister went to Durban, I expressed the hope that he would bring back good news. I am pleased to hear that he had some good news to bring back to us, although perhaps not the progress that we would all wish. Drought, famine and flooding devastate entire communities, wiping out agricultural production and displacing people who lived in the affected areas. As others have said, it is often women who are worst affected. The grossest injustice is that 90 per cent of the effect of climate change is felt in developing countries while the poorest 50 countries contribute less than 1 per cent of the emissions that are the cause.
I do not know whether other members have had this experience, but in speaking to constituents I sometimes hear people express the view that, in a time of economic hardship when we are suffering from cuts, we should not send money overseas. We should remember that we pollute and people overseas suffer. If we needed just one reason to justify expenditure on international aid and development, it would be that such expenditure is in recompense for the damage that the profligacy of the industrial countries has inflicted on the poor in the rest of the world.
However, we will not be judged by the high-minded sentiments of our motions and amendments in the Parliament, by the radical Climate Change (Scotland) Bill that we all passed in 2009 or by the awards that are given out to our politicians; we will be judged by what we do and what we achieve. Without that, it will all be empty rhetoric and any claim that Scotland champions the tackling of climate change to protect human rights will be seen to be hollow.
Claudia Beamish referred to the cuts in the active travel budget. Active travel is an important way in which we can make a contribution. As the Minister for Housing and Transport said in his new year message, short journeys can often be made on foot, and walking is a great way in which to stay active, clear one’s head and reduce one’s carbon footprint all at once. So it was disappointing that the active travel budget was reduced significantly in the budget this year, although some changes were made later. We must all look at the balance between new road building and active travel and other carbon-reducing measures. We face that choice and must make a decision.
I recently met WWF, which raised with me a particular concern about traffic volumes. In the 2006 publication, “Scotland’s National Transport Strategy”, our aspiration was to stabilise the volumes of vehicle traffic at 2001 levels by 2021. However, on page 44 of the “Infrastructure Investment Plan 2011”, which was published in December, we are told to expect an increase of 15 to 20 per cent in vehicle kilometres by 2020. It may be envisaged that the bulk of those vehicles will be electric; however, WWF has estimated that there would need to be something like 1.5 million electric vehicles travelling on Scotland’s roads by 2020 in order for us to meet our 2020 emissions targets, and the increase in the necessary infrastructure, such as charging points, might be difficult to achieve by then.
As other members have said, it is the poorest countries across the globe that suffer the most from the effects of climate change. However, we have the same inequality, even in this country. As Rob Gibson said, although we have had a fairly mild winter this year, we are seeing the effects of climate change. Climate change for Scotland means, ultimately, a diversion of the jet stream that keeps our climate mild, meaning that we will have worse storms and colder winters as climate change takes effect. We also know that energy costs have increased and that around 35 per cent of Scottish households now live in fuel poverty—that has been highlighted in BBC programmes fairly recently. Energy Action Scotland has estimated that meeting our 2016 target to eradicate fuel poverty will require investment of £200 million per annum. I am not arguing that all of that must be public sector funding, as that would not be possible, but it is a lot of money at a time of recession and there are particular difficulties—as was shown in the case of the family in East Lothian that was highlighted over the weekend—with some of the older buildings in Scotland for which cavity wall insulation is not an option.
This is, nevertheless, a potential win situation because it offers a big opportunity, given the scale of the necessary investment, to create jobs and employment in what are often referred to as the green industries. It is also an opportunity to increase the standard of living of some of Scotland’s poorest households as well as to tackle an important source of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is what we should be concentrating on. I support the Labour and Green amendments. I also support the Government’s motion. We must all take the necessary actions, as individuals, agencies, businesses and Government, to achieve the outcomes that we all talk about.
I, too, welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate on climate justice. As Elaine Murray and others have said, it is a privilege to participate in the first parliamentary debate on climate justice in the world. What a credit that is to the Scottish Parliament.
I thank all those NGOs that have provided us with extremely helpful and comprehensive briefings. On this occasion, those have come not just from what we might call the usual suspects—the environmental NGOs such as Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland—but from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and Oxfam, representing the international development aspect. We have also heard from human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
That breadth of input is fitting because, as the minister reaffirmed in his opening remarks, the Scottish Government is committed to combating climate change not only here at home but internationally—through initiatives that will ensure that our efforts to tackle climate change will also secure climate justice.
The NGOs have encapsulated the ideas that lie behind climate justice. SCIAF has said that
“climate change is more than an environmental issue. It is an issue of global justice.”
Amnesty International has said:
“Respect for the environment and respect for human rights are inextricably bound together.”
A few minutes ago, we heard from Rob Gibson the appalling fact that women had died because they could not swim. Human rights are fundamental to this debate. As Oxfam said,
“we must see the fight against poverty and the fight against the effects of climate change as interrelated efforts.”
The minister’s announcement this morning of the planned establishment of the climate justice fund is therefore welcome. The announcement reflects a clear SNP manifesto commitment from last year, and it is the result of continuing work with business, charities and NGOs. As we have heard, the official launch of the fund will take place next month. I hope that today’s debate will inform the discussions that I imagine are still taking place on the details of the operation of the fund. We have heard thoughtful contributions this morning—from Claudia Beamish and Patrick Harvie in particular—and they have shown that we are all here, as one, to do what we can to combat climate change here in Scotland and to participate in international efforts across the globe.
The Scottish climate justice fund is very welcome. Does the member agree—and perhaps the minister could deal with this when he sums up—that we could consider funding wind turbine manufacture in Scotland? That could assist with what we are trying to do—and we could export the ideas as well.
The member strays on to the important area of the green energy reindustrialisation of our country. I am sure that the minister will be happy to take up the point. I hope that the minister will also be able to confirm that at the heart of the climate justice fund will be financial programmes that will secure locally led efforts to build resilience through sustainable initiatives—in the important sector of agriculture, for example.
The Government has a commendable track record. I will take up Patrick Harvie’s point by saying, without being self-congratulatory, that it is important to understand our achievements to date. The Malawi renewable energy acceleration programme has been mentioned. That programme has been led by the University of Strathclyde in our great city of Glasgow. We have also contributed to the publication of a report to help the Maldives, where people face potentially catastrophic difficulties with climate change. The report was produced by Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Jamie McGrigor mentioned the wonderful University of Oxford; many Scottish universities are also contributing to the debate.
The Scottish Government clearly recognises Scotland’s international responsibilities to help to secure climate justice for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. That is entirely in keeping with Scotland’s sense of the common weal. The establishment of a climate justice fund is a natural extension of that intrinsic Scottish characteristic.
I believe that today’s debate will make a significant contribution. It is interesting to note what Scotland has already managed to achieve under a devolved Government whose budget, sadly, is still controlled from London. I urge members to consider what Scotland could achieve if we took the opportunity to become an independent country with control over all of our resources.
Climate change is the most critical challenge that we face for the future of our planet. It is recognised in the United Kingdom’s strategic defence review and is seen as the principal threat to the UK’s national security.
The adverse effects of climate change are already evident, as other members have mentioned. No one is immune to its effects, but some nations are clearly much better equipped than others to respond to the challenge. Scotland can adapt, but the global nature of the threat requires the widest possible co-operation among all countries to achieve an effective, co-ordinated international response.
“sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.”
I concur with Rob Gibson, Elaine Murray and Jamie McGrigor that the scale of the global climate challenge is already clear in relation to our own climate. I have seen the evidence for that myself, having visited the Met Office.
Which human rights do we mean? The Scottish Human Rights Commission cites the right to life, the right to adequate food, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing and the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. However, adaptation and mitigation measures can themselves have a negative impact on human rights and exacerbate discrimination and inequity. As the SHRC puts it:
“For instance, cultivation of biofuels can lead to land use change from forestry to agriculture, diversion of water resources, and cause community displacement.”
