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We have just over 10 years to act to avoid climate catastrophe. That was the stark warning that emerged in October, following publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “Special Report—Global Warming of 1.5°C”. The report details some of the impacts that we can expect if countries do not act to curb radically their greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts include people losing their homes to rising seas, water scarcity, loss of coral reefs, plummeting biodiversity and profound knock-on effects for the ecosystems on which we base our societies and livelihoods.
Around the world, extreme weather events and erratic temperatures that have been caused by climate change are becoming more and more frequent. In Scotland, we are beginning to see impacts, too. Over the past year, we had a prolonged summer heatwave, as well as extremely high winter temperatures in February. The Scottish Environment LINK-WWF report, “Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert”, suggests that impacts on our wildlife include salmon populations being affected by rising water temperatures, reduced snow cover lowering populations of our iconic ptarmigan, and drier summers reducing the habitats of our wading bird species.
I know that that is not easy to hear, but I say it to make it clear that the climate emergency is already on our doorstep, so it is the duty of everyone in this Parliament to support actions that will avoid climate breakdown.
Today’s Green motion commends the inspiring actions of our young people who have taken part in the global #YouthStrike4Climate movement. The strikes have been inspired by the actions of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, and include students from all over the United Kingdom taking direct action to ensure that young people’s voices are heard in the call on Governments to address climate change. Two strikes have been organised so far, and another is planned for 12 April.
During the 15 March strike, school walkouts were planned in 19 towns and cities around Scotland, as far apart as Peebles and Ullapool. We estimate that, in Glasgow and Edinburgh alone, 5,000 young people attended the 15 March protests. They were acting in sync with school strikers in more than 100 other countries, which represents one of the largest mass youth movements of recent times.
I and my colleague, Andy Wightman, joined the strikers who stood outside the Scottish Parliament building two weeks ago. We listened to their concerns and to what they want for their future—secure jobs, clean air, thriving environments and security for their children. I know that they would welcome more contact with MSPs, so I hope that those who are able to do so will take the opportunity to join them for next month’s strike.
The UK student climate network, one of the events’ organisers, describes its mission as
“radically reforming the role and power of young people in national action against climate change” by employing
“strong and repeated student-led protest to promote our diverse voices calling for a common aim.”
The UKSCN has four key demands, which are:
“The Government declare a climate emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice.
The national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority.
The Government communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public.
The Government recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.”
I note that both the Government and Conservative amendments would water down this Parliament’s support for the actions that were demanded by the youth climate strikers. I fully support the aims of the strikers and stand in solidarity with them. It is unacceptable that our young people should have to sacrifice their school days in order to urge the adults who are in charge to do the right thing for people and planet. The inaction of Governments over the past 20 years has brought them to that point, and we cannot let that inaction continue.
We have a moral obligation not only to act in the best interests of young people and future generations, but to deliver climate justice for less-developed countries. Countries in the global south that have done little to contribute to historical greenhouse gas emissions are bearing the brunt of climate disruption. Cyclone Idai is just the latest extreme weather event, exacerbated by climate change, to devastate communities across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Brexit might feel like a crisis here, but we are not hearing enough about the devastating impact that climate change is having on people in those countries. Mozambique’s former first lady, Graça Machel, has said that Beira
“will go down in history as having been the first city to be completely devastated by climate change.”
Scotland has taken the first steps by setting up a climate justice fund, and I acknowledge the Scottish Government’s support for work to boost climate adaptation in Malawi and other African nations. It is needed more than ever, at this point in time. However, more can be done.
The discussion around setting Scotland’s new climate targets ought to consider the “fair share” approach that was developed by Oxfam International. That approach recognises that we have, as one of the first countries to industrialise, benefited historically from greater levels of wealth and technological development than many countries in the global south, and that that advantage caused associated greenhouse gas emissions. I hope that our historical contribution to the climate emergency will be reflected by this Parliament setting a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target when the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill comes before us.
Underlying the climate emergency is our global dependence on fossil fuels, which is hurtling us towards breaking point. We need urgently to move away from fossil fuels in our energy systems and in the choice of products that we consume. Both the Scottish and UK Governments favour a policy of maximum economic recovery of oil and gas reserves, by extracting every drop that we can extract—but at what cost? A 2015 report in the journal
Nature advised that one third of the world’s oil reserves and half of its natural gas reserves must be off-limits if we are to have any hope of meeting the temperature targets—
Does Alison Johnstone accept that extracting oil and gas has no impact whatsoever on the climate? It is what we do with them after we have extracted them that matters. Until we have found substitutes for oil and gas in our chemical industries, we cannot throw away the economic opportunity that they provide.
Stewart Stevenson will be aware that more than 90 per cent of the oil and gas that we currently extract is burned. I appreciate that there are other uses for them. I thank the member for his intervention.
New fossil fuels must also be kept in the ground. We believe that Scotland needs, in primary legislation, an outright ban on fracking. It is frustrating that the Scottish Government is dragging its feet on setting out its preferred policy position. I note Claudia Beamish’s efforts in pursuing that matter outside of Government. Greens have fought fracking from the start, having lodged the first parliamentary motion on the subject in 2011. It is a serious risk to people’s health and environments that also drives up greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2014, I led the first full debate in the chamber on fracking. After all the arguments and pressure in the five years since then, I am disappointed that we have not moved forward in developing primary legislation that would set a watertight ban on fracking in Scotland. The climate emergency will not abate if we recklessly pursue that new source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Every Government must now consider a raft of policies to prevent climate breakdown. Policies could include provision of better buses and reliable rail options that are publicly funded and affordable; a green energy transition, so that our homes can be heated from renewable energy sources; divestment of all public money from the fossil fuel industry—
I can point Mr Kerr to a report on green jobs in the economy. It is based on sound research and shows that 200,000 jobs could be created in a green jobs transition. I will make sure that the member has sight of that report.
