Global Climate Emergency

– in the Scottish Parliament on 14 May 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on the global climate emergency: Scotland’s response. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement. I encourage all members who wish to ask a question to press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as they can. [



Are you okay, cabinet secretary? It is just a small spillage, not a global climate crisis, but we will have a short suspension.

14:22 Meeting suspended.

14:24 On resuming—

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am grateful for being given a couple of minutes to get myself a little less soggy. I blame the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans, who put the glass of water right at my left hand.

There is a global climate emergency. The evidence is irrefutable. The science is clear, and people have been clear: they expect action. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a stark warning: the world must act now. By 2030, it will be too late to limit warming to 1.5°.

Last week, another United Nations body, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, issued a warning about the damage that human beings are causing to the planet. It found that the drivers of damage have accelerated over the past 50 years and climate change is one of the top three causes.

Both those reports highlight that it is not too late for us to turn things around, but to do so requires transformative change. This is not just about Government action and it is not something that only affects Scotland. All countries must act, quickly and decisively. We all have a part to play: individuals, communities, businesses and other organisations. Opposition parties also have a responsibility to look at their own approaches.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government received advice from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change in the light of the IPCC report. We acted immediately by lodging amendments to our Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill to set a 2045 target for net zero emissions, as we said that we would do. If agreed by Parliament, these will be the most stringent legislative targets anywhere in the world and Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within a generation. The CCC was clear that meeting that target will be enormously challenging and is dependent on the UK Government fully playing its part; so far, the UK Government has not even committed to following the CCC advice.

Our bill amendments were the first step after the CCC advice, but the Scottish Government has been a leader in this field for many years. This Parliament’s Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 made us the first country in the world to introduce legally binding annual targets and to include a fair share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.

We have already almost halved emissions since 1990 while growing the economy and increasing employment and productivity. We will continue to do so and we are doing this through domestic effort alone.

It is important to note that businesses and industry have played an important role and will continue to do so. In response to business feedback, we have recently refreshed the Scottish business pledge, adding a new element to encourage businesses to consider their impact on the environment.

The transformative changes that are needed offer social and economic opportunities, but there will be risks and challenges to overcome. That is why we are the first country to establish an independent just transition commission to provide advice on how our transition can also promote social cohesion and equality. The CCC has encouraged the UK Government to follow our lead.

Our climate change plan, which was published last year, sets out how emissions will be reduced every year to 2032. We have committed to updating that plan within six months of the climate change bill receiving royal assent. That will require us to look across our whole range of responsibilities to make sure that we continue policies that are working and increase action where that is necessary. That will not be easy.

An emergency needs a systematic response that is appropriate to the scale of the challenge—not a knee-jerk, piecemeal reaction. All cabinet secretaries are looking across the full range of policy areas to identify areas where we can go further, faster.

Since the CCC issued its advice at the beginning of this month, we have already announced a change in our approach to airport departure tax; a new, ambitious deposit return scheme; funding to strengthen the rail freight industry and reduce the amount of freight that travels by road; a new farmer-led initiative to drive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming practices; and new funding for e-bikes, which was announced just yesterday.

The groundwork for further action has been laid, with consultations on energy efficiency and low-carbon heat closing in the coming weeks, and we are working with stakeholders to determine where the Scottish national investment bank can have the greatest impact and how its missions should be framed. All of that will be key to our response to the climate emergency.

Reviews of our transport and tourism policies, along with our future rural policy, land use strategy, national islands plan, NHS Scotland sustainability strategy and learning for sustainability action plan will all place a strong emphasis on addressing climate change, as will our infrastructure mission. Our regional development policy will include climate change objectives, following the example of the south of Scotland enterprise agency, the legislation for which is currently under consideration by this Parliament.

Subject to the passage of the Planning (Scotland) Bill at stage 3, the next national planning framework and review of the Scottish planning policy will include considerable focus on how the planning system can support our climate change goals. Carbon management plans will be reviewed across the Scottish Government estate to bring forward the date for reaching net zero emissions to well before 2045.

The CCC has been stark in saying that the proposed new targets will require

“a fundamental change ... from the current piecemeal approach that focuses on specific actions in some sectors to an explicitly economy-wide approach.”

To deliver the transformational change that is required, we need structural changes across the board to our planning, procurement and financial policies, processes and assessments. As I have said, that is exactly what we will do.

