We are 10 years on from the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Stewart Stevenson, who was the minister who took the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill through the Parliament then, has reminded me that stage 3 for that bill took a morning and an afternoon. I hope that members are pleased that stage 3 was considerably slimmer this time round.
The 2009 act established Scotland as a world leader in tackling climate change, and we continue to be a world leader because of the effective and rigorous framework that the act created. Scotland is still the only country in the world to set legally binding annual targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we were the first country to include in our targets a fair share of the emissions from international aviation and shipping.
Since 2009, three climate change plans have been brought forward. Some annual targets have been met and some missed, but—crucially—Scotland’s emissions are down by 47 per cent from the 1990 baseline. We are already almost halfway to reaching net zero emissions. Equally important, that progress has been achieved while we grew the economy and increased employment and productivity.
The bill makes the 2009 act stronger and more transparent. Crucially, it increases the ambition of Scotland’s targets. Last year’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on global warming of 1.5°, made clear that the world is now facing a climate emergency. That is recognised not only by the scientists but by the large numbers of citizens, here in Scotland and across the world, who have taken to the streets to demand more action and greater ambition.
In light of the IPCC’s report, the Scottish Government commissioned expert advice on targets from the independent advisory body mandated by this Parliament. The Committee on Climate Change recommended that Scotland set 2045 as the target year to reach net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases. The CCC also recommended that we increase our interim emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2040 to 70 per cent and 90 per cent respectively. The CCC advised that those targets represent the “highest possible ambition” that is called for under the Paris agreement and are a fair contribution towards what is needed globally to limit warming to 1.5°. I immediately lodged amendments at stage 2 to give effect to the CCC’s recommendations.
Today, we have committed to going even further and adopting a target of a 75 per cent reduction in Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. I have set out my reasons for that approach. It is clear that now is the time for even greater ambition in tackling the world’s climate emergency, and that signals matter. I will look forward to receiving further, more detailed, advice from the CCC next year on the 2030 target.
At stage 2, we accepted a large number of the recommendations that the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee made in its reports at stage 1 and stage 2, which had the effect of, among other things, directly linking Scotland’s fair and safe emissions budget to the global temperature goal that is set out in the Paris agreement; tightening the safeguards around any potential lowering of target levels in future; clarifying and strengthening the CCC’s role in the climate change plan process; and requiring that climate change plans include estimates of the costs and benefits of the policies to reduce emissions.
Over the summer, we worked with colleagues on a cross-party basis to bring back amendments from stage 2 for discussion today, including amendments that will embed sustainable development considerations throughout the legislation and place climate justice at the heart of climate change plans; strengthen the reporting duties around consumption-based emissions; and ensure that the Scottish Government’s strategic infrastructure investment plans are assessed against emissions targets. Wherever possible, the Government has made every effort to accept Opposition proposals.
The cabinet secretary says that the Government has tried to accept amendments wherever possible. However, she rejected the proposal for an 80 per cent target for 2030. I remind her that, in the longer debate in 2009, I put forward amendments for a 50 per cent target for 2030 and a 90 per cent target by 2050. At the time, I was told by the Government, which was falling back on the advice of the United Kingdom CCC, that those targets were unachievable and too ambitious to back.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I hear what Patrick Harvie says; I understand and accept that he will want to say that. However, those of us who are in government at the time that we pass legislation must think about what will be realistic and achievable. We have done that.
If it is agreed this afternoon, the bill will set the framework and target pathway for Scotland’s journey to net zero. That represents a vital step, but it must be matched by actions to deliver on extremely challenging targets. The transition to net zero will require changes to virtually every aspect of everyday life for Scotland’s people. That will be achieved only if it is a national endeavour.
The Scottish Government’s commitment is clear. Tackling climate change lies at the heart of our programme for government, and we have committed, in line with the committee’s recommendations, to update our current climate change plan within six months of the bill receiving royal assent. We are looking across our full range of responsibilities to make sure that we continue with the policies that are working and identify areas where we can go further, faster. In my closing remarks, I will return to specific actions that we are already taking.
Central to our approach is a just transition, in which no one is left behind. To reflect that commitment clearly in law, the bill was amended at stage 2 to place a set of internationally recognised just transition principles in the bill and at the heart of climate change plans. Amendments that have been agreed to today have further strengthened those arrangements.
Public engagement will be vital. Building from the big climate conversation over the summer, we have committed to a national forum on climate change and, today, we supported an amendment to mandate the establishment of a citizens assembly.
I express my special thanks to all the members of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for their contributions to the bill process. John Scott would have wished to be here to see the bill through to the end, because he took a great interest in it.
The bill maintains Scotland’s position as the country with the most stringent framework of statutory climate change targets anywhere in the world. Sometimes, when we are discussing climate change, we should remember that. If agreed, the bill will mean that Scotland’s contribution to climate change ends within a generation. Today will mark the start of the second half of Scotland’s journey to net zero emissions.
That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill be passed.
