Climate Change

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

4. This week, I have been lobbied by people who want urgent action on climate change. Young climate change activist Greta Thunberg lobbied Westminster Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford, too. He boasted about the SNP Government’s record. Back in this Parliament, at exactly the same moment, his Government was announcing that it was intent on cutting aviation tax to increase air flights to and from Scotland. Is that something to boast about? Would Greta be impressed?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Unlike most other countries, we take account of all aviation emissions in our climate change targets. To meet those targets, we must reduce emissions across all areas.

Willie Rennie said that we boast about Scotland’s performance but, in February, a former executive secretary of the United Nations framework convention on climate change said:

“Scotland has already been at the forefront of climate action and this Bill”— the bill that is before Parliament—

“confirms that status as a world leader.”

That is what the world says about Scotland and climate change. When the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was in Edinburgh recently, he said that he was

“impressed with the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan and pleased to see it was based on science”.

Scotland is a world leader. Under our current plans, we would become carbon neutral by 2050, but a week today—I see that the environment secretary is confirming that—we expect to get the updated advice from the Committee on Climate Change. If the advice is that we can go further or faster, we will accept it. Everybody across the Parliament should warmly welcome that.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The fact that the First Minister measures aviation emissions does not justify the air tax reduction. I truly do not think that Greta would be impressed.

When I previously raised with the First Minister the issue of domestic waste, she said that I was exaggerating. That was before this week’s catastrophic report, commissioned by the Government, which says that inaction by the Government means that £1 billion will be spent to send Scottish waste to England. That means 87,000 bin lorries being sent down the M74. When her Government banned the sending of waste to landfill in Scotland, did the First Minister know that the waste would be dumped in England? Will she end the planned £250 million tax break for the airline industry and tackle the 1 million tonnes of waste, or will Greta need to come back?

The First Minister:

On a point of fact—and for reasons that Willie Rennie knows, so I will not repeat them—the ministerial announcement this week was that the cut in the air departure tax would not go ahead in the coming year. I say that so that Willie Rennie does not inadvertently give people the wrong impression.

We are working with councils to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Whether it is on reducing climate change emissions or any other aspect of environmental action, by the estimation not of the Government but of many around the world, the Government is leading the world and should continue to do so. It is right and proper that other parties, pressure groups and activists put greater pressure on us to do more. We will continue to do so, because we are determined to continue to be the world leader and to take the action that the next generation wants.

The Presiding Officer:

We have further supplementaries.