Our response to the climate emergency will impact on how we live as a society and on how our economy operates. It must be a shared national endeavour. We all need to think more about how we can make our lives more sustainable, cutting down on waste and excess.

To inform our approach and how Government can support and implement the transformational policies that we need, we will consult widely over the summer to feed into the update of the climate change plan and let everyone have their say on what needs to happen across Scotland in response to the climate emergency. We will co-convene a summit with industry to develop a shared understanding of what needs to be done, how businesses can contribute and how we can help. We will seek views from key sectors, such as agriculture and land use.

As I said, the CCC has been clear that the UK needs to up its ambition in reserved areas for us to achieve our goals here in Scotland. On 2 May, I wrote to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy minister Claire Perry, setting out some of the areas where we, and the CCC, expect the UK Government to take urgent and decisive action. Those include carbon capture, use and storage, which the CCC says will be critical to our ability to meet the new targets. The UK Government must identify funding to deliver its commitment to build the first CCUS facility in the UK by 2025 and must commit to more than one cluster across the UK. With our North Sea assets and infrastructure, Scotland is the logical location for such clusters.

I requested an urgent meeting to discuss the CCC advice and the UK Government’s response. There has been no answer to that letter or to my request. I reiterate my call to the UK Government to work with us to deliver the transformational changes that are needed to respond to the climate emergency.

In brief, the Scottish Government will be placing climate change at the heart of everything that we do. I can confirm that it will be at the core of our next programme for government and spending review. For those saying that that is not enough, I ask, “What is your offer? How will you help to support a fair and just transition for the people of Scotland? Work with us to bring on board those who are perhaps less convinced about the need for action, look closely at your own activities and those of your organisations and see what more you can do.” For those saying that this is too much and too expensive, I say that the evidence shows that the global cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. Future generations will end up paying even more if we fail to take action now.

Scotland has always been an innovator. That is one of our great strengths. Responding to the climate emergency will not be easy, but Scotland is not in the business of taking the easy way out. Scotland’s response to the climate emergency must be hardwired into our national psyche. We must take this journey together, seize the economic opportunities that are available to us and redefine what world leadership means, not just as a Government but as a country. Scotland has declared a global climate emergency and now Scotland—that is us—must act as one to safeguard our planet for future generations.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests

. I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of the statement.

I welcome the overall narrative of the statement and I can pledge that, as the only Opposition party to have produced a detailed policy document on the environment and climate change, the Conservatives stand ready to work with the Government to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our age.

We have concerns that the landfill ban on biodegradable waste has been botched; that the tree-planting target was not met last year, with just over 7,000 hectares planted; that the household waste recycling target will not be met for 12 years; and that the cycling target will not be met for more than 200 years, based on current trajectories.

The cabinet secretary states that we all need to think about cutting waste and excess. With that principle in mind, will she tell us when a bill on the circular economy will be introduced to Parliament, as was outlined in the 2016 programme for government?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I welcome the general remarks that Maurice Golden made at the start of his question. I encourage everyone in the chamber to be part of the conversation on climate change, and to contribute to it as constructively as possible.

Mr Golden raised a number of issues, and I will not deal with them all at length. A bill on the circular economy will be introduced in this parliamentary session. As the member will be aware, the decision on when that will happen is not mine but the First Minister’s. However, I assure him that there will be such a bill in this session of the Parliament, as promised.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement. There is indeed a global climate emergency, and Scotland must respond to it with the responsibility of a developed nation and recognise intergenerational justice. We must ensure that decisions are integrated across Government and all sectors of society, including civic society, as we act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Scottish and UK Labour are committed to establishing a statutory just transition commission, and I hope to see the Scottish Government support that aim in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.

The cabinet secretary asked what we have to offer. Across the UK, Labour is working on a costed plan for a green jobs revolution. Does the cabinet secretary agree with Scottish Labour that, in order to secure new and transferable jobs here in Scotland, we must have a robust skills development strategy across all sectors? Will she also tell the chamber how everyone from the North Sea to the far reaches of rural Scotland is to be forearmed for the new technologies and opportunities in manufacturing and remanufacturing that will lead to the net zero economy?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Most of what Claudia Beamish has asked about is encompassed in the conversation about just transition that has well and truly started in Scotland, and the country remains ahead internationally in the development of that.

