I will begin with a short formal statement on our annual progress, as required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
On 31 October, I laid before Parliament a statutory report on the status of the latest annual target under the 2009 act. The report shows that the annual target and domestic effort target for 2014 were both met. It reflects emissions statistics that were published in June, which showed progress so strong that Scotland exceeded the level of its world-leading 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut six years early. Scotland’s emissions in 2014 were 45.8 per cent lower than they had been in 1990. By any standards, that is excellent performance. For comparison, Scotland is among the top performers in the EU—European Union—15 and is second only to Sweden, since 1990.
While visiting Scotland in March, Christiana Figueres, who is the outgoing head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that Scotland’s actions are exemplary. Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has said:
“the Scottish Government’s policies and programmes have made a significant difference—you are meeting a target, and the target is tough.”—[
Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
, 13 September 2016; c 3.]
Building on Scotland’s outstanding progress, and recognising that the Paris agreement—to which I will return in a moment—represents a call to action for all countries, we have committed to outlining proposals for a new climate change bill, including a new and more testing emissions reduction target for 2020. Our approach to setting the levels of future statutory targets will continue to be based on best evidence, including the independent expert advice of the Committee on Climate Change on the implications of the Paris agreement for Scotland. We will consult on the bill, based on the committee’s advice, early next year.
Although we anticipate new legislation, the Scottish Government remains committed to discharging the requirements of the 2009 act in a manner that is evidence based and high in ambition.
In particular, my ministerial colleagues and I are working together in the Cabinet sub-committee on climate change to agree the package of policies and proposals for our climate change plan. The plan will set out policies and proposals to deliver Scotland’s statutory emissions reduction targets out to 2032, under the 2009 act. As requested by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, we will bring a draft of the plan for parliamentary scrutiny in January.
That is the initial formal statement that I am required to make to Parliament. I will follow it by talking a little more about the new international context that the historic Paris agreement represents. The agreement is the first truly global action plan to tackle climate change. The 196 countries of the UNFCCC have agreed, in the words of the treaty, that
“climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and … requires … the widest possible co-operation by all countries”.
The agreed international aim is to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, with rapid reductions in emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.
The agreement was the first big challenge for the UN sustainable development framework—the international set of goals to fight poverty and transform the world economy. In July 2015, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would adopt the framework, which makes Scotland one of the first nations to commit to the goals.
The Paris agreement followed calls from the G7 leaders of industrialised countries for urgent and concrete action, deep cuts in emissions and decarbonisation of the global economy this century. There have, of course, also been strong calls for action from world faith leaders. I draw members’ attention to the global interfaith message that has been issued today to the UN climate conference in Marrakech, which has been signed by Scottish faith leaders.
Tackling major global issues like climate change usually requires leadership from the USA. EU climate diplomacy kept the UNFCCC process moving forward during the years following the Copenhagen summit, but it was the partnership between the USA and China in 2014 that finally enabled a level of ambition at Paris that was at the top end of expectations. The US presidential election this week undoubtedly means a tougher job for progressive US states, so it makes it all the more important that we promote very strongly the economic case for action on climate change—the massive investment and future jobs that will flow from the low-carbon transition.
How is Scotland contributing to the international agenda? We have significantly scaled up renewable electricity capacity; in 2015 it accounted for 56.7 per cent of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. Scaling up existing technologies is very important in the international context. The fact that we have delivered a 45.8 per cent cut in emissions and exceeded our 2020 target level six years early shows other countries that deep emissions cuts are possible. We have also delivered five years ahead of schedule our 2020 target to provide 500MW of community and locally owned renewables. Incidentally, we have set new and more testing targets of there being 1GW by 2020 and 2GW by 2030. In addition, we have achieved a 15.2 per cent cut in total energy consumption, which means that we have passed our 2020 target of 12 per cent six years early.
We have contributed to achievements at Europe level—the EU is currently ahead of schedule, having achieved a 24 per cent cut in emissions against the 20 per cent target for 2020. Based on Scottish and EU experience, progress is likely to be faster than we expected. That is important, because the existing pledges under the Paris agreement are only enough to limit global temperature rise to perhaps around 3°C. It is clear that more will need to be done.