The Scottish Conservatives are committed to tackling climate change and protecting our planet for future generations.
We know that human activity has caused around 1° of global warming, and that, if we do not drastically cut our emissions, temperatures will continue to rise. Those increases in temperature will have a devastating impact on humanity.
Today, a new IPCC report warns us that the earth’s oceans are already under severe strain from climate change. Our seas have become hotter and more acidic, and contain less oxygen and fewer fish, because of human activity.
The report warns that, if emissions continue at their current rate, there will be enormous risks to food security, and coastal communities around the world will be in danger from a rise in sea level and tropical cyclones. Scotland will not escape unscathed—our communities will face increased flood risks, putting our coastal towns, villages and homes at risk, and extreme weather will endanger our wildlife, flora and fauna.
Scotland is performing well on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we should be proud of what we have achieved as a nation in almost halving our emissions since 1990. Large emission reductions, particularly across the energy and waste sectors, are a welcome achievement made possible by a range of public, private and third sector actions and a favourable policy landscape from the UK and Scottish Governments.
However, our success so far hides a lack of progress in major areas, such as the housing sector, where emissions are down only by 21 per cent. Last year, we won cross-party support to enact stronger energy efficiency targets for homes by 2030, to help drive down emissions from our housing sector. Alexander Burnett has worked hard to promote that issue, and I was pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the will of the Parliament and pledged in this year’s programme for government to introduce a commitment to that end. We were pleased to support a Green amendment from Mark Ruskell, which will ensure that the climate change plan sets out measures for improving the energy efficiency of housing across Scotland.
We must continue to ensure that we take action that creates opportunities for individuals and businesses. As the only Opposition party to have released policy ideas in a comprehensive policy document, we have always been clear that we want actions to limit global warming that provide for the creation and sustainability of jobs, support for innovation and investment in cutting-edge technology.
We have always supported the bill in principle, and believe that many of the changes that have been made throughout the legislative process have strengthened the bill and made it better. Our amendments at stage 3 seek to promote and support the transition to a low-carbon economy and encourage further action.
We recognise the importance of supporting all sectors of the economy to transition to a low-carbon economy. That is why I lodged an amendment on an agricultural modernisation fund. I was pleased that that gained cross-party support this afternoon. The fund will support investment in mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Scottish farms. We want to make sure that farmers are supported as part of a transition to a low-carbon economy—and supported to produce better environmental and economic outcomes.
We also recognise the importance of supporting emerging technologies. We lodged an amendment that would require future climate change plans to set out proposals and policies regarding the consideration of carbon capture and storage when Scottish ministers designate marine protected areas. I was pleased that that amendment gained support, too. Development of such technologies has the potential to create and sustain jobs across Scotland, which is particularly important in the north-east.
The bill and the achievement of the targets that are set in it will help Scotland meet its duty to protect present and future generations from climate change. However, it is important that the targets are achievable, so that the bill does not become a missed opportunity.
The Scottish Conservatives are pleased to be supporting the bill at decision time, and we will continue to support actions that work towards achieving the targets that are set out in it.
One thing about having a quiet debate is that I can hear a conversation at the back of the chamber. I suggest to those members that they should go away, get a cup of tea and have their wee chat elsewhere, and not let me eavesdrop.
Scottish Labour’s vision for the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 has, from the outset, been about meeting ambition and about being just. It has also been about confessing what we see before our eyes and responding honourably. The climate emergency is here, and it is a terrible threat to millions of lives. The cost of ignoring it vastly outweighs the cost of tackling it head on, and the transformational change that is required will deliver a better and fairer society, if it is managed for the many and not the few.
I express my utter admiration for the young climate change strikers and extinction rebellion and for all those voices in the global chorus who are calling for us to do better. Who can dismiss a mandate from millions around the world and the indomitable Greta Thunberg, who was frustrated to tears when speaking at the United Nations this week?
I am proud today to be in the Labour Party. It is the first major political party to set ambition at a level anywhere near what needs to happen, which it did at our national conference yesterday, accompanied by a raft of proposals fit for our future. Members of the Scottish National Party Government have called me gung-ho a number of times. I dare them to use that line today, with the eyes of thousands of climate strikers and the global south on us all.
The fact is that the SNP’s interim target was not ambitious enough. The IPCC demanded rapid and transformational change to prevent irreversible damage. Already, children in Iceland have held a funeral at the site of the first glacier lost to climate change. Some irrevocable damage is already happening and affecting ecosystems and humans across the globe, yet the Government’s 70 per cent target was only a few numbers off the target that was set 10 years ago in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
I am proud that, this week, the Labour movement demonstrated the utmost commitment to taking on climate change, and Scottish Labour will now consult on our position. Climate strikers, the Labour Party is listening to you; in many ways, this whole Parliament is listening. I am heartened that the Opposition parties came together to go some way towards ensuring that. I lodged my amendment for a 75 per cent reduction by 2030 with the intention that consensus could be found to show that the Parliament is serious and is listening. It will also send a signal to all—innovators, financiers, people gathering research funding, businesses, communities, public bodies and individuals across Scotland and, I hope, across the world, with the Glasgow conference of the parties coming up next year.