Amnesty International has welcomed this debate on climate justice and the opportunity that it provides to address important concerns about human rights. It recognises that the Scottish Government understands the link between the environmental consequences of development and human rights. Climate change is more devastating to those who are already economically disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world.
The SHRC states that it is important to note that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reaffirmed that parties should fully respect human rights in all actions related to climate change. Its briefing goes on to state that nation states have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil human rights in the context of climate change, which has three levels: international, national and local. It goes on to state that nation states should ensure policy coherence at all levels in discharging their legal duties to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. In that respect, Scotland is already showing leadership on the global stage. The minister has been at the heart of that and I commend his work.
The climate justice agenda is also well recognised by the First Minister, who stated in January, in advance of the UN conference that will take place in Rio in June:
“I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enshrine this important principle—that economic development should be linked to human rights—in global energy policy, ensuring that countries and communities least able to cope with the extreme weather events climate change brings are not further disadvantaged.”
The SHRC states:
“Scotland is increasingly recognised as a global leader in addressing climate change. There is huge potential for Scotland to be a model of international best practice by becoming a low carbon economy which supports sustainable economic growth and promotes climate justice domestically and internationally.”
In Friends of the Earth’s excellent briefing for this debate it states that it has used what Scotland is doing in terms of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 in workshops and lectures in Brussels, Helsinki, Madrid and Budapest to encourage others to follow our example.
Amnesty International maintains that Governments and companies throughout the world have a duty to ensure that their own nation’s development does not have an adverse impact on human rights and that Governments hold companies to account for any such violations.
Does the member agree that the involvement of any Scottish commercial company or university in a developing country must take place for humanitarian reasons and the right reasons, not just to seek another business opportunity?
I agree with that sentiment. Indeed, Amnesty International makes that very point in its briefing. The activities of UK-based transnational corporations outside the UK have come under scrutiny in instances in which they have been responsible for, or contributed to, human rights abuses. Amnesty International has identified several key cases and it is following up on them. They include cases in relation to the Niger Delta, the Lubicon Cree people of Alberta, western Canada, and the activities of bauxite mining companies in Orissa in India. In all those instances, Amnesty International believes that there has been a negative impact on human rights.
Amnesty International is calling on Governments across the world to be more transparent about and responsible and accountable for their impact on human rights. I presume that Neil Findlay shares that sentiment.
However, as the minister has indicated, the Parliament and the global community can rely on the Scottish Government to continue its lead role and, through the climate justice fund that has been announced today, encourage others to take responsibility for the impact of their nations on the vulnerable of the world.
For the sake of all of us in this global village, I strongly support the Government motion and the sentiments that have been expressed across the chamber today.
In a speech that he recently delivered in China, the First Minister said that climate justice is “vitally important”, adding that it must be
“at the very heart of the decisions we make on energy policy and economic and social development in the coming months.”
As has been previously mentioned, he went on to say:
“I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enshrine” the
“important principle ... that economic development should be linked to human rights”.
“the biggest challenge for the 21st century is to combine economic progress with social and environmental justice.”
That was 10 years ago, and the Scottish Government has yet to introduce that combination of social, economic and environmental justice.
In 2009, the UK ratified the Aarhus convention. On backing the convention, the UK stated that it understands the right of every person
“to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being.”
The UN Aarhus convention, which Scotland has signed and ratified through the UK and the EU, requests the implementation of three pillars. Those three pillars give individuals the right to be informed and have access to information about the environment, the right to participate in environmental decision making and the right of easy and effective access to justice if the former rights are denied.
The Scottish Labour Executive met the first two principles of the convention with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. It is now 2012. Why has the Scottish Government not yet set legislation that meets the third pillar of the Aarhus convention?
The third principle ideally should be protected by the implementation of judicial review. Access to that remedy can often be the only way to challenge an executive act that might cause climate injustice. Judicial review allows a petitioner to challenge otherwise unconstrained administrative decisions and to ensure that the rule of law is adhered to for the benefit of the people and the environment.
I am really sorry, but I have a tight six minutes and have a lot to get through.
Climate justice has not received special status in Scotland. The Gill review into the Scottish civil courts says that the current law on standing for judicial review is too restrictive. If a petitioner were able to challenge decisions that cause climate injustice, it could lead to a broad change in administrative practice. Further, if there were a high-profile case, it could raise public awareness of a particular environmental injustice and educate the public at the same time.
Scottish Labour has always pushed for more to be done to reduce our carbon emissions, and it was a Labour Government in Scotland that first introduced renewables targets in the Scottish Parliament. Labour members have continued to support the Scottish Government’s general approach to climate changes issues. However, why has the SNP reduced the annual carbon emission targets from the proposed level of 3 per cent a year to 0.3 per cent this year?
The effects of climate change can be seen every day. From the polar ice caps melting in the Arctic to the prolonged droughts in the deserts of sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is having a genuine effect on our planet. It is reported that, in 2008 alone, more than 20 million people were displaced because of natural disasters. In Scotland, we have a varied geographical landscape, and climate change will affect us all in a variety of ways, whether through flooding or—dare I say it?—heat waves, which are something that Scotland, at its best, lacks.
The impact of climate change globally will hurt the poorest countries and the poorest in our communities. The effects on health and wellbeing will be staggering for the poorest, and there is no justice in that, as it is not the poorest who have caused the threats that lie ahead.
We must act on the final stage of the Aarhus convention and ensure that we meet all the requirements, so that not just the Donald Trumps of the world, with their tens of millions of dollars, but the poorest, who will be hit hardest, have the chance to challenge an environmentally damaging decision or act.
Climate injustices impact directly and indirectly on human rights: the right to life, to adequate food, to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing and to safe drinking water and sanitation. Thankfully, those issues do not affect the lives of 99 per cent of people in the UK. However, they affect the lives of millions of people around the world, and if we do not do something about climate injustice now, it will affect our country in the next century.
Scotland is a relatively small country, with a relatively small population. However, we can set an example for the rest of the world to follow by acting on our promises, not by grandstanding.
I welcome the debate. Where we lead, I hope that other legislatures throughout the world will follow by having such debates. It is clear that those of us in the developed world have a role to play in that regard.
There is great consensus among members on all sides of the chamber this morning. That is as it should be, because the climate change agenda is shared by all. Patrick Harvie made that point with regard to the way in which the Parliament passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. I welcome the announcement of the climate justice fund, and I look forward to the details emerging in the coming months.
A good starting point for any contribution to the debate might be to ask what is meant by climate justice. We can probably come to an answer by focusing on the flip side, and looking at the effects of what could be termed climate injustice.
A number of briefings were sent to members in advance of the debate. SCIAF sent us a particularly good briefing that set out some of the facts and figures on the impact of climate change. It stated:
“The food security of an estimated 2.5 billion people dependent on agriculture in the developing world is threatened by changing climate systems” and
“150,000 deaths per year are already attributed to climate change globally.”
It also stated:
“Between 75 and 250 million people in Africa alone are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change over the next decade” and
“Many millions will be displaced by the end of the century.”
Oxfam made many of the same points, and stated:
“The UN estimates that climate change could increase the number of people facing water scarcity by 1.8 billion and increase those facing coastal flooding by many millions.”
Those are some of the statistics on the effects of climate change and what could be termed climate injustice. We should remember that behind those words are real people living real lives. Many people are already living a fragile existence, which is being made more fragile still by the effects of climate change.
In that regard, it is absolutely right that we seek to make this year a year of climate justice, as the First Minister has suggested ahead of the UN conference on sustainable development.
I will focus on the efforts that the Scottish Government has made so far on the climate change agenda elsewhere in the world. It is engaged in Malawi and the Maldives in particular, where it is encouraging knowledge sharing and the creation of partnerships between academic institutions in those countries and in Scotland.