We need to spend at least 10 per cent of our transport budget on active travel, place a levy on some single-use plastics and redirect Government support for business towards environmentally responsible companies. Small changes alone will not stop climate catastrophe. We must heed the warnings from the IPCC, the youth strikers and the people who are on the front line of climate change across the world.
That the Parliament recognises that the world is entering a climate emergency and supports the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius; further supports the actions of the 1.4 million young people around the world, including in Scotland, who absented themselves from school to demand urgent and radical action; recognises the moral duty on the Parliament to act in the interests of young people and future generations, as well as communities on the front line of climate breakdown around the world, and calls on the Scottish Government to recognise that the policy of maximum economic recovery of oil and gas is incompatible with addressing the climate emergency, and to introduce a legislative ban on the extraction of unconventional oil and gas reserves.
I start by saying that the Scottish Government recognises the urgency of the global climate challenge. Nobody in the chamber would dispute that part of the Green motion, because the urgency of the situation that we face is clear. We have had scientific reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have seen our young people go on strike and it is visible all around us in the extreme weather events and changes to our climate that are affecting us right here, right now.
All of us will have seen the effects of climate change in our communities, but we have also seen them elsewhere across the world. Alison Johnstone mentioned the floods that have devastated parts of southern Malawi, affecting more than 740,000 people and leaving many dead, missing, injured or displaced. The current floods come just four years after the last devastating floods in Malawi.
As Alison Johnstone also said, all too often it is those who have contributed the least to climate change who are hardest hit by it. That is why we have to take action to prevent even worse impacts of climate change in the future.
I will come back to the point about oil and gas later in my speech.
We are taking action through our Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which would see Scotland have the toughest climate change legislation anywhere in the world. The bill contains the most ambitious statutory targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 of any country in the world, and it will mean that Scotland is carbon neutral by 2050. The scientific report that was published by the IPCC last October states the need for the world to be carbon neutral by 2050 and, with our bill, that is exactly where Scotland will be.
We have been clear that we want to go further and achieve net zero emissions for all greenhouse gases as soon as possible. In light of the IPCC report, we asked our independent statutory advisers, the UK Committee on Climate Change, for updated advice on our new targets. That advice is due on 2 May and if it states that Scotland can now credibly set even more ambitious targets, that is exactly what the Scottish Government will do. If it advises that 90 per cent remains the limit of feasibility for now, the bill allows a net zero date to be set for all greenhouse gases.
This is such an important issue that I am not surprised at the pressure for action that we have seen recently, particularly from our young people. A lot of that was inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel peace prize for the work that she has done. Young people staged climate strikes across the world; as Alison Johnstone mentioned, we saw a huge turnout here at the Scottish Parliament just a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday, the First Minister met some of the students to discuss their concerns and the actions that we are taking. It is only right that they push us for strong action and that we take the time to listen to them. Although I was not able to attend the strike at Parliament a couple of weeks ago, I will be meeting students from Mearns academy in my constituency who attended on that day.
I believe that we have taken the most ambitious, pragmatic and responsible approach possible. The issue will be discussed in more detail next week as we reach stage 1 consideration of the bill.
It is vital that Scotland’s transition to carbon neutrality happens in a way that is fair to all. A just transition has not been achieved during previous major industrial shifts in Scotland, such as the move away from coal. That is why I take issue with the part of the Green motion that relates to the oil and gas sector. Suddenly ending production would have an absolutely massive impact on communities and jobs, especially in the north-east of Scotland and in constituencies such as mine, Angus North and Mearns, where thousands of people depend on the sector. Doing that would also not help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, because we would become reliant on imports until we were able to reduce the demand for oil and gas in Scotland.
My concern is with what the motion implies. We need to work with the sector, and I will come back to that point when I talk about the just transition commission and how we develop policies in the future.
No one in Parliament would argue that we do not need to decarbonise our economy, but we need to do that responsibly and by working with the sector. The Scottish Government has established the just transition commission to advise on how the move towards carbon neutrality can be done in a way that is fair for all. A just transition is one that creates jobs through new sustainable industries, is good for communities and helps to tackle inequalities and poverty. In addition, the energy strategy sits in parallel with that work. There is a built-in desire to work with the oil and gas industry to support a transition, using the sector’s invaluable knowledge and expertise.
With regard to the last part of the Green motion, the Scottish Government does not support onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland. Scottish ministers are entering the final stages of the policy-making process on that important issue. The Government’s preferred policy position will be subject to a statutory strategic environmental assessment and to other assessments before any policy can be adopted. Those assessments are under way, and our finalised policy position will be confirmed and adopted as soon as possible after that process is completed.
The Scottish Government welcomes many aspects of the Green Party’s motion on this vital global issue. We agree that urgent action is needed from all countries. I hope that the amendment that the Government has lodged sets out some of the ways in which we are rising to the climate challenges that we face, and that we can achieve some consensus on that across the chamber.
I move amendment S5M-16555.4, to leave out from “further supports” to end and insert:
“recognises the concerns expressed by the 1.4 million young people around the world, including in Scotland, who chose to strike in order to seek urgent and radical action to prevent the damaging effects of climate change; acknowledges the moral duty on the Parliament to act in the interests of young people and future generations, as well as communities on the front line of climate breakdown around the world; understands that the Just Transition Commission is presently exploring how to maximise the social and economic opportunities offered by moving to a carbon-neutral economy while ensuring no one is left behind; welcomes the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s stage 1 report on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, and notes the Scottish Government’s commitment to act on the advice of its statutory advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, should it conclude that an even higher target ambition is now credible.”
Today’s motion speaks of a “climate emergency”, which is exactly what we face. Last year’s IPCC report laid that out for all of us too see. Around the globe, millions of people would be subject to extreme weather such as droughts, and experts have said that the recent cyclone in east Africa was made worse by rising temperatures. In Scotland, there would be changing weather patterns and increased flood risks. Data from the RSPB and the British Ecological Society shows that our wildlife is already being impacted.
Climate breakdown affects us all and, as the motion rightly states, we have a “moral duty” to act. Much successful action has already been taken by the UK and Scottish Governments. Scottish emissions have almost halved thanks to the Scottish Government’s decarbonising efforts in the waste sector, for example, and the electricity sector has benefited from a combined approach that has led to Scotland emerging as a world leader in renewables.