Scotland and the EU have both been cutting emissions while growing the economy. As I said, that is a very important international message now. Low-carbon and renewable energy employs more than 21,000 people in Scotland. Speaking at Edinburgh castle in September, Laurent Fabius, the French minister who presided over the success at Paris, emphasised the huge support from devolved, region and state governments, and from local government, cities, businesses, non-governmental organisations, faith groups, trades unions and civic society that helped to make the Paris agreement. That echoes the Scottish experience of strong cross-party and cross-society support for climate action. We believe that non-state actors will help to drive a strongly progressive agenda faster than expected.
The Climate Group brings together Governments and businesses on the international stage to promote high ambition. Scotland has been a very active member of the Climate Group’s states and regions alliance for more than a decade. The alliance has provided an excellent platform for Scottish ministers to get our important messages across. We have also signed what is known as the under 2 MOU—the subnational global climate leadership memorandum of understanding—which involves setting targets for 2050 by a huge coalition representing more than 800 million people. Importantly, we now report annually on our progress directly to the international community under the initiative called the compact of states and regions.
Scotland is continuing to champion climate justice, because the worst impacts of climate change are falling on the poor and vulnerable. Following the Parliament’s debate on climate justice in 2012 and Scotland’s international climate justice conference in October 2013, the Scottish national action plan on human rights commits us to continue to champion climate justice.
Scotland’s innovative climate justice fund, which was initially supported through the provision of £6 million from our hydro nation programme, has supported 11 projects in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Voluntary Service Overseas, Tearfund, the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University, Oxfam Scotland, Christian Aid Scotland and Water Witness International. The First Minister announced that Scotland will invest £3 million a year in the fund over the next five years. In March, we announced that £2 million would be provided from hydro nation to help to improve more lives in Malawi through the University of Strathclyde’s water futures programme.
The fund has provided additional support to the humanitarian crisis in Malawi. Last month, £240,000 was provided on a match-funding basis to Oxfam, Christian Aid, SCIAF and EMMS International, thereby doubling the Scottish Government’s contribution. That money will help to provide at least 35,000 people with basic food supplies over the coming months. In a further diversification of the fund’s activities, the First Minister announced a £1 million contribution to the capacity-building initiative for transparency, which is an important foundation for the success of the Paris agreement that supports developing countries’ engagement with the treaty.
Although the worst impacts of climate change will fall on developing countries and areas such as the Arctic, we should not assume that Scotland will be immune. An independent assessment of Scotland’s adaptation programme in 2016 highlighted the good start that we have made on our adaptation programme, but cautioned of the challenges ahead.
Peatland restoration is a valuable investment in climate adaptation because it reduces emissions from degraded areas and creates carbon sequestration opportunities. It provides significant co-benefits such as biodiversity, water quality and natural flood management, which I expect will be recognised in the forthcoming climate change plan. I confirm that we have made £400,000 available to Scottish Natural Heritage to bring forward further action this financial year.
To return to the Paris agreement, I attended the extraordinary environment council in Brussels on 30 September to lend Scotland’s very strong support for early ratification by the EU. We were delighted last week to welcome the coming into force of the agreement four years early, on 4 November. The EU, which currently pledges to make at least 40 per cent emissions cuts by 2030, is working to deliver that pledge. The EU has committed to playing a full part in the mechanisms under the Paris agreement that are designed to raise global ambition over time.
In conclusion, we cut our emissions by 45.8 per cent between 1990 and 2014, thereby meeting our 2014 annual target and exceeding our 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut six years early. We will continue to rise to the challenge. In 2017, the Scottish Government will publish a new energy strategy that will be fully integrated with a new climate change plan and a new climate change bill, and will establish a new and more testing 2020 target. Other countries must now match Scotland’s ambition and actions.
I thank the cabinet secretary for providing an advance copy of her statement. First, I note that we welcome the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change and encourage all UN member states to do all that they can to deliver under the obligations contained in the agreement.
The Scottish Government has overseen the establishment of ambitious climate change targets and the good news is that emissions in Scotland are now 46 per cent lower than in 1990, after failing to meet their target in the preceding four years. Emission reductions and leadership need to be shown in those sectors that have lagged behind, such as transport, heat and energy efficiency. For example, transport emissions have decreased by less than 1 per cent in comparison with the 1990 baseline.
As we continue our transition towards a low-carbon economy, having a range of secure and balanced energy sources, combined with the ecological and technological solutions that will drive down emissions and enhance carbon sequestration, will be key. However, the infrastructure—both natural and physical—has to be put in place today in order to achieve that.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that sector-specific targets are key to ensuring carbon emissions in sectors such as transport, to ensure that they contribute to our climate change targets? Will she include those targets in the upcoming climate change plan?