Scotland has been assisting the efforts of the Maldives in its ambition to become the first carbon-neutral state. In August 2010, a report was published on developing the Maldives’ potential for marine energy, with which Robert Gordon University assisted. The Scottish Government has awarded approximately £1.7 million to Malawi as part of the climate justice agenda, to help its renewable energy acceleration programme.
It is important, as the motion states, that the issue of climate justice is rooted firmly in the human rights agenda. I see Professor Alan Miller, the chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, in the public gallery. He has said:
“climate justice places human rights at the centre of economic decision making and seeks to redress the unfairness of people in developing countries feeling the impact of climate change which they did not cause.”
It is important to look in more detail at how human rights interact with the climate justice agenda—a connection that is perhaps not that obvious to some. The Scottish Human Rights Commission sent us a briefing in which it points out that
“Human rights standards and principles ... have the potential of informing and strengthening policymaking in the area of climate change” and that states have a responsibility to work to that end.
Amnesty International sent us a very good briefing—I have to say that because it was prepared by my wife and she was would be very upset if I did not. I should declare that my wife works for Amnesty and that I am a member of that organisation. Amnesty’s briefing talks about the involvement of some UK-based companies in human rights violations throughout the world. Paul Wheelhouse has already talked about that, so I will not repeat the point.
I welcome the debate and the work that has been done so far. However, we should not rest on our laurels and must consider what else can be done. In that regard, I return to the SHRC’s briefing, which says that we have to engage internationally to secure climate justice. The SHRC has also suggested that we have an international conference in Scotland later this year or next year to demonstrate our adoption of the climate justice agenda. I would be interested to hear what the minister has to say about that.
I close by echoing Patrick Harvie’s point. We need to consider a financial transaction tax—the so-called Robin Hood tax. That could help domestic finances just as much as it could contribute to the climate justice agenda. As the Oxfam briefing concludes:
“If introduced it could well be the most (if not only) popular Tax ever”.
I am glad to speak on climate justice for the first time for the Liberal Democrats in this or any Parliament. I am happy that the Scottish ministers had a place in the UK’s Durban delegation. As Scots, we should be proud that Scotland has an opportunity, within the UK, to play a prominent role on the international stage.
The effects of climate change do not respect international borders and will impact on countries in all corners of our planet, with varying degrees of severity. The reality is that countries in the developing world are being disproportionately affected by climate change, largely because they are ill-equipped to deal with its consequences. The sad irony is that the worst affected have done the least to cause the problem.
Article 25 of the universal declaration of human rights states:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care ... and the right of security in the event of ... circumstances beyond his control.”
Sadly, there are far too many people in the developing world to whom article 25 is merely a fictional piece of writing—people such as the millions in east Africa who are experiencing starvation due to drought, and the millions in south Asia displaced by devastating floods. It is those people who ensure that climate change and human rights will for ever be inextricably linked. Indeed, Oxfam has spoken of the fights against poverty and climate change as “interrelated efforts”. I welcome the fact that our Parliament and Parliaments throughout the world are beginning to view climate change as akin to an issue of justice.
Rarely do I find myself agreeing with the First Minister, but I agreed with him when he spoke in China of developed countries having an “ethical obligation” to share the benefits of on-going economic development—economic development that led to such carbon-dependent wealth creation. He was also correct to speak of the importance of delivering climate justice and of linking economic development to human rights.
Some time ago, we proposed the development of an overseas climate change team to assist developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change, deal with climate-related disasters and adopt low-carbon technologies. The focus should be on climate adaptation to assist those in developing countries who are in desperate need of the intervention that their own Governments—for whatever reason—are unable to provide.
We should all therefore welcome the Government’s announcement in December of the establishment of a Scottish international climate adaptation fund, or climate justice fund, as it is now known. I am keen to hear what progress there is in the Government’s discussions with
“partners in business, charitable foundations and non-governmental organisations” that last year’s SNP manifesto stipulated.
The Liberal Democrats will support the amendment in the name of Patrick Harvie as we, too, wish a timescale for the creation of the fund to be announced. We shall also support Claudia Beamish’s amendment, which addresses the involvement of the wider Scottish community.
Scotland need not be independent to be the “good world citizen” that the First Minister recently talked about. It is important that we do our bit to tackle climate justice. We must be an exemplar of good practice in our domestic attempts to tackle climate change to act as a model for the rest of the world.
The environmental lobby has lined up to praise our ambitious Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The Scottish Liberal Democrats were proud to engage constructively with the Government on that legislation. However, environmentalists are all united in agreement that the act will mean little unless we deliver on the targets to which we committed ourselves.
As we all know, the 2009 act has committed us to reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. However, our built environment is something of a barrier to our attempts to drive down emissions. Currently, homes contribute around 27 per cent of our total carbon emissions. WWF Scotland estimates that 85 per cent of today’s homes will still be in use by 2050, and it is clear that our emissions levels will not be significantly altered without targeted intervention in the condition of many of Scotland’s existing homes.
The Government has various schemes to tackle that issue: the energy assistance package, the universal home insulation scheme and the new £50 million warm homes fund. Such measures are welcome, but the Government estimates that the cost of achieving the carbon reduction targets will be £16 billion between now and 2020, so there is a lot to do.
That is why the Government should reconsider the independent budget review’s recommendation to restructure Scottish Water, which would unlock substantial funds by generating a one-off capital receipt. We would use that capital by investing £250 million of it into massively accelerating the insulation of homes in Scotland, including homes in the private rented sector and hard-to-treat properties.
I am happy to have spoken in the debate and support the amendments and the motion.
As the newest member of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, I feel privileged to speak in this debate on climate justice.
I agree with virtually everything that has been said. I say “virtually” because I take political exception to one or two comments: Jamie McGrigor’s comments on the continuation of nuclear energy, and Jim Hume’s comment on Scottish Water.
Apart from that, we have had a consensual debate in which members have highlighted many important points about the recognition of the injustice that has befallen many third-world countries because of our insatiable greed and our thirst over many decades for a lifestyle that they cannot imagine. Our lifestyle caused the problem, and the lifestyle that we continue to enjoy exacerbates it.
We welcome the Scottish Government’s many initiatives to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions. Jim Hume was right to mention the programmes for home insulation and so on.
We all have a responsibility in this area, and Patrick Harvie was right to say that we must show an example and do all that we can to reduce our emissions, which will have an impact on the global situation.
I will not repeat everything that has been said about tsunamis or other aspects of global warming and the impact that they have had on various countries, but I associate myself with my friend and colleague Annabelle Ewing’s congratulations to all the NGOs on the excellent briefings that they provided. They have highlighted to us the fact that this is a human rights issue. Just in case Mrs Hepburn is listening, Amnesty International’s briefing was excellent.
To be serious, however, I think that the crux of the matter is that we have a responsibility to those less fortunate and more vulnerable than ourselves. We cannot ignore their plight. In that respect, I associate myself with Elaine Murray’s comments about those who wonder why in these times of great hardship and austerity we continue to provide funding to countries overseas. We are quite right to do so; after all, we must take responsibility for our actions.
We have a bright future. Through the curriculum for excellence, our schoolchildren are learning about recycling and saving energy—and, indeed, saving the planet. Old Rayne primary school in my Aberdeenshire West constituency has just received its fourth green flag award; it is the first school in my constituency to achieve that distinction and I believe that it might well be the first school in Scotland to do so. Many positive things are happening and we must not only think about what we as individuals and responsible adults can do but learn from our children. I was quite impressed when a parent of one of the Old Rayne primary schoolchildren told me how they had been made aware of how often they leave the lights on in their home; their child told them that they had to go to bed because they were burning too much electricity. It was only about eight in the evening. Of course, children can sometimes go too far.