The UK Government has committed to leading international efforts. Last year, the UK invested more than £160 million to help countries to deal with climate breakdown. Specific actions included direct support to Kenyan families who have been affected by droughts, and help for sub-Saharan farmers. That work is part of a wider plan to help developing countries and is backed up by almost £6 billion of investment. Almost 50 million people have already been helped, with 17 million people now having access to clean energy, which has saved more than 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Does Maurice Golden accept the hypocrisy that is inherent in a Government providing money to other countries to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis while providing many, many times more in subsidies to the very fossil fuel companies that are causing that crisis? Does he not understand how utterly incompatible those two things are?
No. I think that it is quite right for the UK Government to support work in developing countries to tackle climate change. When I was in Nepal last year, I saw the great work that not just charities but Governments can do, and I think that it is very important that we continue to work on that front.
That said, I also think that it is important that we continue to invest in jobs in this country, and if the UK Government—and, indeed, the Scottish Government—can help to foster jobs in the oil and gas sector, we must all aspire to support that.
At home, the UK Government is, like the Scottish Government here, investigating a deposit return system to reduce waste further and to improve environmental standards. Similarly, the UK and Scottish Governments are seeking updated advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change on a pathway to net zero and, as the cabinet secretary has indicated in the past and the minister has indicated again today, the Government will adopt a feasible path to net zero if the CCC identifies one. We welcome that, but we will seek to hold the Scottish Government to account to ensure that delivery is commensurate with any targets that are set.
For example, the plan to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 needs further detail on delivery, particularly with regard to costs and infrastructure. Moreover, more needs to be done to decarbonise heating. The interim stretch targets were regarded by the CCC as wildly optimistic, which led to their being revised down. Progress can be made only through deliverable solutions, and the upcoming climate change bill must marry that ambition with details and measurable data to allow outcomes to be assessed. The Scottish Conservatives will continue to act where we must, as we did last year when we led Parliament to bring forward measures to tackle fuel poverty and reduce heat waste by a full decade.
We will seek to work across the chamber to achieve practical solutions. For example, we have listened to the National Farmers Union Scotland’s call for support for farmers and have proposed offering direct capital and technical support to farmers for environmental practices focused on anaerobic digestion. Our electric arc furnace proposal would recycle steel, create jobs and reduce constraint payments, perhaps through utilising the 471 oil and gas installations in the North Sea, not to mention the 4.5 million tonnes of steel that they contain as well as the 10,000km pipelines under the sea. Finally, our plastic recycling centre would keep waste in Scotland to be used as a resource instead of exporting that value and the associated jobs to England or abroad.
To those who want to see this circular economic future for Scotland, I say that we stand ready to work with them.
I move amendment S5M-16555.1, to leave out from “further supports” to end and insert:
“recognises the moral duty on the Parliament to act in the interests of young people and future generations, as well as communities suffering most from climate change around the world, and welcomes the support given to them to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change from both the UK and Scottish governments.”
I welcome the opportunity presented by the Green motion to celebrate the bravery of young people around the world in striking for their right to a clean and green future. To bring together 1.4 million young people is an incredible feat, and I am in awe of and inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Nobel peace prize nominee who started the movement.
It is important that next week the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is welcoming climate strikers to a round-table meeting. Alison Johnstone set out the case for their four central demands, which we all need to listen to very carefully.
A target of net zero emissions in Scotland by 2050 at the latest must be set in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill right now, because anything less would be an abdication of responsibility for the young of today and tomorrow. On that basis, we will not be able to support the amendments lodged by the Scottish Government or the Tories.
“I’m here to show solidarity because the Labour Party wants not just action but a planned approach with leadership by Government to make sure we get to a net zero emissions position as quickly as possible”.
He went on:
“this is an issue for every single person in this city, across Scotland and the world. Because the people that will be hit hardest by climate change will be the poorest people with the most to lose. We are a Labour Party with an internationalist outlook. We’re protesting locally today but the message has got to be a global one.”
The need for an internationalist sense of responsibility was highlighted to me poignantly and far too sadly by a recent BBC feature on Mongolia, where the temperature has already risen by 2.2°C. The feature contrasted the way in which climate change is limiting options for those in the Mongolian steppe and those in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Tens of thousands of climate migrants are being forced to move from the countryside to the city, as vastly unpredictable weather patterns mean that their herding lifestyles are no longer guaranteed. However, in the capital, they face the worst air pollution in the world as a result of people having to burn raw coal. The air is apocalyptically thick with smog and is causing bronchitis issues. The programme showed a baby suffering from chronic bronchitis.
Climate change is causing and will continue to cause a myriad of problems for us all, and it hits the poorest the hardest and first. With that in mind, like the Green Party, I can say with complete confidence that there must be no onshore fracking in Scotland. We cannot afford to pursue that new industry, and it would be shameful to do so. I am sure that members, including Scottish National Party colleagues, and the 60,000 plus people who responded to the multiple consultations are now baffled by the Government’s repeated attempts to slip out of a firm position. I realise that the situation is complex, but the new legal opinion given by Friends of the Earth’s counsel is that a legislative ban with the backing of the Parliament is the “surest way” to prevent fracking in Scotland and to be steadfast in the face of judicial review. It is now time for the Scottish Government to show leadership on the issue, and I am happy to work with it, the Green Party and the Lib Dems in trying to shape the approach to the issue.
Labour will work for a green jobs revolution and for a radical transformation that supports public-ownership models, including municipal and co-operative action. Scottish Labour is determined that workers and affected communities will be supported by a statutory, long-term just transition commission as we move to a sustainable future across all sectors. Therefore, we will not support the Green motion, as it does not acknowledge that imperative in the context of the oil and gas sectors, although there is much in the motion of grave importance.
I do not have time—I am sorry.