Let us all commit today to going further as soon as we can. The SNP Government says that the pathway to net zero delivery is not clear, but it also intentionally limited the scope and budget of this bill and denied the establishment of a statutory long-term just transition commission specifically designed to guide that pathway ethically. That is a lost opportunity for the bill. Knowing that the voices of people in the affected industries, communities and regions were front and centre would have been a comfort to those who feel uncertainty. The Government’s refusal to give the bill a financial resolution, thus limiting its budget, has denied the establishment of a just transition commission the chance even to go to a vote.
We will not have the answers to an equitable pathway by 2021, when our economy and society will be transitioning through the coming years. We need input from unions, businesses, workers and communities into the equitable transition for workers in oil and gas, farming, transport and other sectors and people in every home and community, whatever income they are on. Those people would be grateful if the cabinet secretary would make clear her reasons against having a statutory and long-term just transition commission. Is it because she is not willing to meet its cost? Is it because she thinks that it would take too long to set up? Those issues should be addressed, and I hope that, at the end of the two years that the present just transition commission still has to run, they will be and we will move forward together and make the commission statutory.
I am delighted that there was collaboration with the Government on securing more meaningful climate justice for the global south. We now have the principle of climate justice in statute, and duties set out to ensure that Scotland always stands in solidarity with those on the climate front line. It bears repeating that those people who have done the least to cause climate change, and are least equipped to tackle it, are the people who are being struck first and worst by its terrible effects.
Scottish Labour will vote for the
Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland)
Bill today and celebrate what successes it has delivered for our transition knowing that we have much more to do. For decades, individuals have been turning down their thermostats at home to save the planet. Let us no longer rely on the individual alone to keep the heating down. It is time for structural and collective action to keep temperature rise below 1.5° and to protect the future of this planet for all.
As the saying goes,
“Treat the earth well. It was not given to us by our parents, it was loaned to us by our children.”
It would be remiss of me not to thank everyone who has lobbied, protested and provided evidence on the bill. There is an incredible youthful climate movement out there, which is certainly inspiring Green members. Those involved in the movement are a huge strength and testament.
As many of the hundreds of emails that I have received this week spell out, the science shows that, at the current rate of emissions, Scotland will have used our entire carbon budget for 2°C in the next 10 years. There is no turning back from that—we will be locked into a world with more suffering. The climate crisis is deepening. A new report that the IPCC published today warns that accelerating impacts on the oceans put 1 billion people at risk. This week, the UN has said that, even if all the Governments around the world meet their targets, we will go well beyond manageable levels of climate change.
This crisis demands political risk taking. However uncomfortable it may feel to challenge sectors such as farming or oil and gas to change, that will pale by comparison to the outrage that will be felt in the years to come as the real impacts of climate breakdown kick in. As many other members have done, I can look at the long list of improvements to the bill and recognise that, 10 years ago, they would have felt like big wins and steps of progress that we could all celebrate together.
The tweaks to budgeting and how we measure things, the recognition of key principles around global justice and equity, the focus on action in sectors such as farming and housing, and the involvement of people in designing solutions through a citizens assembly are all welcome gains. However, when I look at the enormity of the challenge that we face, the worsening scientific picture and the risks that we are taking with our children’s future, I am saddened and angry that an opportunity to deliver real transformative change has been passed up. Instead, we have a narrow piece of legislation that sets distant targets while failing to deliver the rapid, transformational and unprecedented change that the IPCC has demanded.
Even within the narrow scope of the bill, big opportunities have been missed. A statutory just transition commission should have been the centrepiece of the bill. We should have had a body with the teeth and the focus to take on the challenges of change while ensuring that no community is left behind in the transition.
It sounds from what the member is saying that he will not support the bill at decision time. Why is that, when we have all worked so hard across the parties, when there is now so much more to agree on in the bill and when it will be so much more robust and enforceable if we all agree? Why is the member making grandstanding comments when it is more important to have a consensus?
That is disappointing from Mr Carson. Did he not listen to any of the evidence that was given to the committee? The nature of the crisis demands an emergency response. Mr Carson’s party might be happy with this weak legislation, but my party is not.
Let me get back to action, because we need to talk about the action that comes from the bill. A just transition commission should be at the heart of a Scottish green new deal to plan new regional strategies to rebuild and reindustrialise communities in a low-carbon age. Instead, it has been left to the Green and Labour parties in the Parliament to try desperately to amend the bill to give it the tools that it needs on transition. As a result, we are left with virtually nothing. Monitoring reports and principles in plans will not create the lasting change that is needed in the Fife communities that I represent.
