“Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998-2010”

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10 September 2013.

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Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take in relation to the 4 per cent increase in Scotland’s carbon footprint between 2009 and 2010, as noted in its report, “Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998-2010”. (S4T-00433)

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

The most recent Scottish greenhouse gas footprint figures show that Scotland is reducing its global emissions impact over the longer term. Between 1998—the first year for which data were published—and 2007, Scotland’s carbon footprint increased by 15 per cent; since 2007 it has fallen just less than 19 per cent.

The rise in emissions between 2009 and 2010 is disappointing, but it should be seen in the context of the 19 per cent fall in 2009 and the particularly cold weather in 2010, which led to increases in emissions from household heating. We know that those emissions fell substantially the following year, so we are confident that we are on the right track.

The Scottish Government is committed to working to reduce domestic emissions. We are cutting waste and using resources more efficiently. We have published our second report on proposals and policies for meeting our climate change targets, annex C of which shows that through the impact of existing policies alone, even in the absence of greater ambition from the European Union, emissions would fall by more than the targets of Germany and Denmark.

Our new waste regulations will have an impact, by helping to reduce Scotland’s global emissions footprint through greater prevention and the reuse and recycling of materials, while reducing Scotland’s reliance on the world’s limited supply of primary resources.

In addition, the greener together campaign encourages people to lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles, our low-carbon networks support a range of community and business networks, to help to promote low-carbon living, and the climate challenge fund supports communities to reduce the emissions that they generate, through more efficient consumption of goods and services.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

I thank the minister for his detailed response. Time will tell whether the 4 per cent increase is a blip or the beginning of a trend in the wrong direction.

Given that this is a Scotland-wide and global climate justice issue, as was highlighted in time for reflection today, and given that production levels have fallen continually since 1990 while consumption has risen, what is the Scottish Government doing to increase domestic production, especially in new technologies that will help to drive forward our low-carbon economy?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

Claudia Beamish raises an important point. Clearly we are moving in the right direction on our domestic emissions, by which I mean those produced in Scotland, but there has been a reduction—albeit small—in our carbon footprint which, as the member has made clear, takes account of imports of goods and services that we buy from overseas.

Through organisations such as zero waste Scotland, we are trying to improve efficiency support for all businesses and public bodies and encourage them to reduce their own emissions. We are also leading sustainable procurement across the public sector and are bringing out new waste regulations to help reduce Scotland’s global emissions footprint through, as I have made clear, greater prevention, reuse and recycling.

I also highlight measures being taken by the 2020 climate group, which is working with the business community, typically larger businesses, to ensure that they are aware of the importance of reducing our carbon emissions and have access to all the information that they need in that respect from Government and other agencies.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

Can the minister give a bit more detail on the issue that I raised in my previous question about the increase in domestic production in relation to the manufacturing of new technologies that will help us with the low-carbon economy? I am aware of the issues that have been highlighted about waste and support to business, but my specific focus is the manufacturing of goods in this country rather than the importing of goods—although I am of course aware that we still have to import to some degree.

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

That is a fair point and I apologise for not responding to it fully earlier. We are looking at measures that we as a society can take to move towards what has been described as a more circular economy. At the moment, a lot of recycled material requiring a relatively low level of processing goes abroad for use elsewhere. Our society has the opportunity to develop technology that can exploit the recycled material that our country generates through our zero waste strategy and use, process and add value to that material in Scotland, not only to generate jobs but to ensure that those natural resources, which are of course in processed form and are being recycled, are not wasted. Indeed, my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment is keen to explore and develop that issue.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The figures suggest that, in percentage terms, household heating emissions were the same in 2010 as they were in 1998. What is the minister’s response to that and will he redouble efforts to boost home insulation throughout the country?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

Jamie McGrigor has correctly pointed to one of the key drivers of the 2010 figures. We are aware that roughly 1 million tonnes of CO2 of the increase was caused by domestic heating and it is a key issue for us in our attempts to reduce our carbon footprint.

As the member will be aware, through the combination of Scottish Government and green deal funding we are looking to step up investment in domestic energy efficiency measures to a total of about £200 million per annum. I hope that that will mark a step-change in improving the energy efficiency of domestic heating in Scotland and that the member will welcome such moves.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The minister began by saying that Scotland is reducing its footprint in the longer term, but perhaps he would have been more accurate had he said that Scotland has been reducing its footprint over the long term and that, as Claudia Beamish has pointed out, we do not yet know whether that trend is continuing or has been reversed. If the minister does not share my concern about that question, will he at least accept that what this figure indicates is that the very last thing we need is economic policies that are designed to create a consumer-led recovery and that, instead, we need a great deal of focus on activities such as repair and reuse that do not show up in retail and gross domestic product figures?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I certainly agree that we need to make more use of recycled and reused materials that are generated in Scotland, and the move to a more circular economy will help us to focus our minds on the opportunity for Scotland to enhance already existing areas of activity in the economy and to grow new capacity where needed to ensure that that can happen.

We are also trying to encourage more use of local and seasonal foods as well as trying to reduce the carbon footprint of Scotland’s food chain. I know that the member has welcomed such measures in the past, and I hope that with our attempts to have a more circular economy, to reduce our dependence on imported food products and to make more use of the wonderful food that we have in Scotland—indeed, food and drink fortnight is an appropriate time to make that point—we can minimise the amount of imported material that comes from more carbon-intensive sources.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

What steps is the Government taking to increase Scotland’s onshore gas production? I remind the minister that, by doing that, it could reduce our emissions over time, reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint and reduce the cost of energy for our hard-pressed domestic and business customers.

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I had better leave energy policy to Fergus Ewing, who is the relevant minister. However, I take the point about the need to minimise the carbon intensity of our energy supply. That is one reason why the Scottish Government has moved to a decarbonisation target for our electricity generation. I appreciate that that is a different subject from the one that the member raised, but it is about the overall consumption of electricity and energy in Scotland. We are trying to take a significant step in decarbonising electricity by 2030. I hope that the United Kingdom Government takes that on board and makes a similar move in setting its own targets.