Our amendment highlights the fact that the natural world is a vital helping hand in balancing the climate emissions that are most difficult to cut. According to studies that are highlighted in the report “Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert—Climate change impacts on biodiversity”, the ability of our soils, peatlands, forests and seas to sequester carbon is expected to peak around 2030, as a result of ecosystem disruption such as drought, disease and floods. We must address that, not least because it could decrease carbon storage.
The aim of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5°C will take real leadership from Government. This is indeed an emergency of global proportions. Only with leadership and ambition from Government at all levels combined with equity and action across our economy and society will we move Scotland fairly to net zero emissions as fast as possible.
I move amendment S5M-16555.3, to leave out from “, and calls on” to end and insert:
“; calls on the Scottish Government to consider putting the Just Transition Commission on a statutory and fully funded footing to support workers in all sectors, including the oil and gas industry, and their communities; recognises the mandate from the public and the Parliament for a legislative ban on unconventional onshore oil and gas extraction; calls on the Scottish Government to help drive forward a green jobs revolution that will support the development of public and co-operative ownership models with the focus of delivering the energy that communities need, and understands the crucial need to address the climate change challenges impacting the natural world and ecosystems on which people depend.”
I thank Mark Ruskell for enabling this appetiser for next week’s stage 1 debate on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. I am sorry that the Liberal Democrat amendment was not selected, although I appreciate the limitations in such a time-restricted debate. I will use the time available to touch on some of the points raised in the motion and the various amendments.
Like others, I found the action that was taken earlier this month by young climate strikers impressive and inspiring. In my constituency, pupils at Westray community school, St Margaret’s Hope primary, Stromness academy and Kirkwall grammar school were all in touch and all made the same case. I look forward to meeting Rachel Evans from Kirkwall grammar school early next week.
The clarity of the strikers’ message, the passion with which they deliver it and their determination to be heard have been striking, and it is incumbent on members of this Parliament to respond positively to that call for urgent and ambitious action.
The main low-emission vehicle for such action will be the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. I look forward to taking part in the debate on the bill next week.
I accept the minister’s point that we should await the revised advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change, but there is no getting around the fact that more ambitious and decisive action is required on heat, on transport, on agriculture and in other areas.
There is certainly no need to open up another carbon front, in the form of fracking. The Government amendment conspicuously fails to make any mention of fracking, which is unfortunate, if perhaps not entirely surprising. After the First Minister’s categoric assurance in this chamber that, no ifs, no buts, fracking is banned in Scotland, it must surely have been excruciating for her most loyal colleagues to find that Government lawyers were marching into court to deny that a ban exists and say that such comments were political hot air. As a result, communities that are under threat from fracking developments are left confused and alarmed, which cannot be right.
Does the member recognise that Lord Pentland, in his determination on the legal case, made reference to the fact that the process is still under way, which is why the claim was deemed premature, and referenced the Government’s right to express its intent in “robust terms”?
I hear what the minister is saying, but the incongruence between what the First Minister was saying in this chamber and what her lawyers were saying in court will not have escaped anyone who was watching the proceedings.
The Green amendment gets into difficulty in relation to oil and gas, as other members said. There is widespread if not unanimous agreement on the need to decarbonise our economy, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move to more renewable energy production, but to think that the oil and gas sector will not continue to have an important role to play in our energy mix for decades to come is simply naive.
No. I do not have time.
There is a transition to be made, absolutely. Activity in that regard is already happening and can and should be accelerated. Moreover, the answers to many of the challenges that face the renewables sector as it embarks on the next phase of its development are likely to be found in the supply chains of the oil and gas sector.
The determination of some members of the Green Party to shut down the North Sea, in a bid to demonstrate their environmental machismo, is reckless, unnecessary and counterproductive, not least given the need to bring people along in the just transition that is needed.
Transition is needed in other areas, too. We need to be able to describe the changes that are needed in agriculture, transport and other sectors and how they can be achieved without destroying businesses and communities in the process.
Earlier today, I attended a meeting that Mark Ruskell hosted, at which we heard from Josephine Zimba, a PhD student from Malawi who is studying climate justice at the University of Glasgow. It is right that we acknowledge that the worst effects of climate change are being felt by those who are least responsible for it. No single weather event should be attributed to climate change, but the patterns that we see are evidence that cannot be ignored. Malawi—a country that is very dear to my heart—has suffered desperately from a succession of droughts and floods and is suffering now, along with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, from the brutal effects of cyclone Idai. The international aspect of climate change needs to be reflected more in our legislation.
I congratulate Mark Ruskell on his motion, but I cannot support it.
We know that we have a global climate crisis. As a historical contributor to global warming, Scotland has a responsibility to be at the heart of how we mitigate its effects.
I feel strongly that, in response to the climate strikes, we have a responsibility to open the Parliament’s doors a little wider and to involve the young people who took to the streets to make their voices heard, and I am glad that the Green motion specifically mentions those young people. Some of the climate strikers are coming into the Parliament on Tuesday next week to talk to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee about the kind of society that they believe Scotland has to be if we are to play our part in reducing emissions. Asking for change is the easy part; determining the pathways is the challenge, and it is our job to involve young people in those decisions. I have arranged for the climate strikers also to be in the public gallery as we debate stage 1 of the
Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.
If the status quo is not an option as we try to reach the ambitious emissions targets that the Scottish Government has set, how should our way of life change? As we decide on radical changes—as we must do—how do we make sure that those changes do not spell economic disaster for communities and leave behind the people who can least afford to adapt, such as people in rural communities who have limited access to public transport and people who live in rented accommodation and have no power to decide how they heat their home?
I have spoken many times before about the just transition issues in the latter part of the Green motion and the extraction of oil and gas. It is no secret that my area of the north-east of Scotland largely relies on the oil and gas industry and I do not think that it is hyperbolic to say that if we turned off the taps of the oil and gas industry, we would potentially destroy the north-east economy and many lives with it.
It should be noted that the majority of jobs in oil and gas are not in production; they are in exploration. [
.] I do not know whether someone wants to make an intervention or that was just a lot of noise. I see that the Greens are not making an intervention; they just made a noise, which put me off, so I will carry on.