Ms Beamish and I have previously had exchanges about whether a just transition commission should be set up with a statutory basis. The Scottish Government has undertaken to look at the issue again after publication of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s stage 1 report on the bill. Ms Beamish has asked very good questions about our ability to ensure that, across the whole of Scotland, and leaving no one out, we put in place a way to manage the low-carbon transition. That is part and parcel of what I said in my statement about needing to look at the issue right across government, which is our intention.

We must understand that some of the technologies to which Ms Beamish referred may not yet be in the right place for us to be able to count on them for sure, and I am aware of others that might not happen until around the 2030s. However, as a Government, we must ensure that, across the board, our approach is in the right place. I know that the member and I will continue to have interesting, friendly and robust conversations on the issue.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I am very pleased that the Government is listening to the Greens and committing to putting climate at the heart of its next programme for government and, critically, the spending review that will take place in a couple of years’ time. However, the climate emergency cannot wait for the next spending review. I make it clear that the Greens will not commit to negotiations on the next annual budget unless it has climate change and a green new deal at its heart. Will the cabinet secretary identify when the Government will come forward with robust plans for a green new deal, as was recently agreed to by Parliament?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I do not think that Mark Ruskell would expect me to answer questions that pertain to Derek Mackay’s portfolio, in which the specific aspects of the next budget sit. Although I appreciate his confidence in my ability to be the cabinet secretary for everything, I regret to say that I am not.

I should have said first that Mark Ruskell has a birthday today. He is celebrating by asking me about the budget and a new green deal, so I am not certain that his life is entirely rock ’n roll.

We are committed to delivering balanced budgets that support Scotland’s climate change targets, as well as other priorities. I am absolutely certain that people will expect me to say that. I hope that the Greens, along with all parties in the chamber, will participate in any discussions and negotiations about the next budget, which is still a few months away. Nevertheless, as I have indicated, with climate change being at the heart of the next programme for government, I think that Mark Ruskell can expect there to be some interesting discussions to be had.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the cabinet secretary for early sight of her statement. We support much of the narrative and I commit the Scottish Liberal Democrats to engaging constructively with the Government and all other parties in addressing the climate emergency that has been declared.

I note that the cabinet secretary was averse to focusing on the individual policy elements of meeting that challenge. Does she accept that there is a need to set more ambitious targets, particularly in relation to transport? Part of that might be about setting an early target for the Government and public bodies to phase out the use of diesel and petrol vehicles given that, for example, only 1 per cent of the police vehicle fleet falls into that category, and only one in 20 council vehicles do likewise.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

It is the case that transport is the largest sectoral contributor to Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions and therefore it must play a central role. We already have the most ambitious agenda in the UK for decarbonising transport, and that includes our commitment to phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

Our existing plans for transport will see the greatest emissions reduction in absolute terms of any sector over the lifetime of the climate change plan.

The member might be interested to know that a review of the national transport strategy is being done and we are in the process of readying the draft strategy for public consultation from July 2019. Newly commissioned research will be done to further build the evidence base.

The member talks about transport in individual policy areas. He raised the issue of police cars in the area of justice. One of the things that we must now understand is that, whereas until now, people have thought that there are three or four key cabinet secretaries that need to look at the issue of climate change, all my colleagues, even those who have not, until now, really thought of themselves as being in the front line of the issue, will have to consider that they are. Questions such as the one that Liam McArthur asked today will be important, even for those cabinet secretaries who might not have considered that climate change was an issue that would land on their desk frequently.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

How important is it that the UK Government commits to the targets that the CCC has advised it to set? The reserved areas in respect of facilitating pathways—for example, decarbonisation of the gas grid and investment in carbon capture—will be important for Scotland’s ability to reach its targets. This morning the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee heard about electricity tariffs from Chris Stark of the CCC.

I appreciate that the cabinet secretary has written to her counterpart in the UK Government. What is her response to my point?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That is a key question. A fairly significant aspect of the CCC’s advice is that our 2045 net zero target depends on activity at Westminster.

I have written to the UK Government to request an urgent meeting, and that a collaborative approach be taken to implementing the UK CCC advice. I hope that Conservative members will use their channels to encourage an early response to that.

A number of the issues that have been raised by the CCC are ones that Westminster will have to look at. They include the fully operational carbon capture, use and storage facilities that I mentioned earlier; accelerating action to decarbonise the gas grid; consideration of the balance of taxes across different heating fuels; redesign of vehicle and tax incentives to support industry and business investment in zero emissions and sustainable transport choices; a commitment to adhering to future European Union emissions standards, regardless of our position in relation to the EU; and VAT reduction on energy efficiency improvements in homes. I am disappointed to have read today that VAT on solar panels is to be increased from 5 per cent to 20 per cent, which is the wrong direction to be going in. The final issue for Westminster would be to ensure continued support for the renewables industry, which that VAT increase does not suggest is at the forefront.