Like Claudia Beamish, I will certainly be switching the lights off on 31 March. My wife tells me that I sometimes need to switch them on, but there is always a good side to these things.
We are going in the right direction and I believe that Scotland can be an exemplar of good practice. I welcome the minister’s announcement of the climate justice fund and would certainly like to hear more information about it. As someone who enjoys walking as a pastime—and as a way of getting from A to B—I think that more of us could probably reduce our carbon footprint by following the example of many of our children and taking up cycling and walking. In trying to find a way forward, we should all make a commitment to ourselves to reduce our carbon footprint.
It is a great privilege to take part in this first ever Scottish Government debate on climate justice. Christian Aid Scotland estimates that, if the average world temperature rises by just 2° by 2050, 250 million more people will be forced to leave their homes, a further 30 million people could go hungry as global agricultural yields go into recession and 1 to 3 billion people will suffer acute water shortages. Of course, those are worst-case scenarios but, in talking about climate change, we must stress that this very serious issue could drastically alter the ways in which people live their lives. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, climate change will have a major effect on human wellbeing, causing hunger, displacement and social dislocation. We must not forget that this is a distinctly human issue.
Scottish Labour pushed for radical action with the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which requires the Government to meet the target of a 42 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. If we are going to meet the target, Scotland needs to redouble its efforts.
Although emissions fell by 7 per cent in 2009, the Committee on Climate Change’s recent report attributed that to the recession rather than to any real action by the Scottish Government. It also found that, in 2010, the UK’s emissions rose by 3 per cent, and it suspects that the same will have occurred here, although the Scottish data are not yet available.
We must question whether the Scottish Government is serious about the issue, given the reduction in its annual carbon emission targets from the proposed level of 3 per cent per annum to just 0.3 per cent in 2012. To Labour members, it does not look as if the Government is serious about climate change or is willing to take the radical steps that are required to deal with it.
On climate change, we should be thinking globally but acting locally. In my area, the Big Lottery Fund has just awarded £99,800 to Eglinton Growers. That money will be used to create community gardens and more than 80 allotment plots, which will be available for the residents of Kilwinning and Irvine. As well as promoting health and wellbeing, the project is a practical example of sustainable communities and it embodies an idea that the Government should be promoting. I hope that it will do so through the climate justice fund that the minister announced earlier.
We should be working with councils to ensure that, where possible, they are protecting the environment and sourcing food for schools locally. North Ayrshire Council catering department sources local produce, when that is possible. Last year, around 15.5 per cent of the total food spend was sourced from Ayrshire-based companies, and the council hopes to improve on that. It has also signed up to the carbon reduction commitment and the Carbon Saver Gold Standard, which involves reducing its carbon emissions over a three-year period.
In addition, Labour-held North Ayrshire Council promotes eco-schools, which my colleague mentioned. Twenty-four schools have achieved silver awards and a further four have won bronze awards. At the 2010 Scottish education awards, Lawthorn primary in Irvine won the most sustainable school award for dramatically reducing the amount of energy, water and resources that it uses and its global footprint. It is important that we encourage climate change awareness in our children, because they will inherit the planet.
On a wider scale, we must protect our peatlands. The West Scotland region as a whole has a lot of peatland. For example, Clyde Muirshiel park is 60 per cent peatland, and there are large areas of peatland on Arran. Such areas are vital for carbon capture, and it is essential that they remain wet to absorb the carbon. That could be under threat if our climate dries out. It is hard to believe that we could have a dry climate, but that is where we are heading.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that, in 2010, Scotland’s peatland stored 3 billion tonnes of harmful gases and that about 80 per cent of the UK’s peatland area was in Scotland. If that land is not maintained there could be dire consequences for climate change, so we should maintain and protect as much peatland as possible.
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment recently upset the farming industry with the Government’s commitment to increase woodland cover in Scotland to 25 per cent of the country’s landmass by 2050. He was forced to backtrack by describing what had been a target as an “aspiration”. Can the minister clarify whether the planting of 10,000 hectares with trees is a target or an aspiration?
We need to ensure that Scotland is at the forefront of the fight on climate change, and the Government needs to ensure that it is serious about tackling climate change by reducing emissions and working with local authorities, public services, businesses and communities to ensure that everyone is doing their bit to tackle the issue effectively.
I am delighted to speak in the first Parliament debate on climate justice and I am particularly pleased that the focus is on climate justice. As we have heard from other members, Scotland is a pioneer when it comes to tackling climate change, which is why we have an added responsibility in the world to aid nations that do not have the means to contribute as much to the global effort.
When we talk about climate justice we are explicitly acknowledging, as we should, that climate change is fundamentally and inescapably an ethical issue. It is about the many ways in which the adverse effects of climate change are undermining human rights and inflicting harm on the poor and disadvantaged, in countries that bear no responsibility for creating the problem and whose institutions and finances are such that they are singularly ill-equipped to mitigate its effects.
That is why I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament embedded in legislation the most ambitious climate change targets in the word, on which we are well on the way to making progress. It is also why I welcome the First Minister’s call for world leaders to make 2012 a year of climate justice, ahead of the UN conference on sustainable development in Rio in June.
If we are to succeed in our aspiration to deliver climate justice, we need to influence others. Our influence can be brought to bear particularly at European Union level, where a wide range of legislation that impacts directly on climate change is enacted. In December, the European Commission published its “Energy Roadmap 2050”, which set a target to cut emissions by more than 80 per cent by 2050. The target will require almost complete decarbonisation of energy production in the EU and is entirely consistent with the policy of the Scottish Government and this Parliament. Scotland is uniquely well placed to contribute to the target, constituting as we do an estimated 25 per cent of total EU renewable energy potential.
I want to make progress, but I will come back to Neil Findlay if I get a chance to do so.
As we make progress by encouraging the investments that are required to exploit such a tremendous economic resource, we will contribute positively to the delivery of climate justice across the world. In that sense, Scotland and its Government are investing in global climate justice.
An aspect on which the EU could and should be performing better is the emission trading system; we must address the failings in the regime. Currently the ETS is failing to provide the incentives that energy companies need if they are to invest in long-term low-emissions sources of energy. The oversupply of carbon emission allowances, coupled with the effects of economic recession and energy-saving measures, has led to a dramatic fall in the market carbon price, which has virtually eliminated the incentive for companies to invest in carbon-free energy sources.
There is little doubt that the problem has the potential to derail the EU’s target to reduce emissions overall by 20 per cent by 2020—let alone the increased target of 30 per cent that the Scottish Government advocates. If it is to tackle the problem, the EU must introduce measures that will push up the price of carbon, thereby providing an incentive for companies to invest in technologies—renewables, in particular—that reduce emissions. Any such action at EU level would help Scotland to achieve its target of a 42 per cent reduction by 2020. I am therefore pleased that the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy voted this week to adopt an amendment to the energy efficiency directive that will allow permits in the ETS to be withheld so that the price will rise and investment in renewable energy sources will be stimulated.
It is regrettable that, as is becoming increasingly clear, we are unlikely on our current trajectory to prevent climate change, so greater efforts must be devoted to mitigating the impact of climate change on vulnerable countries and communities. That is why the Scottish Government is committed not only to enhancing the climate challenge fund but to creating, with others, Scotland’s first climate justice fund. I welcome the minister’s announcement in that regard.
There is no doubt that adapting to climate change will be one of the defining global challenges of the century. There will be a scientific and, no doubt, an economic challenge, but the dominant aspect will be the perhaps unparalleled ethical challenge that climate change will pose for us all, especially those of us who are better prepared for, and less directly affected by, a process that for many people, in the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable communities, will be disruptive and almost certainly destructive.