We will not stand in the way of the small steps of progress that have been made through the bill, but we will not endorse a bill that is preoccupied with distant targets but does nothing to deliver transformative action and does not go far enough for the critical period of the next 10 years. Time is running out and, although the targets in the bill are eye-catching, they are not backed by anything that suggests that the status quo is being challenged. When we look back at the bill in the years to come, we will see missed opportunities to drive strong progress, but there will be no time machine to call on. It is Government’s job to lead and to deliver the change that is necessary. If we do not see that necessary change, politics and democracy will have failed.
It is regrettable that Mark Ruskell has chosen to take the tone that he has. I respect very much the differences of opinion that he has not just with the Government but with those of us in other parties. However, as Claudia Beamish mentioned in an earlier comment, the Parliament’s united front has been a strength. There has been evidence to suggest that we should do many things and, on many issues, the evidence has not been unambiguous, so Mr Ruskell does a disservice to the work of the committee and the Parliament.
At stage 1, I quoted Jessie Dodman, a young constituent from Papa Westray in Orkney, who wrote to me saying:
“The ... Climate Change bill offers a good first step but needs to be delivered more quickly and effectively before the predicted deadlines for irreversible change in 2030.”
Jessie’s plea, which has been echoed by young people from across Scotland and beyond in recent weeks and months, stems from an understanding that urgent action over the next decade is essential if we are to have any realistic prospect of averting the catastrophic consequences of climate change, if we are to hit our net zero emissions target by 2045 and if we are to deliver an appropriate response to the IPCC’s latest report.
I am delighted, therefore, that Parliament has voted today to increase the interim target to 75 per cent by 2030. I again congratulate Claudia Beamish on lodging the amendment, which I was happy to co-sign, that has enabled that highly significant change to be made to the bill. Some have argued that we should be going further and faster, and those debates have been happening within as well as between parties.
I am conscious, though, of what the chair of the UKCCC said to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on target setting. Lord Deben cautioned that
“It is not sensible to espouse a target without being clear about what it really means.”
“You can have any old target, but it will not work if you cannot come down to the terms for how you will get there.”—[
Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
, 23 October 2018; c 33.]
We need to be ambitious, challenging and resolute, and we need to adapt as the evidence and opportunities that are available change. Ultimately, though, the public must have confidence in the basis on which we set legislation.
I think that the more ambitious 75 per cent target for 2030 strikes the right balance for now in terms of ambition, urgency and achievability. Meeting it will not be easy. It will require greater effort and more resources and it will involve many difficult decisions. We will need to change our cars, retrofit our homes and industry and plant more trees than ever before, and we will still rely on technology that does not even exist yet, but it is the right thing to do.
It is right, too, that we are taking steps in the bill to better reflect the principle of equity and climate justice. As a developed nation, Scotland bears a larger responsibility for global warming, so it should be doing more in response. The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Mercy Corps, Tearfund and others are right to remind us that those in the global south, who have contributed the least to the creation of climate change but are already experiencing its worst impacts, have a right to expect us to step up to the plate.
As with the 2009 act, the process of scrutinising the bill has genuinely been a cross-party effort. I thank colleagues for their efforts and constructive engagement, as I thank the many external stakeholders and members of the public who have engaged so passionately and enthusiastically over recent months. I am pleased to have been able to help to strengthen the bill in areas such as international aviation, public procurement of low-emission vehicles and the use of district heating schemes. Others will point to their own successes, among which I warmly welcome the addition of a climate assembly. Overall, however, as in 2009, it has been a collective effort, and that is one of the bill’s strengths.
Of course, as with any piece of legislation, passing it is the easy part. Delivering on the commitments in the bill—and delivering them on time—will be enormously challenging. However, the clear and present threat that is posed by climate change here and internationally has been laid bare by the IPCC. The expectation of the public—Jessie Dodman and millions like her—could not be clearer. Scottish Liberal Democrats are determined to make sure that we rise to that challenge, and we look forward to supporting this historic bill at decision time.
I start by wishing John Scott well. I hope that he will be sitting beside me when we look at the climate change plan update, because his wise counsel—which is not to say that I agree unequivocally with everything that he says—will be important at that stage.
Farming has been an important part of the discussion, and John Scott has contributed to that debate, as have others across the political parties. I very much welcome the fact that we have, as a result of agreement to a Maurice Golden amendment, incorporated nitrogen accounting. That will help us to get a proper understanding of farming emissions.
We have had a bit of talk about the role of young activists in relation to climate change, which is entirely proper, but I want to take us back to something that I have not heard mentioned this afternoon, even though it is of equal and immediate importance. It is that this is a feminist issue as well as a youth issue.
In parts of the world, particularly in Africa, where aridification is taking place because of the diminution of rainfall and the drying up of wells, it is generally the women who are the farmers and who do the hard labour. They now have to walk many times the distances that they previously had to walk to get water or kindling. It is a feminist issue and it affects women across the world.