A couple of years ago, we had a taste of what might happen, when thousands of people lost their livelihoods because of the global oil price crash. I caught my breath today as figures came out from my area relating to the huge surges in food-bank use, as people have fallen out of work and fallen foul of the United Kingdom welfare system. The climate crisis is real, but the solution is not to shut off an entire sector; the solution is to use the sector’s products differently. We are talking about putting hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at stake, but also about workers with expertise who could lead us into a low-carbon, renewables and carbon capture and storage future if the transition is managed appropriately.
To be honest, if I had known that Andy Wightman was going to repeat what he has already said, I would not have wasted the valuable time that I have for my speech.
The motion strongly hints at the destruction of the oil and gas industry, which I feel very strongly about. Basically, my family has been able to survive economically because of that industry. If over the past three years Andy Wightman had had to see affected constituents in front of him—some of whom have been suicidal about losing their jobs—he might take a different tone. It is no surprise to me that no Green member represents the north-east.
The oil and gas industry has huge potential as a feedstock industry for practically every type of manufacturing. Crucially, natural gas is a key component of fuels that do not emit carbon, such as hydrogen, which could be the zero-emission replacement fuel for heavily emitting sectors such as heating and transport. Other major economies, such as Australia and Germany, are embracing hydrogen at pace.
I want a low-carbon future, but I will not stand up and call for an end to the oil and gas industry, which supports the majority of my constituents, could provide the innovation, engineering expertise and raw materials for a transition to net zero emissions and still has a multitude of uses beyond heat and transport.
If we are truly serious about playing our part in tackling climate change, we need to engage all sectors in contributing innovation around low-carbon alternatives. If we are to meet the climate challenge, we need to bring everyone with us. If we do not, we will fail—and we cannot afford to fail.
Thank you for that advice, Presiding Officer.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this Green Party debate. I am certain that we all agree that climate change is one of the most important issues that we must tackle to protect future generations and the long-term sustainability of the communities that we represent. However, although we agree with aspects of Mark RuskeII’s motion, it does not offer the practical solutions that will ensure that our climate targets are met.
It is important to stress that the Parliament is already legislating to tackle climate change and is, in many respects, world leading. Following the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s stage 1 report, we will have another opportunity to debate the issue next week when we debate the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. The bill sets ambitious targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, including increasing cuts for next year to 56 per cent and introducing a new target of 78 per cent for 2040. The bill also allows a target for net zero to be introduced at a later date if that is deemed possible.
However, it is pointless to put targets in place if there is no realistic mechanism to achieve them. As an MSP who represents North East Scotland, I disagree with the section of Mark Ruskell’s motion that talks about oil and gas being incompatible with climate change. That completely fails to recognise the importance to the economy in Scotland of that industry, which contributed £9.2 billion in 2016 and supports 135,000 jobs. Although I recognise that our energy needs must adapt, we cannot simply ignore an industry that is vital to our energy security. It is forecast that at least two thirds of the United Kingdom’s primary energy needs will be met by oil and gas until at least 2035.
On farming, I declare an interest, but I have always said that farming is part of the solution to climate change rather than part of the problem. It is largely our farmers who will plant the extra trees that we need to counter climate change. It is farmers who will put mitigation measures in place to restore peat bogs. It is on farmers’ land that wind turbines and solar panel farms are located. Cattle and sheep get a bad press but, again, the process of grazing grass and keeping it green and growing also helps to lock up carbon. Most of our sheep and cattle are kept on ground that can only grow grass, so those areas are never going to be capable of growing the cereals and beans that vegans would have us survive on. Cereal farmers can become much more efficient in their use of fertiliser, lime and chemicals by using global positioning system technology. Putting in the right inputs in the right quantity and in the right place is good for the environment and good for profits.
NFUS president Andrew McCornick has said:
“Reducing emissions in farming will not be easy or immediate.”
Therefore, the Government has a key role in facilitating and supporting the industry in its efforts to reduce emissions, and that must be part of the new support measures after Brexit. It is clear that our farmers simply do not have the information, access to new technologies or Government support to assist in such measures to tackle climate change, but if they are given that support and guidance, I am convinced that they will play their part in full.
Educating people about climate change is important and I believe that our children would be better placed to learn about climate change by being inside the classroom rather than outwith it. However, I absolutely recognise why they are concerned and take the matter seriously.
The opportunity to debate this subject today has been welcome, but we must look at practical ways of tackling the problem, which is why I cannot vote for the Green motion at decision time.
This afternoon’s welcome debate provides an opportunity to offer support and solidarity to people around the world who are currently experiencing the awful impact of natural disasters that are occurring within the context of climate change. It enables us to recognise the strength of feeling among Scotland’s young people and young people across the world, who are protesting at the failure of global leaders to take strong action to halt climate change. It also gives us an opportunity to consider how we in Scotland can contribute to international efforts, to recognise the impact of our activity and to consider how we are going to minimise that.
The debate encapsulates one of the greatest challenges of modern times. The impact of climate change entrenches the world’s inequalities, as those countries and people who have done the least to cause climate change are suffering the worst effects of it. We are fortunate in Scotland, in that we have already had our industrial revolution and have received all the benefits of the modern society that came from that change. Our economic growth benefited—and, it can be argued, still benefits—from a model of development that is now hurting developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. That is just one of the compelling reasons why we have a strong moral obligation to take action now, to set strong targets that resonate across the world and to play our part in showing that a different path is possible.
I thank Stop Climate Chaos, Christian Aid and Amnesty International for their briefings for the debate. Last April, I hosted a reception for faith leaders, at which they all came together to make it clear that addressing climate change and delivering climate justice for the world’s poorest people are our shared responsibility. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 is important, in that it sets binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions. As Claudia Beamish set out, Labour will push for a target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and an interim target of a 77 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
Scotland has been ambitious in target setting and we can provide leadership. We need international action and our ambition has been recognised in the European arena. However, we must do more to keep on track to achieve our targets. Interim targets are important in creating momentum and embedding change in behaviours; long-term targets are at risk of being dependent on hopes that some new technology will come along to solve the problems in energy, transport or agriculture.