If society as a whole is to rise to the ethical challenge that climate change poses and deliver climate justice, much will be required of us all. Simple everyday actions have a part to play in reducing our carbon emissions. As Margaret McDougall said, we must think globally and act locally. This week I joined my South Scotland colleague, Claudia Beamish, to help care students at Dumfries and Galloway College launch their lug a mug project, which encourages staff and students to buy a reusable mug rather than use disposable cups for their coffee, as a practical way of helping the environment and promoting sustainability.
This week also saw the publication of “A Flourishing Scotland”, which sets out Scotland’s voice ahead of the Rio+20 summit and is a result of work that has been undertaken by organisations in the public, private and third sectors. I commend all those who are involved, particularly Cifal Scotland and the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research.
To conclude, I hope that we will support this important motion, because that will send a key message that Scotland’s Parliament accepts the ethical challenge of helping to secure climate justice and, in doing so, underlines its international responsibility and its commitment to a more sustainable future.
The Scottish Parliament understands that poor and vulnerable people in developing countries are most affected by climate change, but are least equipped to respond to it. Scotland presents itself to the world as a forerunner in the fight for climate justice by acting as a model for best practice on climate change and by promoting moral, environmental and economic reasons for action by other countries. I compliment the minister on his announcement on the climate justice fund.
The impacts of climate change already affect people in the global south through droughts, flooding and many more events that cause devastation to communities and to countries’ growth. The developed world should do its best to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it is now widely accepted that the developed world’s attempts to battle climate change and climate injustice are just not good enough, which puts the third-world countries at a further disadvantage in their ability to develop while combating the effects of climate change. Scotland must pave the way for the global north and set an example to the rest of the developed world. We need to continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but we must also seek to correct that gross injustice by allowing the third world to develop in the way that the global north did while, where possible, aiding those countries—which cannot afford the luxury of green technology—to do that sustainably.
A 2005 Friends of the Earth report revealed that people who live in deprived areas in Scotland suffer disproportionately from industrial pollution and poor water and air quality. Further, more than a third of households now suffer from fuel poverty, and the poorest households—which include households that are unlikely to own a car—are actually most likely to suffer from poor air quality as a result of congestion. We must take action to tackle that, whether through insulating homes, reducing traffic or producing reduction action plans for communities. Because 25 per cent of emissions come from the home and everyday life, we must do all that we can to encourage a holistic approach domestically, as well as championing the issues internationally.
We need to develop a fairer community at home and abroad, because our domestic activity will help to shape our identity as a country in the fight for climate justice. We can do that by continuing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions while doing what we can to provide support for those who are most at risk in developing countries, so that the world continues to grow, but in a sustainable and equal manner. Scotland reaps revenue from its beautiful surroundings, which are tourist attractions; its fisheries, which are already depleted; and its forestry and agriculture.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, coupled with Scotland’s ambitious renewable targets set the standard for Scotland. Friends of the Earth has used the Scottish approach as an example for other nations to follow. We want to continue to have influence in that way with regard to climate justice. The entire Parliament must feel an obligation to tackle the issue and to listen to our citizens, who are calling for change. Non-governmental organisations such as the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Friends of the Earth, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Amnesty International are prominent in showing their support for Scotland becoming a front runner in the process. It is important that we keep our links with international groups, which we can help to spread the message of Scottish support, and that we work together with them in the fight.
There should be a strong consensus throughout Scotland. We can push for support abroad, but we also want to implement the ideology domestically. As a leading nation in the industrial revolution, which has played a part in climate change, Scotland must now become a leading nation in a new revolution for climate justice. Climate change is fast becoming a humanitarian crisis. We have seen an increased in natural disasters such as floods and droughts, food and water scarcity, and disease, and there has been increased conflict over resources, and many other issues. Many countries in the global north throw themselves at the chance to help in the aftermath of a large-scale crisis such as a natural disaster. Rather than sending aid to clear up the mess, we should be helping to prevent it from ever happening in the first place, and helping those who have already been affected to adapt to their new surroundings.
The world is continually warming because of the greenhouses gases that remain in the atmosphere for long periods, so we must act now, not later. We must treat climate justice as we would any other human rights issue so that, as an international topic, it can be treated in a way that allows for discussion and harmony between national and international efforts to address the global challenge in a co-ordinated and human-centred way.
It is our obligation to ensure that the principles of climate justice are implemented throughout all policy areas internationally and nationally, as well as to encourage a human rights approach to climate justice. Not only should Scotland continue to create innovative and effective policy domestically, it must put the same effort into multinational agreements to fight for climate justice.
My colleague, Claudia Beamish, said that I would speak on the green skills agenda. I am sorry to have to disappoint her on this occasion, but I am sure that I will get the opportunity to enthral members on that subject in the near future.
Climate change and environmental justice, and the development of policies in those areas, is of vital interest locally, nationally and internationally. I welcome the debate because it is a reminder to us all that there is a wider world out there that goes way beyond the narrow confines of this Parliament. It goes beyond national boundaries and shows us that, whether they are fishermen in the Western Isles or pastoral farmers in the Sudan, human beings across the world have shared interests and common concerns, and we need co-operative solutions for them.
The concept of climate justice—or, more appropriately, climate injustice—is not difficult to comprehend. By adhering to a flawed and often brutally uncompromising economic system, the west has grown wealthy at the expense of people in the developing world by exploiting their human and natural resources to satisfy our demand for material goods. The impacts of our actions will not be felt some time in the distant future when even the youngest of us—such as me—will be long gone. They are being felt here and now. According to Oxfam, almost 300,000 deaths a year are caused by the effects of climate change.
The bulk of those deaths do not occur in the United States, Europe, or Scotland, but in the poorer countries of the developing world: 50 of the world’s poorest countries are said to have contributed less than 1 per cent of global emissions, but bear nine tenths of the social and economic consequences. Those with the least responsibility for causing climate change are the ones who suffer the most from its consequences. That, of course, is not climate justice but climate injustice on an industrial scale.
Climate change has its deniers. Right-wing commentators and neo-con think tanks that are funded by the likes of Exxon and Mobil spew out their propaganda just as readily as their sponsors spew out emissions. Increased incidence of drought and water scarcity, floods, violent weather patterns, desertification and food insecurity have not been dreamed up by left-wing conspiracy theorists; they are happening across the globe here and now.
Scotland is not immune from the impact. We have witnessed more unpredictable weather patterns, warmer winters, and wetter summers, and we can see that our infrastructure struggles to cope. Just as climate change affects the less developed countries around the world, when a big developer wants to exploit minerals and land resources in Scotland, it is the poorer communities that are often targeted, whether it be for a landfill site, incinerator, or open-cast coal mining. The absence of any third-party right of appeal in this country’s planning system is a clear injustice that must be addressed if we are serious about promoting environmental justice at home.
Successive Scottish Governments have carefully considered climate change and how to adapt to and mitigate its effects. The Government’s climate change targets are laudable, but it is one thing to set targets and another to implement them.
Let us take renewables. I have said this before and I will say it again: our approach to renewables represents a missed opportunity. Had we sought to take control of our own renewables industry, we could have had the financial benefits stay in Scotland. We could have developed a substantive domestic green economy, with much of the accrued surpluses being reinvested in tackling fuel poverty and in developing further renewable technology.
It might be, and we can debate that matter when it comes up.
Instead of seeking that control, we have allowed our wind resources to be handed over to foreign multinationals and venture capital firms based in France, Spain, Italy, Holland and Denmark—an approach that does not resonate with the declaration that we are
“a model of international best practice”.
At some point, we will all have to face up to the questions whether to build more or fewer roads, to cut or increase cycling and walking budgets, and to promote or reduce expenditure on public transport. That is genuinely not a partisan point.
