Climate Change

– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd May 2019.

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Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

6. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to address climate change. (S5F-03294)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

As we have already debated today, there is a climate emergency, and we must all act accordingly. That is why the Scottish Government embraces today’s report from the Committee on Climate Change and all that it contains. This morning, we lodged amendments to the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill that, if supported by Parliament, will set a net zero emissions target for 2045, meaning that Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end within a generation. The amendments will also make us carbon neutral by 2040.

The committee’s advice is clear: achieving those targets will depend on action by the United Kingdom Government as well as by the Scottish Government. Therefore, we have today written to the UK ministers, requesting an urgent meeting and a collaborative approach. I have already confirmed this morning that we will also update the current climate change plan within six months of the bill receiving royal assent, as has been recommended by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

I welcome the flurry of announcements from politicians including the First Minister, declaring a climate emergency. Will the First Minister advise how appalling bus and train services, an abstention by her members of Parliament on the Heathrow expansion, the failure to legislate for a ban on fracking, support for the expansion of air travel and a policy to cut and then scrap air departure tax contribute to addressing the climate emergency or could ever be described as world leading?

The First Minister:

It is global experts who describe Scotland’s actions as world leading, and today they are lining up to do exactly that, while encouraging us to go further. All parties should get behind that. Of course, we will continue to have disagreements on individual policies, but the scale of ambition in the targets puts us way ahead of any other country in the world, redefines the bar of world leadership and is something of which all of us should be proud.

I ask Neil Findlay, as I asked Richard Leonard, if Labour members want—as I believe they sincerely do—to see greater investment in bus travel, for example, why on earth are they so opposed to the proposal to give councils the power to raise the revenue to do exactly that and to help to get people out of cars and on to public transport? There is a glaring inconsistency at the heart of Labour’s position. Until it sorts that out, Labour will lack credibility in asking the kind of questions that Neil Findlay has just asked.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I welcome the ambition on tackling climate change. However, the Scottish National Party Government is set to miss its recycling target by 12 years, it has barely moved on reducing transport emissions and its lack of planning for a landfill ban could cost taxpayers £1 billion. Given those failures and a host of others, how can the Parliament have confidence that future targets will be met by the SNP Government?

The First Minister:

We are meeting the current climate change targets, and we are upping the scale of our ambition so that we will do even more in the future. On a day when the Committee on Climate Change has issued advice not just to the Scottish Government but to the UK and Welsh Governments, the Scottish Government has immediately accepted that advice. I have not heard the UK Government accept the advice that it has been given, and the Welsh Government said this morning that it might respond to the Committee on Climate Change by the end of next year. We are taking the world-leading action that people expect us to take, and we will ensure that we have in place the policies to meet the targets.

We all have a responsibility to tackle climate change, so I say to the Tories, as I have said to Labour, that we all need to step up to the plate. In the months and years to come, people will watch closely to see what the Government does, but they will also pay close attention to Tory policies. I suspect that the Tories, thus far, will be found wanting. I hope that that changes, so that, together, we can ensure that Scotland is a world leader not just in the targets that we set but in meeting those targets. That is something of which this generation and future generations will be proud.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The Scottish Liberal Democrats welcome the Scottish Government’s revised commitment to there being net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. However, last week, the First Minister told Willie Rennie that she would not drop her plans for a £250 million tax cut for the aviation industry. Instead, she boasted that the Government would just measure the extra emissions. She repeated that response this week.

This morning, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change said:

“It would help immensely with the emissions challenge there is in Scotland” if the Government does not choose to cut taxes to boost flight numbers. Will she accept that advice and scrap the proposed aviation tax cut?

The First Minister:

As I have said two or three times already today, the change is not happening this year, for reasons that have been well set out. We will consider our policies across the whole range of Government responsibilities, because that is what is required in the light of the advice that we are accepting today. We take that responsibility seriously.

I say to the Liberals, as I have said to Labour and the Tories, that, when Parliament returns to discussing workplace parking, over the next few weeks, I will remember this discussion at First Minister’s question time. Those parties cannot have it both ways: they cannot call for the Government to set world-leading targets and introduce policies but then simply oppose everything that the Government comes forward with, for knee-jerk reasons. The responsibility is on all of us, so let us see whether the other parties are willing to rise to the challenge.