We have made progress and we see the commitment of the many individuals and groups across Scotland who are working hard to promote behavioural change. However, we need more investment from Governments to support and promote change at a local level.
In recent weeks, young people have sent out a powerful message. Their open letter says:
“We finally need to treat the climate crisis as a crisis.”
They are set to inherit a world that is experiencing huge upheaval and the realities of food shortages, climate refugees and the degradation of biodiversity and marine life—all part of the negative impact of increased temperatures. To prevent that, we need global effort, which is why the Paris climate agreement is so important and why pressure must be applied to all signatories to deliver on that promise.
So far this afternoon, we have heard lots of agreement in the chamber that something must be done, but that is the easy bit. The harder bit is deciding how we, as a country, will make significant changes that work in the interests of the world and not just our own interests. For many reasons, I have opposed the development of unconventional onshore oil and gas extraction. The area that I represent in Parliament would be prime land for that type of development and I have—many times—set out my concerns about the environmental impact; safety, particularly in relation to water quality; and the risk of such activity, given the population density of Fife. I have also set out the wider argument about pursuing another fossil fuel when we need to move towards a reduction in our emissions from energy. That is why I am disappointed in the further delays to finding a permanent resolution.
Scotland has benefited from offshore oil and gas extraction, but times are changing for the industry. The reserves that we still have are more difficult to locate and extract, meaning less revenue for the return. However, as someone who grew up in what became an ex-mining village, I know the impact that industrial change has on communities. That is why we are calling for the just transition commission to be given a greater role in managing the change that we need in our energy policy. The next generation will face significant challenges. We must do all that we can to support them in creating their future society.
This 70-minute debate and the number of people who are here in the chamber mean that we, as human beings, will have emitted approximately 1,000 litres of carbon dioxide. All human activity has a price in climate terms, so it is important that we unite in seeking to deal with it.
Opinions on the subject are pretty uniform in saying that there is a problem. Taking the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 through Parliament as Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change 10 years ago fundamentally changed my attitude to life and everything.
Greta Thunberg is the flag bearer for the young generation, but she does not stand alone. Even an unlikely suspect, the United States Central Intelligence Agency, in its “Statement for the Record: 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community”, makes it clear that
“Climate hazards such as extreme weather ... are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.”
There is, therefore, the broadest possible spectrum of people who are for tackling the agenda, and we should respect that.
However, it also important that we do not imagine that all seven greenhouse gases must come down to zero. The economics and prioritisation that we must bring to the agenda are important. We must tackle the easy-to-reach low-hanging fruit first, and ensure that every pound that we spend delivers the maximum possible benefit.
Farming suffers in particular because of the way that the emissions inventory works. Farming gets no numerical benefit for its activity in forestry, for example, or for the substantial renewable energy that comes from wind farms on farmers’ fields. That is elsewhere in the inventory and that is fair enough. Peter Chapman is correct that farmers are part of the solution, so we should not talk ourselves into thinking that there is a major crisis in farming.
However, the IPCC made it clear in its report in October that there is a real and pressing crisis. It talked about the Arctic having no ice whatsoever: if all the ice in the world were to melt, the world’s seas would rise by 60 metres. Every single coastal town and city on the planet would be inundated. It is that serious.
However, lesser inundations come from lesser changes in the climate. 10 per cent of the ice melting is within practical consideration and would raise the seas by between 6m and 8m, which would cause many cities around the world to suffer. That is an economic problem, for sure, but it is also a real human problem. That is why it is right and proper that the Greens have brought the debate for us today.
Liam Kirkaldy in
Holyrood magazine highlights some of the practical effects by talking about the effect of cyclone Idai on Beira, which is a city of half a million people. Every building in the city has been affected by the cyclone. That is not in and of itself part of the climate change problem, but it is the sort of thing that is happening with increasing frequency as the climate changes.
As we progress the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, it is important that we have vigorous debates such as today’s, but that we also decide unanimously, at the end of the day, on a programme for action. We might have to compromise to get to that, but if we unite we can deal with the issue.
Stewart Stevenson has very eloquently set out the extent of the problem, why we need to take action and, perhaps, why 1.4 million young people across the world highlighted it by taking strike action the other week. Our grandchildren and their children will look back and ask why nobody did anything when they were told what the problems were. On that, there is a consensus in the chamber.
Stewart Stevenson also talked about taking the low-hanging fruit. I believe that we have done that in Scotland to an extent and, in some ways, by accident. For example, the closure of Longannet power station ensured that we met some of the targets that were set in the early days by Stewart Stevenson, when he was the climate change minister. However, now we come to the difficult bit, and I am not convinced that we are in the best place to do it, even with the Government’s best intentions.
I totally understand Gillian Martin’s sentiments and her strength of feeling about protecting jobs in her area and the North Sea. We are failing in terms of the just transition. There is a lot of talk about it, but we should be doing so much better in a number of areas.
I was delighted to read about North Uist in
The Press and Journal this morning, and to learn that the construction phase of the community wind project there is being entered. What potential has been lost, however: we should have community wind and renewables projects up and down Scotland, in the ownership of communities, the public sector and councils. There has been a failure of ambition and vision in that specific matter.
“As the windiest country in Europe, we should be angry and embarrassed that every single turbine around us has been imported.”
When is the minister going to introduce a manufacturing strategy for Scotland so that we can get the jobs in Scotland? I met him and raised my concerns about Burntisland Fabrications. Contracts are now being awarded to companies in Belgium, Spain and the United Arab Emirates: we struggle to have contracts being awarded to companies here in Scotland.
We talk a good game about the just transition, but unless we see the real investment that is needed and the jobs that would come from it, workers in the North Sea and other areas will not be convinced. Although I support the principle behind the Green’s motion, we have to recognise that, sitting alongside that, the jobs must come. The Government has to do more—it has to show more ambition and it needs to produce more jobs.
