Yes. The Scottish Government remains fully committed to the Paris agreement. The need for international co-operation is greater than ever and the decision by President Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement is short-sighted, deeply irresponsible and downright wrong. The low-carbon transition presents challenges to all countries, but it also gives important opportunities for our economy and our society, and it is vital for all countries to stay the course. The Scottish Government will demonstrate its commitment by developing proposals for an ambitious new climate change bill over the coming weeks in response to the goals of the Paris agreement.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and French President Emmanuel Macron have expressed condemnation of the US withdrawal from the accord. Does the First Minister share my view that the United Kingdom Government should have been far more robust in its response, and that Theresa May should have shown leadership on the issue, rather than lacking the backbone to stand up to President Trump?
I—like many members across the chamber, to be fair—would have very much liked the Prime Minister, on behalf of the UK, to have signed the letter that France, Germany and Italy sent to President Trump. Sometimes it feels that the Prime Minister is more concerned with not offending President Trump than with doing the right thing for this country, and that is the wrong approach.
The Paris agreement was secured through very long and difficult negotiations in 2015, following more than 20 years of international consensus building. The focus of all countries should now be on implementation. It is certainly the focus that this Government will have as we make our contribution to taking forward and fulfilling the aims of the Paris agreement.
As a society, we need to burn and to put into landfill fewer resources. However, the current draft climate change plan does not consider energy from waste. Perhaps that is because, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures, it is planning a twelvefold increase in incineration over the next five years. Layered on top of that, councils might be contracted to burn and recycle the same waste. Clearly, that cannot happen. In the interests of the Paris climate accord, will the First Minister agree with the Scottish Conservatives on a moratorium on new incinerator construction?
The draft climate change plan is just that—a draft. It is there for consultation and contributions. If the Scottish Conservatives want to make such a proposal, the Government will give it due and proper consideration.
Our climate change plan and our draft energy strategy show ambition in this area, and they are both there for consultation so that we can move forward to a position in which we have maximum consensus as we move our country forward and do some difficult things to meet more ambitious climate change targets. We will be doing the right things for Scotland and for the whole of the world.
States, mayors, industry and the American public are all rejecting Donald Trump’s bizarre attempt to make the US into a rogue state on climate change. He will fail because fossil fuels have had their day. For every one American job in coal, there are three in renewables. Donald Trump is literally tilting at windmills. The First Minister’s US engagement strategy commits the Scottish Government to engaging with states and US agencies on tackling climate change. What is being done to deliver that commitment and what progress will be made in light of Donald Trump’s recent announcement?
A few weeks ago, I met the Governor of California and signed an agreement to commit Scotland and the state of California to working together on climate change issues. We will continue to explore opportunities to do likewise with other American states.
As I have said, I disagree strongly with the decision that President Trump took on the Paris agreement. It is important to stress that, because of the way in which the United States is governed, much of the responsibility for initiatives to tackle climate change lies with the states. States and cities in America have a big role to play and Scotland, the United Kingdom as a whole, if it chooses to, and other countries can contribute by trying to work with those cities and states to take this forward.
Scotland is very actively working in the United States and across the world with regions and cities to make sure that we are making a full contribution, and we will continue to do that.
How does the First Minister’s support for the Paris agreement match the introduction of the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill, which will result in a 50 per cent reduction in charges for air passengers, which will increase carbon emissions and reduce the Scottish budget by up to £189 million?
As James Kelly is aware, the Committee on Climate Change looked specifically at the issue, and said that if we do anything, whether it be in this policy area or anywhere else, that has an adverse effect on emissions, we have a corresponding responsibility to compensate for it in other ways. The Government absolutely accepts that and it is factored into our thinking and planning on climate change.
We will continue to take the decisions that balance growing our economy and supporting business, which we all accept is vitally important for generating the economic activity and wealth that we need to support our public services, with making sure that we are doing absolutely the right things by our environment and tackling climate change. We will continue to operate in exactly that way.