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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.”