Where are we in relation to the commitment to reduce the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2032? I am not sure that the infrastructure for that is being put in place. We might not be building the electric cars or developing their batteries, but can we develop the software? I see a failure of strategy. We must have a strategy, and there has to be a just transition that protects workers jobs.
I declare an interest as a farmer, a landowner and a member of NFU Scotland.
I welcome the debate because, today, Parliament is united: all members who have spoken are in agreement about the need to tackle climate change and rising global temperatures.
As a member of the Environment, Climate and Land Reform Committee, I have heard all the evidence in recent months relating to rising global temperatures and the need for action to reduce or stop that temperature rise as soon as possible.
Last October, we again heard from the IPCC about the need for urgent action by 2030—within the next 11 years. Alison Johnstone and Stewart Stevenson referred to the threat of coastal inundation from rising sea levels.
We know that we need to act, so the question is in what way and how quickly. Parliament should be encouraged by the fact that many young people across Scotland, the UK and the world rightly want politicians to provide solutions to the problem, which is an issue that Mairi Gougeon mentioned.
However, it might be that their generation is the first generation to recognise the problems of temperature rise and climate change, but the last generation that will be able to stop it, if Stewart Stevenson’s apocalyptic warnings come true. That is a big responsibility, and its resolution will affect every man, woman and child in Scotland, as we all begin to take individual responsibility for keeping global temperature rises to a minimum.
As Claire Baker said, behavioural change will become a new fact of life to which we will all have to aspire. For most of us, that will require lifestyle change. Remarkably, it might well be that our children and grandchildren buy in most quickly to the need for behavioural change and show their parents and grandparents the way forward. For example, it might be children and young people who say to their parents that they want to walk to school or take the bus rather than be driven to school in noxious-gas producing vehicles.
Preventative spend must become the order of the day, particularly where more than one outcome can be delivered from the money that is spent. For example, ensuring that all homes have an energy performance certificate band C rating or better by 2030 would deliver climate change benefits and physical and mental health benefits. Encouraging bus use, cycling and walking delivers reductions in greenhouse gases and simultaneously leads to health benefits from taking more exercise.
I turn to rural land use. It is self-evident that we have to encourage land managers, land users and farmers all to play their parts. The farmers and land managers to whom I speak are certainly keen to do that. First, farming and agriculture, which Liam McArthur mentioned, have to be understood and they must be part of the solution, rather than agriculture being portrayed as a sector that is not prepared to put its shoulder to the wheel.
That will begin if we take a different approach to measuring the optional good works that farmers can do—and already do—to act in an environmentally responsible way. A whole-farm or whole-estate approach must be taken and credit given to farmers and landowners for planting trees to help to meet Government planting targets and to deliver timber and carbon sequestration, which Peter Chapman mentioned.
Credit must also be given to agriculture for moorland and peatland restoration, better soil management techniques, better livestock husbandry techniques and producing food, as Stewart Stevenson drew attention to.
Notwithstanding the very stark and real concerns about the need to address climate change, there are many opportunities that must be grasped with both hands to keep temperature rises to a minimum and to deliver better transport services, better landscape protection and enhancement, warmer homes and an increasing standard of living for us all. The Conservatives are willing to play their part in that future, and await the UK Climate Change Committee’s advice, which will perhaps show us more about how to do that.
The late governor of New York Mario Cuomo once said:
“You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”
It is my role to be constrained by prose, and perhaps time, today.
Climate change is a subject on which people are rightly impassioned, and it moves enlightened individuals such as Greta Thunberg and indeed Stewart Stevenson, who took the previous climate change bill through Parliament, to make powerful calls for action. We all owe a great deal to all those who have rung the alarm bell and inspired action, both on climate change and, as Alison Johnstone said, on climate justice.
The Government, in responding to the urgency of the matter, has a duty to do so responsibly but also to chart a credible course to meet our legal responsibilities, including environmental ones; ensure a well-managed transition and keep Scotland’s lights on; and ensure that we have secure, affordable energy for our heating and transport systems.
Scotland should continue to be a world leader on tackling climate change—I believe that we all agree on that. Scotland has halved its emissions since 1990 and some 70 per cent of our electricity demand can now be met from renewable sources, despite key levers being outwith our control. I look forward to Mr Rowley supporting the devolution of energy policy to the Scottish Parliament. Scotland also has a rapidly expanding network of publicly funded electric vehicle charging points.
I do not doubt the member’s sincerity, but I have doubts about whether there will be a Labour Government any time soon, I am afraid.
However, we know that there are hard yards ahead on our journey to net zero emissions. We support those parts of the motion that recognise the urgency of the call to action on climate change, and the Government is meeting the urgency of the challenge head on. Our Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill makes us one of the first countries to propose strengthened statutory targets in response to the Paris agreement. They are set to be the most ambitious targets of any country in the world for 2020 and 2030, as well as meaning that Scotland will be carbon neutral by 2050. If our independent expert advisers and the Committee on Climate Change advise that there are credible pathways for Scotland to have even higher ambition, we will act on that advice.
The challenge for Scotland, as for many European nations, is that, despite great progress on renewable electricity, we remain 75 per reliant on hydrocarbons for our overall energy needs, and we cannot turn off that reliance overnight. The IPCC’s special report recognises that both oil and natural gas will continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix to 2050.
Scotland’s energy strategy is credible and consistent with our existing climate targets and we plan to update it to reflect the revised targets in the bill. The strategy sets out a clear role for the oil and gas sector and supply chain in maintaining secure domestic sources of energy during the transition but also in transferring skills and knowledge into renewables and areas such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage and perhaps hydrogen, as mentioned by Gillian Martin. The oil and gas sector, which has a 110,000-strong Scottish workforce and supply chain, is a key component of our energy system and economy and it will play a positive role in supporting the global low-carbon transition. Key industry voices have endorsed our energy strategy and are already embracing alternative energy.
North Sea oil and gas production is highly regulated and it has some of the most advanced and comparatively least polluting methods in the world. Maintaining efficient domestic production therefore potentially results in lower net global emissions than in a scenario where we become dependent on hydrocarbon imports.