Patrick Harvie correctly said that the Greens advocate a 50 per cent target for 2030. However, we also need to think about the fact that there have been several changes to the baseline, which has added to the inventory of CO2
. We therefore need to translate the targets that were set in 2009 to what they would be against today’s baseline: they would be rather different. In 2015, we added another greenhouse gas—nitrogen trifluoride—to the inventory. There have been various changes that affect how the numbers work, so the situation is a bit more complex than we sometimes like to pretend.
I also want to talk briefly about unanimity. I strongly believe that we must be driven by scientific consensus and not by individual scientists who are at one edge or the other of the argument. That is not because those scientists are wrong—they might be correct, within their areas of research. However, the consensus that comes through the IPCC—I welcome the report that came out today—will drive further change, as it must. If we start to pick scientists who take extreme positions, valid though they are, we will allow others to choose scientists who disagree with the whole agenda altogether. That is why we should always go with the consensus.
There is nothing to stop us exceeding scientists’ recommendations, so I encourage my Green Party colleagues to think carefully about withholding their support for the bill while continuing to campaign for more.
I will conclude by saying that, like others, I have been inspired by Greta Thunberg and the millions of young activists around the world. When I cast my vote shortly, I will be thinking of her and her young companions. I will be deid before it all matters: they have to inherit a world that is worth inheriting.
First, I acknowledge the hard work on the bill by our clerks and researchers, as well as all the constituents and organisations who have contributed. I also thank members who have worked across party lines to strengthen the bill in respect of our shared goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. We are all committed to protecting our planet for future generations.
As members will know, I have been a strong advocate in Parliament of improving residential homes’ energy efficiency to EPC rating C or above by 2030. In addition to wining a debate on the matter with cross-party support, I lodged stage 2 amendments to similar effect. I am glad to see that despite the SNP having opposed it for the past two years, our position has been adopted in the programme for government. The Scottish Conservatives have backed the proposal by committing 10 per cent of capital spending to energy efficiency.
I was delighted to support the Green amendment to reduce emissions from housing, and requires the climate change plan to set out what measures Scottish ministers propose to ensure that emissions from housing are reduced, and that housing achieves EPC rating C or above, when that is practicable. I refer members to my register of interests in relation to renewable energy and housing.
I also add my particular thanks to the Existing Homes Alliance, which has worked on finding ways to achieve the target. In its report last month, the alliance touched on some of the many benefits of the approach. They include: reducing carbon emissions and fuel poverty; reducing household energy bills by more than £400 a year; creating economic growth, with every £1 of investment giving a return of £5 in gross domestic product; creating more than 6,000 new jobs because we need to double the current rate of upgrades to 200 per day; and tackling the costs of poor housing to health and wellbeing, which costs us up to £80 million a year.
The report also sets out many policies and programmes that would ensure that we find a successful pathway to zero carbon by 2045. I was particular interested to read the five recommendations for programme development, delivery and support for a zero carbon future. The Scottish Conservatives are strong advocates of devolution of powers: we believe that delegation and distribution of powers are important to ensure maximum success. Therefore, we welcome the first recommendation, which is to
“Extend the local authority-led area-based programmes to deliver both energy efficiency and heat measures.”
As the report states,
“Procurement should prioritise community benefit and local economic development”,
so introducing a programme to
“incentivise deep renovation where appropriate” is important.
The Scottish Conservatives believe that actions to limit global warming will have a higher probability of success if they create jobs and support innovation. Therefore, we welcome the suggestion about increasing support for self-funding households by expanding the energy efficient Scotland pilots, which will
“deliver community engagement, develop local supply chains, and ensure quality control combined with the availability of loan finance.”
Therefore, we must work with the supply chain to provide support in training and skills development in order to address gaps in certain trades and geographic areas.
The move to a zero carbon future is one that all of society must work towards in a co-ordinated effort. I look forward to working with the energy sector to make that a reality.
There is no greater political cause than climate change, and there is nothing in which there is more urgent need for action. In that context, the bill is to be welcomed. It is vital that our action on tackling climate change be put on a legal footing, with clear and practical steps towards achievement of our goals.
We cannot ignore the tenor of the debate and the calls to go further, although I understand the Government’s caution. We all know how the political game works: the Government sets a target, the Opposition parties chase to demonstrate that it was not achieved, and the Government comes back with claims that it was. Things cannot be like that in this case, because it is not a normal target. It is much more important. That is why we must set targets that are based not on what we think we can achieve, but on what we must achieve to save the planet.
The science could not be clearer. Just today, more reports have been put before the UN that demonstrate what will happen and what has been happening: ocean temperatures have been continually rising since 1970 and there has been accelerated loss of polar ice and glaciers. The consequence will be rising oceans and the possibility of a catastrophic snowball effect with warming, thawing and the release of more greenhouse gases, which would lead to irrevocable climate change. That is why we need a challenging target, even if we do not know how to deal with it or measure up to it.