I understand that the evidence from the CCC this morning emphasised the importance of there being accelerated UK-wide action if the more ambitious Scottish targets are to be achievable.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

This morning, in the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee evidence from the Committee on Climate Change, Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive officer, indicated that there are already advanced conversations about how the UK Government might support farmers and the agricultural sector in tackling climate change, through policies such as public money for public goods. There is little indication of what approach will be taken here. Will the cabinet secretary, as a matter of urgency, put pressure on her colleague Fergus Ewing to outline how her Government plans to support farmers in their actions to tackle climate change?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am sure that if Finlay Carson was to talk to Fergus Ewing, he would hear from him that I am continually putting pressure on him.

The Scottish Government is already doing a number of things to support agriculture with climate change. The farming for a better climate initiative is about soil-regenerative agriculture. The agricultural science and technology group was launched in 2018 to share, disseminate and encourage adoption of advances in agricultural science. In the soil and nutrient network, farms take a before-and-after look at protecting and improving their soils. The farming and water Scotland programme is aimed predominantly at farmers to help to reduce diffuse pollution, but it has, nonetheless, an impact on climate change. The industry-led carbon accumulator tool called carbon positive is a platform that will, when it is fully developed, allow farmers to measure and get credit for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. I know that that is an issue that farmers are anxious about, and they do not often get credit where credit is due.

There are also some interesting new technologies coming on stream. If Finlay Carson has not read the WWF-commissioned research by Vivid Economics, I strongly recommend that he do so, because it shows a very positive way forward for agriculture in Scotland, and would probably go a long way towards allaying farmers’ fears about the future.

I attend monthly meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved Administrations. I have to say that one of the things that would help would be the UK Government putting a little meat on the bones of the so-called shared prosperity fund that it has been promoting. Beyond the three words “shared prosperity fund”, we are unable to assess exactly what it means. That fund is money that will end up being available to farmers, but nobody knows what is happening.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Speaking further of meat, will the Scottish Government participate in international research collaborations that are designed to identify breeding changes for bovines that should, ultimately, reduce their methane emissions while protecting their meat yield?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am not entirely sure that I mentioned meat, but I suppose that that is, given that meat is a fairly significant part of the food production sector in Scotland, an appropriate question. We will as a Government be able, I hope, to continue to participate in international research collaborations that are designed to do exactly what Stewart Stevenson asked about. The Scottish research institutes are internationally powerful in respect of the work that they do.

We have stated in the past that our aim is to find answers that are beneficial for the environment, for Scotland’s farmers and for our wider food and drink industry. That has not changed. However, I need to flag up the negative impact of Brexit on research. It will not help: it looks as though routes to international collaboration are beginning to get rather dicey as a result of Brexit.

I commend to the chamber much work that is already being done. If members have not visited the greencow project at Scotland’s Rural College, for example, I strongly advise them to do so.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

What plans does the Government have to engage properly with citizens across the country to ensure that the measures that are taken are not regressive, and that everyone can share the benefits?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That is an important question. I do not want to rehearse what I have already said about the just transition commission, which is engaged in that work, but I have flagged up the intention to engage with the public We have already done a considerable amount of work on that this year. Obviously, behaviour change is critical to meeting Scotland’s climate change targets and to progress towards a carbon-neutral society, so public engagement will be vital.

In November 2018, we announced that we had concluded a review of our current public engagement strategy in line with statutory requirements. We are now revising that strategy to ensure that our approach to climate change engagement and behaviour change is commensurate with the ambitions that are set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. There will be a series of public workshops across Scotland; I will be happy to advise members about when and where they will take place, if they wish to participate in them.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary outline how tackling the climate emergency can also help to tackle the other emergency of 230,000 weans growing up in poverty in Scotland, given that all Scottish Government ministers will, I am sure, be mindful of the statutory targets to end child poverty by 2030?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Angela Constance flags up the need for the issue to be looked at across the whole of Government. It is clear that both ambitions are incredibly challenging, but together they offer an opportunity to take a close look at how we operate as a Government in Scotland, and at how to build a fairer and more sustainable future.