The Scottish Government’s preferred policy position is that it does not support unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland, and we remain committed to transparency and public engagement on this important issue. We are entering the final stages of the policy-making process. We have repeatedly set out that our preferred policy position will be subject to a strategic environmental assessment and a business and regulatory impact assessment before any policy is adopted. The Parliament debated and endorsed that position on 24 October 2017.
I do not have time, I am afraid.
We consulted on the SEA environmental report, the preferred policy position and the partial BRIA over eight weeks in late 2018, and the responses that we received led us to form the view that it would be helpful to provide some further clarification on a number of points that were raised in response to the consultation documents. As we set out yesterday, we will therefore publish an addendum to the 2018 consultation documents, inviting further responses. We anticipate that the addendum and related documents will be published for an eight-week consultation following the Easter recess and the responses will then be analysed. Our final policy on unconventional oil and gas will be adopted as soon as possible after that process is completed.
I am conscious of the strongly held views on all sides of this important issue and of the calls from some colleagues in the chamber for a legislative ban on unconventional oil and gas. Our view is that new legislation is not necessary to control unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. The adoption of a strong policy will provide appropriate and proportionate means to regulate such development. We will defer a decision on any planning application that comes before us until the policy-making process is completed.
I will emphasise two points. First, the practical effect of the moratorium that was introduced by the Government in 2015 is that no fracking or other unconventional oil and gas activity can take place in Scotland at this time. Secondly, the alternative approaches would also require statutory processes to be completed and to operate to appropriate timescales. Our approach is the only one that will allow us to move at pace towards confirming and adopting a robust final policy on unconventional oil and gas. I support the Government’s amendment today.
That is excellent. Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I will conclude the debate with remarks about three areas that we have debated this afternoon: one in which there is strong consensus; another in which Parliament has a majority view and we need to push the Government over the line; and an area in which we do not yet have consensus but hope springs eternal that we will get the rest of the chamber on board with the Greens in the years to come.
The strong consensus is on the importance of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C. It is significant that every amendment and the motion commit us to the target of limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C, which goes beyond the Paris agreement to peg us to 2°C with a global commitment to pursue a limit of 1.5°C. The motion goes beyond that, and I hope that that can now be reflected in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) bill at stage 2.
Those targets and numbers mean very little to communities out there that are suffering the impact of climate change. At lunch time today, we heard from a very eloquent young Malawian woman, Josephine Zimba, who spoke passionately.
Josephine Zimba spoke passionately about the impact of climate change in a world that is at only 0.7°C of global warming. She spoke about the rural communities that have hard choices to make about what they use their scarce water resources for, and the impact on the economy of families who have to choose how they can raise enough money from growing tomatoes and other products to send their children to school. Communities around the world are facing hard choices because of this climate crisis—Stewart Stevenson, Alison Johnstone and many other members pointed to that reality. The reality that we need to deal with is keeping the world to 1.5°C and the choices that we need to make for that to happen.
What I think we have a majority in the Parliament for is to support the Government to deliver a legally watertight ban on fracking. I believe that the legal opinion that was produced by Friends of the Earth Scotland at the weekend is a game changer. It opens up the possibility of a legal ban on fracking, either through the climate change bill or through Claudia Beamish’s member’s bill. We respect the work that she has done on that, and she will have the backing of the Greens for whatever she chooses to do with her bill. It remains an option that is on the table and it needs to be taken seriously.
We need that legally watertight ban. My concern, which I ask the minister to consider, is that the longer we have a temporary moratorium, the more it will be open to legal challenge. There is uncertainty around it. Last year, the Scottish Government granted an extension of exploration licences to the likes of Ineos. Those will end in June this year, and I ask what the Government response will be—will it be another extension to the licences? There were great concerns from communities at the time. Also, the planning decision on the application for coal-bed methane development at Airth still lies undetermined, despite being lodged in 2012; that is also potentially legally challengeable. We need to help to get the Government over the line on a legally watertight ban. I am open to discussion with the minister, as I am sure are members of other parties, about the progress, or the lack of it, that the Government has made and about how we can ensure that we get a legally watertight ban.
There is perhaps less consensus in the chamber on the last issue that I will talk about briefly: the future of North Sea oil and gas. It is very disappointing that all parties in the chamber have sought in their amendments to delete the line in the Green motion about “maximum economic recovery”. As much as I have a huge amount of respect for Gillian Martin, Liam McArthur and others, I think that there is an element of scaremongering here. Nobody is saying that the North Sea oil and gas industry needs to shut tomorrow. However, there is an uncomfortable truth here that we need to acknowledge, which is that the majority of fossil fuels need to be left in the ground. We cannot have an energy policy that is based on simply having more of everything.
Globally, real leadership on the issue comes from New Zealand. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, last year stated that the policy of the New Zealand Government would be that no further oil and gas exploration permits would be granted. That is something that the New Zealand Government did not do lightly—the country is an oil and gas producer and it has regions such as Taranaki, which I am sure that Gillian Martin would recognise as being similar—
I do not have time, unfortunately. Gillian Martin would recognise Taranaki as being similar to Aberdeenshire. The New Zealand economy is building itself up on oil and gas, but it recognises that it has to make a transition.
I will finish with the words of the New Zealand Prime Minister. She said:
“Transitions have to start somewhere and unless we make decisions today that will essentially take effect in 30 or more years’ time, we run the risk of acting too late and causing abrupt shocks to communities and our country.”
New Zealand has taken the decision not to grant any more exploration licences precisely because it is worried about job certainty and security of energy supplies and, of course, it is worried about climate change. It is pursuing the reindustrialisation that Alex Rowley and other members talked about. We need to learn the lessons from the past, we need to learn the lessons from the way we treated the Longannet workforce and we need to prepare for the transition.
Having a backstop and having a policy that recognises that maximum economic recovery is not compatible with climate change has to be the starting point. It has to be the starting point for the transition to a low-carbon economy of the future and the jobs that go with it.