I welcome the support of the Conservatives for the overall approach that we are taking to climate change. I know that that support is replicated across the chamber and that it is one of our strengths in Scotland.
Mr Golden raised a specific issue on transport. I do not want to get drawn too far into that specific point, but I think that he was playing that into the question of the sector-specific targets. We have not made a final decision on what will be in the bill and how it will be constructed. I caution against an assumption that sector-specific targets are an easy answer. We need to ensure that we get the balance right across all sectors in the economy and we are able to do that by not having sector-specific targets.
From my perspective, it would be very difficult to allocate the savings to specific sectors in some cases. I will give one small example. If we were to go down the road that the EU wishes us to go down, by 2019 every new-build home would have an electric vehicle charging point as standard, but would that count for transport or for housing? Would we have to find some mechanism to allocate between the two? There are some things that look cross-sectoral, so how would sector-specific targets be applied in those circumstances?
We will look at all possible approaches, but we will work out what is best for Scotland and we will consult on that in the bill.
I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of the statement.
Scotland is indeed a world leader in tackling climate change and addressing climate justice. There are of course continuing challenges, and the Scottish Government must squarely address the need to tackle those challenges in the heaviest-emitting sectors, and bring new opportunities and jobs.
However, I want to focus on the global perspective in view of US President-elect Trump’s utter denial of the irrefutable climate science and evidence: from whole US states threatened with intolerable temperatures, to small island states threatened with annihilation if the increase in global temperature is not held below 2 degrees. Reassuringly, China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation has stated that its climate policy is not dependent on the US presidency.
At this critical time for the future of our planet, does the cabinet secretary agree that building confidence in, and connections between, countries and regions will be key in maintaining momentum and action? May Scottish Labour wish her well in Marrakech in continuing to contribute to what is an essential process for the future of humanity?
I thank Claudia Beamish for expressing the Labour Party’s support for the climate change policy. I hear what she says about some of the sectors that we understand and accept need to be focused on, and that is something that is being actively discussed. I hope that other parties in the chamber will respond well to the draft climate change plan when it is published and to the new bill when it comes.
The member’s main concern is about the international scenario, which is obviously a concern for everybody just now. To try to be as generous as possible, perhaps all of us hear rhetoric during election campaigns that might not always be as fortunate as it could be. We will have to see what happens, because climate change is happening and the issue will not go away. America will be subject to the damaging effects of climate change, regardless of what the leadership there might or might not think or do about it.
I understand that the EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, Miguel Cañete, wrote to Mr Trump yesterday, stressing the need for continued EU-US co-operation. Scotland has had a long relationship with the US, which we value. The Paris agreement is supported by strong action from states, cities, businesses and faith groups, so a progressive agenda can still be driven at those levels.
We have been through periods previously when US leadership on climate change was absent. However, there are huge jobs, investment and growth opportunities from the low-carbon economy and the innovation required for the low-carbon transition. The US could benefit from that low-carbon economy as well. We should try to approach the matter with as much optimism as possible in the circumstances.
Although I recognise and welcome the progress that has been made to date, if we are to respond to the call for action of the Paris agreement, we will need to secure very significant behavioural change across society. The United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change recently appointed a behavioural scientist, and the committee’s chair, Lord Deben, has suggested that behaviour is an area that the Scottish Government ought to explore more closely. Is the cabinet secretary already taking that forward, or would she be prepared to consider it?
I think that we would all agree that influencing behaviours is one of the keys to delivering our climate change targets, and we are keen to work on that with the UKCCC.
We are looking at how we can strengthen the behavioural aspects of our climate change policies. For example, the individual social and material tool—the ISM—helps policy areas to break down the factors that influence people’s behaviours. We are using the tool across a range of policy areas, including housing and energy. Last year, officials give a presentation to the UKCCC on our work on behaviours. We are conscious of the challenge, but we think that we have some useful work that will help with that. A summary of that work will accompany the draft climate change plan. I know that the member will welcome that.
I thank the cabinet secretary for the early sight of her statement. Professor Robin Matthews of the James Hutton Institute has suggested that restoring 21,000 hectares of peatland annually would contribute to an 8 per cent reduction in Scottish carbon emissions. The minister has announced expenditure of £400,000 in the coming year. I welcome that, but, on previous performance, that will deliver less than 15 per cent of Professor Matthews’s target.
Is the Government being ambitious enough on restoration of peatland, much of which is in the region that I represent?