I will draw a parallel, because other political projects have presented such challenges. In 1962, John F Kennedy gave a groundbreaking speech setting out the seemingly impossible objective of landing human beings on the moon, but just seven years later, it was achieved. Ever since, politicians have butchered quotes from that speech to their own ends, and I will do exactly the same now. We choose to tackle climate change not because it is hard, but because it is essential. Net zero must be treated as our moon shot. We have a decade to reshape our economy and save our environment and planet. We must treat that with the same urgency, imperative and collective effort, because failure is not an option.
When I was thinking about and preparing for the debate, Greta Thunberg’s words rang in my ears. To the politicians assembled at the UN, she said:
“You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?”
Although I understand that being cautious and pragmatic is how government must be done in normal times for normal issues, that cannot be how we approach climate change. We have to listen to people. We must not only strive for a 75 per cent reduction by 2030, or even for 80 per cent: we must also listen to the calls that we must achieve net zero emissions by 2030, and set ourselves the challenge of doing everything that we can towards that target.
That is the tenor that the remarks in the chamber this afternoon should have. Criticisms and observations should not be taken by the Government as rebukes. They are not political points. I regard them as collective criticisms and collective observations of our collective failure to do what is required to tackle climate change.
That is our imperative, and we must play our part. As the nation of coal and steel, and of the locomotives and ships that ushered in the first wave of globalisation on this planet, we have moral responsibility to do our bit to tackle the climate change that they set in motion. We must take the practical steps to ensure that investment is made, so that what we achieve in Scotland is an example to the rest of the world.
We are on the cusp of passing legislation that will have a massive impact. The hugely ambitious and challenging targets set out in the bill will cross every sector in Scotland, every business, every household and every person. The targets are the goal that we cannot miss, and committing to and achieving them will require massive system and behavioural change. Scotland will need to change and we will need to take those targets into account in so much of what we ask for from our Government, from now on, across all portfolios.
System change will have to happen urgently, and nowhere more than in my area, where public transport is not an option if you live in Rothienorman but work in Ellon, or if your surgery appointment is in Oldmeldrum but you live in Cross of Jackston.
Your choices are limited if you want a home made of materials that lock up carbon, rather than add to the carbon burden. You might be able to heat your home only by burning oil from a big tank out in the garden. You might live in rented accommodation where you have no choice about how you heat your home at all. Heat pumps and electric vehicles are still the preserve of the wealthy, and you can only dream of such choice.
You might want to cycle to work, but given that you do not live on a cycle route, you cannot take the risk of being hit by a car on the dark winter mornings.
You might want to rid your home of single-use plastics, but the supermarkets are full of them, and even though you recycle everything that you can, you find yourself with two or three bin bags of mixed refuse a week that you know is going to landfill.
Your job and the money that you take home to pay your mortgage and feed your kids depend on oil and gas. That applies to a lot of people in my area. You hear people campaigning to keep it in the ground, but you know that if we do that too soon, your city will be a ghost town and unemployment will be rife. You only just got a decent job after losing one in 2016, so you have first-hand experience of what that is like. You want to take your skills and work in an organisation that will be part of the low-carbon revolution, but that is not happening as fast as you had hoped.
Where you can change your life, you do; you make all the choices that you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. You holiday at home instead of flying. You modify your diet and you minimise your food waste. You try to fix things rather than replace them. You go round the house switching off lights, turning down the heating and shouting at your children to put jumpers on, but the big things that you want to do are outwith your hands.
Those big things are up to us, here in this chamber, and the choices that we urge the Government to make. I look forward to the updated climate change plan that will set in place what we need to do to achieve the aims of the bill, because we have no option but to achieve those aims, and the people of Scotland want to play their part. They have told us that.
Before I sit down, I pay tribute to my colleague and friend John Scott, who would have loved to be sitting with us here, but who I know for a fact is at home, watching us debate the bill. He made a tremendous contribution. I thank my committee colleagues for the contributions that we all made as we went forward together, not always agreeing with one another, but reaching a consensus, as Finlay Carson mentioned. I also want to thank the clerks who have steered us through the progress of the bill, and the many people who contributed. We probably opened our doors a little wider than we had time for, but I think that it was very important to have everyone with a locus in this issue round the table, including the many young activists from across Scotland, who sat round the table with us and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I am very proud that we all sat in the same room.
I am proud to vote for a bill that has ambitious targets, but, from tomorrow, it is all about action, just transition, system change and asking tough questions of every business, corporation and agency that the citizens of Scotland rely on for work, food, transport, health and housing. That change starts with a Government bill but the actions lie with us all.
The 2009 act was groundbreaking at the time, but it now looks old-fashioned, because things have moved fast. At that time, the Opposition party—my party—pushed the Scottish Government hard and ended up with a reduction in emissions of 42 per cent. We felt that that was radical, and I have a sense of that today. Today, we are going to support a bill that has a radical target, although I know that Claudia Beamish was up for 77 per cent, and that the Greens were up for 80 per cent. We do not know where we will be in a decade. The point is, what we have agreed today is not the limit; it is the absolute lowest bar that we can set for our emissions reductions over the next decade. If we can go further, we should.