The challenges have to be seen as opportunities to make the difficult decisions that need to be made, and to address change on the required scale. Again, the work of the just transition commission is absolutely crucial. It is currently travelling around the country hearing from communities and people who are likely to be affected and people who are likely to effect the transition. Its report on how we can ensure the economic and social benefits of leading the world towards carbon neutrality will be vital.

The actions that are needed for us to become a net zero emitter by 2045 will transform our economy and society, but the Government is, of course, also engaged in a wide-ranging energy efficiency programme that is directly tackling fuel poverty, which is a fundamental part of the concerns that Angela Constance has addressed.

The transition has to be fair for workers, businesses and communities, and it has to be absolutely fair for children. If we do the right things in the right ways, we can achieve fairness for everybody.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I refer members to my interests in renewable energy and housing, as set out in my entry in the register of members’ interests.

This morning, Chris Stark focused on the lack of climate change policy for housing. Given that it is now a year and four days since the Parliament supported my amendment on an energy performance certificate target date of 2030, will the cabinet secretary finally acknowledge that the time has come to make that Government policy?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I will make the obvious comment that Alexander Burnett would expect me to make: the housing minister will have more detail about that, which is what Mr Burnett is no doubt looking for. However, we are already acting to reduce emissions associated with heating our buildings. I have talked about the energy efficiency drive that we are introducing across Scotland. We await details on how the new UK future homes standard that has been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will work. Building regulations are, of course, devolved to Scotland, and the energy standards for new homes in Scotland, which are set via carbon emissions targets, are currently more challenging than the standards elsewhere in the UK. It will be interesting to see how we are able to work with the UK proposals, but we do not yet know how they are intended to be implemented.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

The secretary general of the United Nations has praised the target proposals that the Government of New Zealand has set out. How do the Scottish Government’s target proposals compare with them?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I was struck by the UN secretary general’s lavish praise for New Zealand’s proposals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which include most gases but not emissions of methane from biological processes, such as agriculture, which comprise a much larger portion of emissions in New Zealand than in Scotland. Our proposed net zero target date of 2045 covers emissions of all the greenhouse gases that the Kyoto protocol covers, includes a share of international aviation and shipping emissions, retains statutory annual targets and will be achieved through domestic effort alone. I hope that, if the UN secretary general has such lavish praise for the New Zealand targets, he will be blown away by the Scottish targets.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

It is disappointing that the cabinet secretary did not mention buses in her statement. To achieve lower emissions, we need more people to travel on buses and we need to build more low-emission buses. To help with that, how does the Government propose to use the Transport (Scotland) Bill to curb the power of bus companies and give communities more influence over bus routes and fare setting?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Members will not imagine that, in a 10-minute statement, I could discuss every single aspect of the issue, and that goes for buses. A great deal of work has been done with bus companies. James Kelly will be aware of the difficulties—particularly in the Glasgow area—in persuading bus companies to take up the support that is available to them to convert vehicles. We continue to try to have such conversations with bus companies; my colleagues on Glasgow City Council who are taking forward the low-emission zone are keen to resolve the issue. I encourage all bus companies to be part of the conversation and to access the support that is available, as some have in other parts of Scotland.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary highlighted industrial clusters. As she is aware, Scotland has such clusters, which are large sources of carbon dioxide. I would be grateful if she could outline how existing expertise in those industries will be used to develop whole-system decarbonisation systems, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

A considerable amount of work is being done with industry, which is a key partner in everything that we do. Industrial decarbonisation will be extremely important for us as we move forward. That is one reason why I have said previously in the chamber that the Government cannot do this alone; a deal of buy-in is required from other sectors. The industrial sector accounted for 28 per cent of net Scottish emissions in 2016 so, in truth, it must be at the table.

We are engaging with industry. We have focused on a network of representatives from Scottish sites and trade associations, and we published the discussion paper “Decarbonising Scotland’s Industrial Sectors and Sites”, which makes the case that industrial decarbonisation is an investment opportunity. The paper underpinned a facilitated workshop on 30 April with an expanded network of industrial stakeholders. We are very much part of a conversation with industry. Many parts of the private sector are keen to engage on that level.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes the statement on the global climate emergency.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Before I asked my question of the cabinet secretary, I failed to refer members to my registered interest as a member of NFU Scotland and a former farmer. Thank you for the opportunity to raise that, Presiding Officer.