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Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

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.