The World Development Movement argues that we in the west have accrued an adaptation debt because of our contribution to climate change internationally. It is calculated that our share of that debt is £22 billion over 40 years. I am not arguing that we immediately write a cheque to settle that, but it is morally right that we develop policies that try to repair some of the damage that we have inflicted. We should provide expertise and capability to assist countries in the developing world. I hope that the minister will refer to that in his summing up.
As a member of the cross-party group on Cuba, I think that we could look at how that small country offers—free of any profit motive—its expertise in, for example, health, education and organic farming to other countries. At a time when the global capitalist system is in crisis, it depresses me no end to hear Mr McGrigor tell us that free trade would be the salvation of the world.
Scotland has been a world player in so many fields in past centuries, and I hope that over the next ones we will be seen as pioneers whose actions have environmental justice as a core philosophy, unhindered by balance sheets, corporate greed and further exploitation.
It is an honour, as many other members have said, to speak in a landmark debate. Perhaps my participation is slightly tarnished by my having to come last in what has been a largely consensual debate.
I return to a point that was made by Elaine Murray, and which has not had as much attention as it deserves. I come back to it not in contention, but more in agreement and to highlight the point. The difficulty that we sometimes have with members of the public, in our surgeries, on the street or in opinion polls, is that they can be slightly more sceptical than is desirable about international support, whether in the form of aid or on climate issues. In a way, the inconvenient truth about the consensus that we have in civic society and political parties is that there is that greater level doubt. A YouGov poll on 21 June 2011 found that 43 per cent of Scots would scrap the UK’s international development budget entirely.
I am glad of the consensus here and the support that we have, and of the continued prominence that we give to the issue, but let us not act complacently; let us be aware that there is still an argument to be made and that we have some difficulties in making progress. The YouGov poll also asked whether aid should be given to countries where there is corruption, and used other Trojan horse questions to try to influence people. I believe that we have a moral duty and are required to profess it at opportunities such as this, and any time we are confronted by members of the public asking why we send money abroad.
I am glad that Aileen McLeod brought in the term “ethical”—I do not think that it was used before her speech, but it sums up where we are on the issue. The question is ethical. I will draw a little bit of a distinction between two ethical principles that have been conflated a lot. To use reductionist language, one school of thought says, “This is bad—we can do something about it.” A separate principle is, “This is bad—we caused it.” Those two distinct analyses give rise to different levels of obligation.
In relation to poverty, the causation of underdevelopment or the global south—whichever term people choose to use—is debated. In relation to climate change, the question is a lot clearer. I am drawn to the World Development Movement’s phenomenal statistic—which I have no reason to doubt—that the UK emits more carbon dioxide in one year than Bangladesh has emitted in its entire history. When we have spent 200 years polluting our way to prosperity, the issue becomes not noblesse oblige—helping because we can help—but helping because we caused or contributed greatly to the problem, so we have an obligation to help.
I was quite drawn to the minister’s comment about allowing the Malawis of this world to skip the high-carbon phase and go straight into clean technology. That almost takes me back to some of the difficulties that arose over the Kyoto protocol, to which countries refused to sign up at the start because it made allowance for developing countries to increase their emissions in some circumstances. Countries that did not want to make sacrifices were eager to argue that countries that were a lot less fortunate should make cuts, too, although they were in no position to do so. For example, I believe that the average greenhouse gas footprint of an Indian 10 years ago was one tenth that of a person in the United Kingdom. Given that, saying that developing countries should have no scope to increase emissions is a bit awkward.
Lots of actions are happening. If I can be allowed a plug, I will say that time for reflection on 14 March will be taken by—I apologise for my pronunciation—Esther Wanjohi, who is from Kenya and is in Edinburgh as part of an exchange with the eco-congregation at Saughtonhall United Reformed church. Along with the climate challenge fund and eco-schools, eco-congregations are at the forefront of the work that is happening to mobilise grass-roots opinion and ensure that the country comes with us.
To be ultra-local, the City of Edinburgh Council has just become the first local authority in Scotland to set a firm target for its spending on active travel. I hope that other local authorities will follow it. As councils spend £475 million a year on transport, it would help if activist groups and MSPs put a little bit more pressure on them to meet their obligations on active travel and other environmental targets.
This has been the first debate on the concept of climate justice from the country that had the first carbon assessment of a budget and, if not the first act on climate change, certainly the best. We are many countries, but we are one world. We are not separated by national boundaries; our responsibilities cross them.
Ah, consensual debates. Don’t you love them, Presiding Officer? Maybe sometimes. We should probably admit that we have a bit more fun with a good old-fashioned argument in the chamber, but the debates in which we unite on a piece of text, and in which we all agree consensually and make speeches that reflect the other excellent contributions across the chamber are interesting.
Dennis Robertson was the first member to point out that consensus is not always absolute. As we have heard, there is a good consensus on the ambition, just as there was in the debates on the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. There is consensus on not just the scale of the ambition but its range, which incorporates a human rights approach, and there are attempts to reclaim the term “human rights”, which has sometimes been co-opted by the right wing in politics and turned into a bogey-man term. Members have also endorsed the need for poverty and inequality to be at centre stage in the climate change debate, and the need for a scale of moral responsibility.
There has been criticism on some of the specifics: about precisely which emissions targets are set; about the balance between road building and active travel, which several members mentioned; about whether to keep Scottish Water in the public sector, as I believe we should, but which Jim Hume questions; about the role of nuclear power in the energy mix, which Jamie McGrigor questioned; and about the delivery of environmental justice and the relevance of the Aarhus convention, for which Mary Fee correctly argued.
Other issues have not been mentioned in the debate. For example, we heard little about the consumption targets that are mentioned in my amendment, although I hope that we will hear more about them in the minister’s closing speech. It is all too easy to talk about the progress that we have made towards a 42 per cent reduction based on a 1990 baseline, but we have made progress because of the extent to which we have offshored emissions over the years. We are still consuming in much the same way. The consumption targets are necessary if we are to accept the full moral responsibility that so many members talked about in their speeches. I hope that we will hear something from the minister about the timescale.
Even in consensual debates after which we sign up to the text at the end of the day and pass a motion with unanimous support, there are sometimes ideas bubbling away under the surface that are contested, and assumptions that are not shared. Sometimes they bubble as fiercely as the most furious knife-edged budget debate of old, even though they are not so clearly spoken. Jamie McGrigor’s speech was a good example of that. He began strongly, talking about a human-centred approach, about the perception of climate change occurring right now, even in Scotland, and about a much sharper perception of that globally, and he restated his party’s support for the emissions targets that were included in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. He began so strongly with all that great consensual stuff, but towards the end, as Neil Findlay pointed out, we heard that free trade is the best way in which to achieve an end to poverty and inequality and to prevent climate change, and that preserving the environment must go hand in hand with economic growth. Those are contested ideas. From my point of view, a world that seeks to achieve climate justice and sustainability needs to challenge those ideas and find its way towards a new economic system.
Last Monday, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee and the Scottish Trades Union Congress held an event at which we heard much argument on that—some of it from Oxfam, which will soon launch the humankind index on which it has been working, and some of it from the Church of Scotland. As someone who is occasionally described as one of those dangerous and aggressive militant secularists, I aggressively urge everyone to read the report of the Church of Scotland’s commission on the purposes of economic activity. It comes from a different starting point to mine—which is not spiritual in any way—but I cannot disagree with its conclusion. It states:
“We have allowed elements of our social and economic system to degrade human beings and the environment instead of seeking a holistic approach to life. This is no time for business as usual. We need to put aside the argument that ethical principles are too idealised to put into practice or that economic practices are too unruly to be disciplined by principle.”
I urge members to read it.
We heard some of that agenda on Monday and Tuesday last week, but on Wednesday the committee heard from the Council of Economic Advisers how important it is that we get back to “business as usual” as soon as is humanly possible. There are still contested ideas. We are likely to agree on the text of the motion and the amendments to it, but beneath the surface there remain profound questions, which are as yet unanswered, about the scale of change in our economy, about our society and about our politics, which a climate change agenda and a climate justice agenda demand of us.