Peatland restoration is one of the general areas that we accept is a challenge for us. We accept that we need to do more and are looking at the area closely.
Scotland’s national peatland plan recognises the multiple benefits of peatlands and the links with a number of policy drivers, such as biodiversity, as well as with climate change. Some policies include a target for restoration. The member might be aware of the biodiversity route map, in the context of our contribution to the EU’s restoration target of 15 per cent. We are looking at peatlands in the context of the forthcoming climate change action plan; it is a serious issue.
Through SNH-led action on peatland, more than 5,000 hectares were restored in 2014-15 and almost 4,000 were restored in 2015-16. However, I am the first to agree that the rate of restoration must increase substantially. Of course, many peatland areas are in private ownership, and I hope that the member will not take it amiss if I gently suggest that private landowners must also think about action that they can take.
The cabinet secretary will be aware of the need for the UK to have an intended nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement. EU member states opted to implement jointly their commitments under climate treaties, and given the complexity of the issue the EU submitted an INDC to cover the period 2020 to 2025 on behalf of all EU member states.
As a result of Brexit, the UK will have to complete its own INDC. That needs to be done soon. Does the cabinet secretary share my concern that the UK Government will not have the capacity to complete its INDC in time? Will she raise the issue with her UK counterpart when she is in Marrakech?
Presiding Officer, with your permission I will remain standing for the remainder of this item of business. I am having a slight problem with my back, and getting up and down is causing difficulty.
I appreciate Angus MacDonald’s interest in the matter, but it is perhaps a little too far down the road for us to be able to deal with it at the moment. COP22 is currently under way in Marrakech and I will be part of the UK representation there, as will colleagues from Westminster. The UK is a party to the UNFCCC individually, as well as through the EU, and will be bound by all the obligations of the agreement under international law. The UK stresses that it remains committed to international efforts to tackle climate change. At any rate, at present we continue to be a member of the EU, so existing rules apply.
I understand that Norway and Iceland have submitted INDCs under the Paris agreement, although they will deliver their commitment collectively with the EU and its member states. The EU INDC covers the period to 2030. We would perhaps be a little premature in having the conversation that Angus MacDonald envisages at the moment, but it is one that people know has to be had.
Oh dear, I sat down again.
In her statement, the cabinet secretary said that 21,000 people are employed in low-carbon and renewable energy in Scotland. That is very welcome. Does she agree that, with a long-term plan for the economy that includes planning agreements with renewable energy companies, and with an active industrial policy in place from her Government, the number of jobs could substantially increase, not least in our indigenous steel industry, our engineering industries and our manufacturing supply base?
That is one of the things that we are investigating closely for the climate change plan. The issue is at the forefront of our minds, because there are economic opportunities that come with tackling climate change. We also need to consider how some of the existing industries can be recast.
A deal of work is being done on that basis. Aspects of what we are doing are already built into the manufacturing strategy so that all the work that we do on waste and the circular economy is embedded throughout. We are beginning to see it going through all the portfolios and it will begin to show its effects and, I hope, the kind of thing that I, the member and most members in the chamber would like to see.
Oh. I was about to sit down again.
Keep standing. I thank the cabinet secretary for the advance copy of her statement and I look forward to testing the climate plan when it emerges in January.
Although we now have a climate change denier in the White House, hope has not been extinguished across America. States including New York, California and Colorado have joined Scotland and regional Governments around the world to limit global warming to less than 2
°C through the under 2 MOU initiative that the cabinet secretary mentioned. Those states represent almost one third of the world’s economy.
What specific actions will the Scottish Government take with those progressive US states on innovation, research and investment so that whatever chaos emerges from the White House, we stay collectively focused on the jobs that will come from tackling climate change?
I welcome the question because one of the key opportunities that Marrakech gives us is the ability to make connections—along the lines that the member suggested—through the MOU and the Climate Group, which brings together a wide range of states, what one might call sub-states, non-government organisations and so on. A great deal of work can be done there.
We must not forget that, however much I might wish it to be otherwise, Scotland sits as an equivalent to the likes of Colorado and so on. I go to Marrakech on Saturday with the ability to talk about the great successes that we have had in Scotland, and with an open mind to learn from others, who will have come up with ideas that we might be able to translate to our situation. I hope that I get an opportunity to have the kind of engagement that is essential for the future. I very much hope that it starts when I arrive in Marrakech on Saturday.
Perhaps the Presiding Officer should invite us all to stay sitting down, which would be more helpful to the cabinet secretary.