To pick up on what Gillian Martin just said, it is the case that, in too many of our communities, people do not have the choices that we want them to have. They do not have the low-carbon present that they need and which they have the right to.
I need to get on.
I was struck by the cabinet secretary’s comments in her opening speech. Through collective work on the part of business, Government and all the rest of us, emissions have been lowered, but there are key areas that need to be activated. However, the cabinet secretary was right to highlight that there has been economic progress in the past decade, and we need to look to the next period of economic progress. However, we also need to add in a requirement that our communities not be left behind in that process. If there is one thing that I would like us to focus on more, it is how we do that. Heating our homes, making them more energy efficient through renewable low-carbon technology and using that process to create real, decently paid jobs as well as eliminating fuel poverty is something that was described as a triple-win by Citizens Advice Scotland when it lobbied us today.
We also need to re-engineer our communities to deliver low-carbon, affordable and healthy active travel choices and to make that approach apply right across our cities, towns and villages—it needs to be taken right across the country. There must be better buses and more affordable and reliable trains. We need to focus on all those issues, not only on the target, although the target will help to drive us.
We must use our land to better effect, by investing in tree planting and sustainable flood management and by providing support for our farmers as they transition to low-carbon food production and land stewardship.
No one has mentioned urban food production today, but that must not be missed out when we are thinking about low-carbon communities. That needs to be focused on, too, and it can be empowering.
There is agreement across the chamber that we have a climate emergency. We face not global warming or climate change that we can get around to tackling at some point, but a climate emergency that we must tackle now. Even in the past year, lives have been lost and climate refugees have been created. Scotland will need to step up to the plate. Colleagues have, rightly, quoted from today’s IPCC report and from the work of the UKCCC.
The bill is important, but it is not the end. It is the start of the next push to ensure that we deliver in terms of climate change. We have to think about how we accelerate our investment in climate resilience as well as climate change. We have even had fires this year in Scotland. It is unthinkable that places such as Scotland and Siberia should have fires that go out of control. We are in an emergency.
There is a powerful call to action today. Last week, in Edinburgh, 20,000 young people marched in the city. Across the globe, we have seen the next generation doing likewise. They are challenging us. The placard that I remember from the march in Edinburgh said, “You will die of old age. We will die of climate change.” We need to act now and we need to act together. We need to compete with one another to ensure that we push one another further, but we must also sometimes work together.
I particularly want to thank the climate change coalition in Scotland, all its members, our constituents and members of the public, and I also want to thank the committee—
I declare an interest as a member of NFU Scotland and as a partner in a former farming business.
I am pleased to be closing for the Scottish Conservatives in the final stages of what I believe to be the most important bill that the Parliament will pass this session. I believe that, now that the bill has been strengthened through committee amendments at stage 2 and through today’s stage 3 amendments, the legislation will be the springboard that ensures that Scotland continues to lead the way on tackling climate change, now and in the future. It is also important that the bill recognises, and goes some way towards addressing, the pressures that the targets will place on individuals and businesses across Scotland.
Despite the narrative from some climate change activists, I can say, as a member of the ECCLR Committee, that we have been listening and continue to listen. We are listening to a broad spectrum of experts, organisations and intergenerational panels to understand the measures that we need to and are able to take.
The committee took almost 25 hours of evidence and spent 20 hours deliberating on its reports. All that was long before the Government declared a climate emergency. I can assure members that the committee has taken its responsibilities very seriously. On that note, I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the committee clerks, the Scottish Parliament information centre and my fellow committee members, past and present—in particular my colleague John Scott—for the commitment that they have shown in ensuring that the bill is fit for purpose. The bill will ensure that Government policies must now start to deliver.
The Committee on Climate Change outlined how Scotland can go faster and further in achieving net zero emissions. I support the principle that we need to go further and faster, for the good of both the economy and the global environment, so I fully understand the demands from many organisations, and indeed from some MSPs, to set interim targets of 80 per cent for 2030, but we must not ignore the importance of an evidence-based and realistic approach. That realistic approach favours an emissions reduction target that is 75 per cent lower than the baseline over the next decade. We cannot and should not set targets for emissions reductions that are not achievable, not sustainable and not believable. It is research and science that have shown us that there is indeed a climate emergency, and it must be research and science that lead us to the right policies to address that emergency.
Let me be clear: by setting a more ambitious interim target for 2030, we have not thrown our agriculture industry under a bus. Solutions to deliver the more ambitious 75 per cent target will be focused across a combination of all sectors, including industry and transport, each doing what it can.
As Stewart Stevenson touched on earlier, the impact of agriculture on the environment has been badly misrepresented. Most concerningly, much of that misrepresentation has emanated from our mainstream media sources, which have seriously misrepresented the IPCC report by naively and somewhat lazily applying its findings almost exclusively to the UK, rather than on a global basis, as was intended.