This has been a refreshing debate. I thank the minister for working constructively with the UK Government rather than taking the usual approach that we have come to expect. I also thank him for reporting back to this Parliament on the outcomes of the Durban conference, as well as highlighting the significant effect of climate change on women and children.
I commend Rob Gibson for reminding us of the importance of our peatlands.
I am delighted to tell Neil Findlay that this right-wing party is very much in accordance with the tone and content of the debate. However, he will not be surprised to hear that we are not in line with nationalising the renewable energy sector. I thank him for the work that he does on renewables and his commitment to giving local communities the consultation that they deserve.
We are pleased to support putting climate justice at the heart of decisions on energy policy and economic and social development; therefore, we will support the motion and the amendments. It is right that we all support our model of best practice, because climate change poses a long-term threat to political stability and economic growth. There is a real need for countries, governments, businesses and individuals to work together to address the issue.
As other members have said, those who are least responsible for climate change often experience its greatest impacts. As Oxfam puts it:
“poor communities living in developing countries are the most affected by climate change, yet have done the least to cause it.”
Oxfam further states:
“Developing countries are the ones left paying the price for the developed countries’ unsustainable ecological debt.”
I welcome the minister’s announcement of the climate justice fund, which we look forward to hearing more about over the next few months.
One of the excellent briefings that members received for the debate suggests that the fund could be used to support investment in growing more weather-resistant crops; raising homes above the ground; developing early-warning systems for floods, hurricanes and other disasters; and establishing agroforestry and conservation farms as well as creating natural flood barriers. The United Nations states that every $1 that is invested in pre-disaster risk management in developing countries can prevent $7 in losses. That is certainly a worthwhile investment.
The UK Government will drive forward proposals for new sustainable development goals at the summit in June. As Jamie McGrigor said, the Westminster Government is to be commended for its commitment to climate justice, which is demonstrated by the funding that it has announced of £2.9 billion in international climate finance specifically to help developing countries to pursue low-carbon growth and adapt to the impacts of climate change. That commitment has been given despite the very tough budget situation at Westminster.
Although the volume of greenhouse gas emissions here fell by more than 28 per cent between 1990 and 2009, there is a recognition that much more remains to be done. As others have said, given that we have the most progressive climate change legislation in the world, it is worth monitoring our progress along the way. Members will not be surprised to hear that, as the deputy convener of the Audit Committee, I look to the Audit Scotland report, “Reducing Scottish greenhouse gas emissions”, which was published in December and raises several issues relating to the Government’s progress—in particular, the commitments that were made under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
A public engagement strategy was required under the 2009 act. However, according to Audit Scotland, two months ago:
“The Scottish Government developed the Public Engagement Strategy independently of its plans for reducing emissions and there is limited connection between them.”
Audit Scotland also highlighted the
“separate engagement and communications activities in policy sectors, such as in energy, transport and agriculture.”
According to Audit Scotland,
“The Scottish Government has committed to reporting progress against” actions, but
“there is no system in place for it to do so.”
The report says:
“the Scottish Government has been developing a system of scorecards which is intended to provide the Emissions Reduction Programme Board with more immediate management information about” policy and progress. I think that we all welcome that, but in December, the system remained under development and was not fully connected to the Government’s national performance framework. Audit Scotland stated:
“The scorecards have not been made publicly available and this reduces the transparency of the Scottish Government’s performance management arrangements for reducing emissions.”
We all support the Scottish Government in leading the world as a model of best practice, but there is a need to get arrangements in place so that we can all check the commitments that we and the Government have made, check progress, and provide essential information, as promised in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
I am pleased to close this debate on climate justice on behalf of Labour. As a broad movement, we have always been concerned with the interconnectedness of nations, the impact of our actions on others, and a global perspective on tackling poverty and inequality. We have always been concerned with working to address not just unfairness at home, but inequality and injustice throughout the world.
The debate has been wide ranging. Mary Fee talked about environmental justice, Paul Wheelhouse highlighted issues around human rights, and Dennis Robertson talked about the importance of engaging young people in future challenges. We have heard many thoughtful, considered and powerful speeches that have demonstrated the breadth of issues—from green vehicles in China to drought in south-east England—that are connected to climate justice.
All the topics that have been raised are interconnected, and they all contribute towards the action that we must take at home and abroad if we are to play our part in delivering climate justice. Many members have highlighted the complexity in actions in one part of the world affecting other parts of the world. Rob Gibson spoke about the consequences of deforestation and the growth of soya, and Jamie McGrigor highlighted the changes in fish stocks. Our mackerel fleet are currently dealing with that.
I welcome the fact that the Government motion highlights the extreme vulnerability to climate change of communities in developing countries. Evidence shows that they carry the burden of the consequences of global activity, although they are the least equipped to deal with it. Many members have made that point. There will be challenges at home, and the principle that the poor will suffer most is as true here as it is anywhere, but the context in which we in the western world think about how we will cope with the effects of climate change is far removed from that in developing countries, where increased temperatures and unpredictable weather mean the difference in people’s ability to access water, grow crops and protect their homes and communities from flooding.
The International Food Policy Research Institute has calculated that 12 million more children under the age of five will be consigned to hunger by 2050 because of climate change. We have much greater capacity and resources to deal with those challenges, and we must do all that we can to help developing countries to prevent the preventable, and build capacity and provide support to deal with what is in some cases, unfortunately, the inevitable. I think that Aileen McLeod made that point.
This June, the United Nations conference on sustainable development will take place in Brazil. The minister may want to say what the Scottish Government’s aims in relation to that conference will be and what Scotland’s involvement might be. The Government’s motion certainly recognises the opportunity for Scotland to provide leadership on the issues. Our climate change legislation provides the context for us to do that. Scotland’s ground-breaking legislation provides a lead for other countries, and members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland have been proud to promote that legislation as a blueprint for other countries, but the Government’s motion misses the need for us to be clear about the action that must be taken at home. Both amendments address that.
We need to be clear that meeting Scotland’s climate change challenge is not the ambition of one party; it is the ambition of all of us. All the political parties contributed to the debate on climate change legislation, and we should not forget the role that the environmental groups and activists played in Scotland in shaping it. We all have ownership of the legislation, but the responsibility for delivery falls on the Government, and concerns remain that we lack detail on how progress will be made at the rate that is needed.
In the briefings that we received for the debate—I thank all the organisations for their contributions—it is clear that there are concerns about the action that is being taken and the pace of change to deliver on climate change commitments.
Claudia Beamish talked about the importance of the forthcoming revised report on proposals and policies, and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has highlighted the need for the new report to be
“sufficiently credible, ambitious and transparent.”
The existing RPP was welcomed. Friends of the Earth described it as
“a serious document containing a number of costed measures”, but expressed concern over funding and implementation, highlighting in particular transport and energy efficiency in homes.
“Transport depends more than any other source of emissions on proposed new policies to achieve emissions reductions” and raised concerns about “optimistic assumptions”. That point was also made by Mary Scanlon. That is why there was such concern when the Scottish Government made cuts to the active transport budget, and why concerns remain that, while the RPP requires almost £500 million for low-carbon transport measures for 2012-13, the Government is funding less than 10 per cent of what its own climate action plan says is needed. We need to have confidence in what the contribution of other partners will be, if we are to make progress.
Annabelle Ewing said that we have to recognise the progress that has been made so far, but that progress is sometimes difficult to fully understand. The recent positive figures noting a fall in emissions for 2009 were dampened when it appeared that they were more the result of recession and less activity than of any Government action. We need change to be positive and to be embedded, and we need to change practices and behaviour if we are to see any lasting benefit from those figures.