I thank the cabinet secretary for the copy of her statement. Does she share my concern and that of many others that the President-elect of the United States has vowed to cancel the Paris agreement altogether? In those circumstances, when she goes to Marrakech on Saturday, will she, along with ministerial colleagues from across the country, use the much-vaunted special relationship to put pressure on the incoming US Administration to address that point? Has she noticed the helpful briefing in today’s
Press & Journal that illustrates that the Scottish Government might have a particular route to the US Government to raise this and other issues?
I cannot say who will be in Marrakech from the incoming Administration, although I anticipate that a number of people from the current Administration will be there. It was the current Administration that signed up to the Paris agreement.
I am conscious of some of the things that the President-elect has said about climate change. He has spoken about not just his denial, but about his intention to cut federal funding for climate change activity and to restart the coal industry. Some of his early signals about appointments that he might make indicate that there might be a challenge. However, as I indicated earlier, we have to try to be as optimistic as possible and keep in mind the fact that people will suffer the impact of climate change regardless of what their leadership might or might not believe in. It will be a significant concern for considerable parts of the United States of America, as it is for every other part of the world. Sooner or later that will have to be dealt with.
I also understand that it might not be quite so straightforward to reverse ferret out of the Paris agreement as might be thought. It may take three or four years. Let us hope that, in those three or four years, we all—in every way available to us—effect change in the Administration’s views.
We have had quite long questions and answers. I am able to give a little bit of extra time for this item of business, because I am very keen to get everyone in, but I request that everyone be a little bit shorter with their questions and answers. I would also ask that you please remain on your feet, Ms Cunningham.
Oh yes. We all have our part to play; not just ministers, but every MSP and, indeed, every household. I give members in the chamber this reassurance: my colleagues are united in their determination to ensure that Scotland’s record on climate change continues to set an example for the rest of the United Kingdom. We take our responsibilities very seriously and the UK Government hears from me on the topic fairly frequently.
It is a big challenge; in some sectors, it is a huge challenge. There is no point in our pretending that it is not challenging. Some things that we need to do are not easy and they will not be easy. Our goal is to cut emissions while building a successful low-carbon economy. That takes us back to Richard Leonard’s comments, and the need for an economy that generates jobs, increases prosperity, improves health and makes Scotland a cleaner, greener place in which to live. Those conversations are had not just at the level of the Cabinet sub-committee on climate change, but at an informal level.
I thank the cabinet secretary for advance notice of her statement. As she will be aware, the national performance framework outcomes are targets that the Scottish Government aspires to meet. Outcome 14 states that the Scottish Government will
“reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production.”
How does the cabinet secretary square that with importing fracked gas from America and the additional carbon cost that that incurs?
Mr Burnett is nothing if not persistent on that issue. I talked about the matter yesterday. The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy has made very clear what we are doing in that regard. He has laid out the plan for the future: the energy strategy will be published alongside the draft climate change plan in January 2017. We have been crystal clear on our approach. I hope that the member accepts that that is what is going to happen.
Does the cabinet secretary recall hearing a long line of assurances to our island communities about the future of what is rather oddly described as remote onshore island wind?
Yesterday was a highly suspicious day for the UK Government to announce that it was reneging on its promises—it was hoping that the announcement would be buried by other news. Should we now make sure that we make common cause with Maurice Golden, who said that infrastructure needs to be put in place, and others of a progressive nature on climate change in this Parliament, to get that decision overturned?
I would certainly welcome support from across the chamber, including from the Conservatives, on the matter. It was a long-awaited announcement, and it was very disappointing on a number of fronts. I am not quite sure what the timing was all about—I will let others draw their own conclusions on that.
We have repeatedly sought assurances from UK ministers. It is a matter of regret that this Government was not consulted before the announcement; that is unfortunate, because our islands have huge renewable energy potential, possibly the greatest in the whole of Europe.
The energy efficiency programme will be designed to support people through the whole process with the intention of, ideally, dealing with both the emissions side and the fuel poverty side of the issue. That is one thing that we will do.
The programme will include support for households. I hope that the member will welcome that and welcome the considerable financial commitment that will be made over this parliamentary session in that particular area.
I am not sure that there is very much that I can add to what I have already said on that area. Obviously, 2016 has just been one of those years. There has been seismic political change here in the UK and now in the United States.
However, as I have indicated before, politics may change but the science has not. Politics may change but the impact of climate change will not. The need for concerted global action is just as great now as it was before.