I can assure you that the best way for us, as a meat-eating nation, to address global climate change is not to introduce policies to put our livestock farmers out of business. It is important to be aware that Scotland is not self-sufficient in beef, so it is crucial that we do not displace meat production to countries with poor environmental credentials, but that we ensure that we eat meat that is always high-quality, grass-reared Scotch beef and lamb. Throughout the process, John Scott and I have continually reinforced that message, and I am delighted to see that, with amendments such as that on a nitrogen balance sheet, we now have the opportunity to recognise the hugely significant contribution that Scottish farmers make to tackling climate change right here, right now. With improved knowledge transfer and support, that contribution can be further improved in the future.
Over the years, the agriculture industry has faced many challenges, and I know that it will rise to this pressing challenge of climate change. My colleague Maurice Golden’s amendment calling for the creation of an agricultural modernisation fund will do exactly that for our farming sector, through knowledge transfer, the adoption of new technology and targeted support, which will allow farmers to enhance their underreported efforts in tackling climate change.
As an MSP with children in their 20s and also a four-month-old daughter, I have had future generations firmly in my thoughts as the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill has made its way through my committee and, ultimately, to the chamber where we will vote. This generation needs to get it right, and get it right right now for future generations.
The Scottish Conservatives and Unionists welcome the fact that the bill has been strengthened as it has progressed through the legislative process, and we are confident that it lays the foundations for a climate change plan that will support innovation, create jobs and use technology, as well as addressing the undeniable climate change emergency that we face.
I am grateful to members across the chamber for their mostly helpful and constructive contributions to the debate. I think that I am right in saying that all members who lodged amendments have had at least some successes—I refer to Maurice Golden, Claudia Beamish, Mark Ruskell and Angus MacDonald.
The Government has continuously sought consensus through the bill. We face a global climate emergency, and we must all work together to tackle it. It is my strong hope that the bill can now achieve the same cross-party support that the 2009 act has enjoyed and which has, I believe, contributed significantly to its subsequent success.
Claudia Beamish has repeatedly returned to the question of putting a just transition commission into legislation. I remind her that we are still the only country in the world that has a just transition commission. It is up and running, and it is working hard. I am not sure how many times I have already explained to Claudia Beamish why we are not inclined to put it on a statutory basis, but I will try again. That would cost at least £770,000 to set up. By comparison, the annual contribution that we make to the Committee on Climate Change is a mere £300,000. It is for Claudia Beamish to make the case about the value that putting the commission on a statutory basis would add. I do not think that that case has been made.
I will move on, because I need to get through quite a bit.
I find it extraordinary that Green Party members appear to be contemplating not supporting the bill, which sets the most ambitious statutory targets of any country in the world and includes many of their own proposals. No amendments were lodged at stage 3 to propose any changes to the net zero emissions target date, the 2020 target or the 2040 target. It appears that the sole sticking point is the exact level of the 2030 target. The Scottish Government has gone even further today and adopted a target of 75 per cent. To be absolutely clear, a 75 per cent target exceeds what is needed globally over the next decade to limit warming to 1.5°C. No other country—even recognised leaders such as Sweden—has set a higher target in law for that year.
Our focus must now shift to delivery. The Scottish Government will now update our current climate change plan in light of the debate today. The update will draw on the many new and emboldened initiatives that have already been announced since the First Minister’s declaration of a global climate emergency. Those include a bold package of measures on low-carbon transport, including investing £500 million to improve bus services; decarbonising passenger rail services by 2035; making a further £17 million available for zero-interest loans to support the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles; and working to decarbonise flights within Scotland by 2040. They include a range of actions to maximise the potential of every part of Scotland’s land to contribute to the fight against climate change, with increased funding for peatland restoration and even more ambitious tree planting targets. We will create an agricultural transformation programme that reduces emissions while focusing on sustainability, simplicity, profitability, innovation, inclusion and productivity.
There is a lot more, up to and including the introduction of a new deposit return scheme.
Ambitious as those actions are, I am under no illusion that they will be sufficient. The second half of Scotland’s journey to net zero emissions will undoubtedly require different and, in many cases, much more difficult choices than has been the case to date. All of us here will need to step up our willingness to make those decisions if the targets are to be met.
No one should be in any doubt about the Scottish Government’s commitment to using all the policy levers at our disposal to rise to that challenge. However, I remind everybody, as I did earlier today, that, when the CCC provided its advice on targets in May, it was absolutely clear that
“Scotland cannot deliver net-zero emissions by 2045 through devolved policy alone.”
It is welcome that the UK Government has followed our lead to legislate for a net zero target, but UK-wide delivery policies must also now ramp up significantly.
Scotland is already recognised as a world leader in tackling climate change. By the time that the United Nations climate talks come to Glasgow in late 2020, we will have an even stronger message with which to welcome the international community to Scotland.
We will have the most stringent framework of statutory targets of any country in the world. All of us, whatever we think, should be proud of that and should support the bill. The bill maintains and strengthens Scotland’s place at the forefront of global efforts to do what we need to do to bring down emissions.
I am very proud to have moved the motion in my name.