No one can accuse this Government of not being optimistic, but Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is right to say:
“The Scottish Climate Change Act is to be commended, but it will mean little if we cannot deliver on the targets it commits us to.”
At the beginning of my speech, I talked about the interconnectedness of the issues raised by members of all parties this morning. Following this debate, members will have the opportunity to highlight WWF’s work on earth hour, and a photograph will be taken immediately after this debate. Yesterday, as part of Scottish environment week, I hosted a seminar in the Parliament on exploring Scotland’s past. Plantlife Scotland gave a presentation about the humble twinflower and described how the organisation had studied past woodland management to better understand and then create the conditions in which the twinflower could flourish. However, it was Plantlife Scotland’s description of why it did that that has stayed with me. It was to make the plant population more robust and to give it a better chance of surviving in the future. That aim seems to encapsulate this morning’s debate and our commitment to climate justice.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The standing orders of this Parliament indicate that members should treat each other with respect. Will you rule that, if members wish to have a chat and a laugh together, perhaps they should do so in the coffee room or the bar, not in the chamber when other members are speaking?
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Scotland’s international climate change agenda has always been to act as a model of international best practice. We are an industrialised nation and have a moral duty to play our part in tackling climate change and helping those who have contributed least to the problem to mitigate and adapt to our changing global climate.
We must not forget that it was our process of rapid development and industrialisation—which Marco Biagi and other members have referred to and from which we benefit today—that caused the carbon emissions that have ultimately resulted in the changing global climate. There can, therefore, be no doubt that we in the industrialised world are best placed to mitigate the effects of climate, and we have a moral duty to do so.
The climate justice approach must focus on what we can do to help those in the developing world, who have done the least to cause the problem but who are now the hardest hit by its effect. Given Scotland’s ambitious, world-leading legislation, which we all supported in the chamber, it is fitting that we are also leading the way in putting climate justice at the heart of our policy making in this area. I congratulate every member who has participated in the debate on their distinctive and interesting contributions. A number of issues have been raised that had not been part of my thinking before. I will take them away and think about them, even though, in the limited time that is available to me, I will not be able to deal with everything that has been said.
We will continue to seek to influence the EU and the wider international community to increase their ambition on climate change. However, even if global emissions of greenhouse gases stopped right now, climate change would continue for the next 30 or 40 years—past and present emissions determine that that is the case. That is why we must not forget the importance of adaptation and climate justice in the future.
Claire Baker asked about Rio+20. We have asked the UK Government for a place on the UK delegation. Places will be limited, so I do not know what the answer will be. I believe that the Welsh Government also seeks to be at Rio.
I congratulate SCIAF on having already commented on today’s debate. Its press release says:
“Today’s debate in the Scottish Parliament demonstrated cross-party support for the concept of climate justice, and a clear recognition of widespread public concern about the impact of climate change around the world.”
We can all share, momentarily, in the lustre of at least being part of a debate. We have to move to the point where we can share in dealing with the problem.
Part of Patrick Harvie’s amendment relates to consumption. Officials have been exploring how best to meet the section 37 reporting duty. Work on estimating Scottish consumption-based emissions has now been contracted out, and we plan to publish the results in respect of data up to 2009 before the summer recess. We are the first country in the world to do anything of this kind, so it is quite a formidable challenge. I will not overclaim with regard to the perfection of the analyses, but I think that we have made a very good start.
I prefer at this stage to say that we will report on each year’s progress. The timetable for doing so is something that I will return to later.
Claudia Beamish opened her speech by saying, rightly, that there is a need to change behaviour and that we are talking about what is essentially a silent crisis. I found myself absolutely in agreement with that. She said that the effects are skewed and indiscriminate; others pointed that out, too. She also referred to the First Minister’s speech in Beijing in December. We have to set our own house in order and we have to set an example.
I was not aware of the example of 25 cities in China going for new eco-vehicles. I will look into that. When I was in China a couple of years ago, I visited an electric vehicle factory and found that the US Government had an order of 400 electric vans, which were just waiting to be shipped. China is doing much more than we sometimes imagine. If we are not careful, it might end up taking up many of the economic opportunities that exist.
Patrick Harvie rightly pointed to the great enlightenment figures who have contributed to modern thinking and whose statues and memorials we can see around us, particularly as we go along George Street and Princes Street. We should perhaps also remind ourselves that Adam Smith’s grave lies a few hundred metres from the door of the Parliament.
In response to one point that was made, I say that the Scottish climate justice fund will be in addition to any funds that are already allocated. We will hear more about that later.
I am glad that the Conservatives have participated in the debate in such a positive spirit. Jamie McGrigor said that climate change is one of the greatest challenges, and we absolutely agree with that. He personalised the issue by talking about the rainfall on Loch Awe: 140in is a formidable amount of rain. It is okay, Jamie—the rain was falling only on you; the rest of us were being treated quite differently.
Rob Gibson pointed out that we are expecting food prices to soar because of drought in south-east England—in Lincolnshire in particular—where there are areas of highly productive arable land. That situation will be repeated throughout Europe. As I said in my opening speech, climate change is not simply an issue for the third world: it will affect us directly, too.
I hope that Neil Findlay will support this Parliament having the full powers of a normal independent country so that we can participate in that sort of thing, but I do not want to be particularly political today.
Elaine Murray correctly highlighted the problems of drought, famine and starvation. Annabelle Ewing, among others, highlighted the importance of climate change for women and the effect that it has on them.
Paul Wheelhouse mentioned that even the UK’s strategic defence review identified climate change as a threat to military stability. I had not been aware of that, but it is another interesting take on the issue.
Mary Fee spoke about Jack McConnell’s work in setting renewables targets. I respect and recognise the continuity in our activity on climate change, although I personally admire Jack McConnell most for his anti-smoking efforts.
We talked about 0.3 per cent as the target for the current year; the target for the following year is of course 9.86 per cent. Jamie Hepburn mentioned that Alan Miller is watching us, and I am delighted that he is here to see the first debate in a Parliament anywhere in the world on the subject of climate justice.
Jim Hume said that, as a member of the United Kingdom, we can engage internationally. That is correct, although we could do much more in a different environment—but we should not spend too much time on that today.
Dennis Robertson referred to curriculum for excellence, and mentioned the achievement of Old Rayne primary school in his constituency. That is typical of what is happening in schools throughout Scotland. The idea that children are now sending their parents to bed early so that the lights go out to make a positive impact on climate change is a new one, but not necessarily a bad one.
In response to Margaret McDougall’s point, we have been supporting allotments through the climate challenge fund, so we are doing quite a lot in that regard. We are supporting 8,100 hectares of forestry this year, and moving towards our target of 10,000 hectares per year. Last year we supported just over 5,000 hectares. In response to Aileen McLeod’s point, I shall be lugging a mug as people in Dumfries have been doing.
We have heard excellent contributions from members on all sides of the Parliament. Members have raised a huge range of issues, from the Crown estate to national defence, so the debate has been wide ranging. The debate is but a start: inevitably, in the first ever debate on climate justice in a Parliament, we cannot cover the subject in its entirety. However, we will certainly ensure that others see all the contributions that have been made today.
Throughout history, we have as a nation been at the forefront of innovation. Our strong engineering background has put us in the vanguard of past industrial revolutions, and we have reaped the rewards as a high-carbon country. We are now at the forefront of a green industrial revolution, and we must ensure that in reaping the rewards of that low-carbon revolution at home, we take with us those who are less fortunate than ourselves and let them benefit from our innovation, knowledge and expertise in those emerging economies.
In making 2012 the year of climate justice, we must influence others to do the same. Again I quote Mary Robinson, who said:
“Climate change is a matter of justice. The richest countries caused the problem, but it is the world’s poorest who are already suffering from its effects.”
She went on to say that
”the international community must commit to righting that wrong.”