The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2017

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on “The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2017”. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

This is my first statement on climate change since the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill was passed, and it will be my last under the terms of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

In future years, statutory reporting on targets will take place only in the summer, when the statistics become available, and will not need to be repeated in October. However, we are still under the terms of the 2009 act, so yesterday I laid in Parliament “The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2017”. It shows that, since 1990, we have almost halved emissions, and that Scotland continues to outperform the United Kingdom. In relation to the European Union, of the EU15 only Sweden has performed better than Scotland.

The 2017 target was not met partly because of the technical adjustment relating to the EU emissions trading system. However, between 2016 and 2017, actual emissions, which matter in tackling climate change, reduced by 3.3 per cent. In the future, progress towards targets that are established under the new legislation will be based on actual emissions, which will improve transparency. The remainder of my statement will focus on that future.

Members are aware that, yesterday, President Piñera announced that because of political unrest and widespread demonstrations, Chile will no longer host the 25th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate ChangeCOP25—which was due to be held in Santiago in December. I am saddened by the events in Chile and the announcement about its not hosting the COP. It is vital that all nations continue to work closely together to address the global climate emergency: the summit is a crucial part of that dialogue. I note that the UN is exploring alternative hosting options, and I hope that it is possible to find another venue.

Next year, we will welcome thousands of people to Glasgow for COP26. We will do so proud in the knowledge that we have redefined international climate leadership. After the bill receives royal assent, which happens to be today, Scotland will have the most stringent climate legislation of any country in the world. Our end target to reach net zero greenhouse gases by 2045—five years ahead of the UK—is at the limit of feasibility.

Scotland’s new 75 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030 goes beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed globally to manage the risk of more than 1.5°C warming. It is an aspirational target that requires—if it is to be achieved—hard concerted and unrelenting effort by Government, Parliament, business, public authorities, communities and individuals.

This Government is leading by example, and has already stepped up our response. Our programme for government has the global climate emergency and a green new deal for Scotland at its heart. We are investing billions in tackling climate change. That includes more than £500 million in improved bus infrastructure, a commitment to provide £2 billion over 10 years to capitalise the Scottish national investment bank, and a £130 million investment this year to support the establishment of the bank and early financing activities. Over the next three years, a £3 billion portfolio of projects, including renewables, waste and construction projects, will be brought to market. That is just the start.

Within six months of today, we will publish an update to the climate change plan, out to 2032, to meet the new annual targets. The update will review our approaches and look for where more can be done across all key sectors, including agriculture, domestic energy and transport.

It will build on our ambitious programme for government commitments, including on the creation of a new agricultural transformation programme, the setting of new standards to reduce energy demand in new buildings by 2021, and the holding of a consultation on the ambition to make the transformative shift to zero emission or ultra-low-emission city centres by 2030.

The update to the climate change plan is part of a wider picture. It will be taken forward in parallel with other key strategies to support the transition to a net zero emissions Scotland, including reviews of the national planning framework and the national transport strategy, and the development of a new infrastructure investment plan. Six months is a fraction of the time that it would take to produce a new climate change plan. I hope that Parliament will share that urgency when it undertakes its scrutiny of the update.

As Scotland’s response to the emergency steps up, it is more important than ever that everyone be engaged in the decisions that we take. The school strikes have made it very clear that young people across Scotland want to see bold action. We will deliver that, but measures that are unfair, or that are perceived as being unfair, will not be accepted by the public—nor should they be. A just transition is central to our approach, and the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill has ensured that that is now firmly reflected in law.

I launched the big climate conversation in June. To date, more than 2,000 people have participated. Earlier this month, the Sustainable Scotland Network held a conference to discuss the role of the public sector in tackling climate change. Next month, I will co-convene a mission zero business summit with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work.

The just transition commission, which began its work at the start of this year, has been travelling the country to listen to the views of community groups, industry bodies, businesses and trade unions. To date, it has held meetings on energy, transport, the built environment and oil and gas, and has conducted a range of associated engagement activity, which has included co-hosting with the Energy Institute an event that was targeted at young people in industry.

In addition, the just transition commission visited Aberdeen Heat and Power to witness the impact of district heating schemes on alleviating fuel poverty among some of the most vulnerable sections of the population. It also met a community group in Kincardine to explore lessons that could be learned from our transition away from coal-fired power generation.

The just transition commission is functioning independently, but I am confident, given the breadth of its engagement, that its recommendations will reflect the concerns and aspirations of people across the country. I have asked it to produce an interim report at the start of the new year to outline the emerging themes, so that it can inform the update to the climate change plan.

Strong public engagement and our commitment to a just transition will continue beyond the update to the climate change plan. Formal plans are important documents, but the process of engagement and planning never really stops—it is a continuous loop, as we learn more about what works and what is needed.

Following the update to the climate change plan, we will hold a citizens assembly on climate change. We will also establish a national forum for continued discussion, partnership working and joined-up action.

Although significant emissions reductions are needed, that is not our only focus. Following extensive stakeholder and public consultation, last month we laid in Parliament the new “Climate Ready Scotland: Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024”. The programme adopts an outcomes-based approach that is derived from the United Nations sustainable development goals and Scotland’s national performance framework. It will deliver a step change in collaboration, and it strongly promotes the wider co-benefits of climate action. For the first time, it includes behaviour change. It also includes research to improve our understanding of climate risks, and an integrated approach to monitoring and evaluation. The programme is a substantive response to the impacts of climate change, and will help to create a stronger and better society.

We expect soon to receive formal confirmation from the UN that the joint UK-Italy bid to host COP26 in Glasgow in 2020 has been successful. I know that Scotland’s non-governmental organisations and businesses—and, of course, the city of Glasgow—are all ready to play their part next year. The Scottish Government expects to work collaboratively with the UK Government, not just on delivering a successful event but in driving the ambition of COP26.

We have offered to support the UK’s policy development with Scottish Government specialists. I know that there is support across the parties and within the environmental non-governmental organisation community for the Scottish Government playing a significant role. Of course, we are already involved in the logistics, delivery of which will require the support of Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland and various Scottish Government agencies. However, we will maintain the pressure on the UK Government to meet the full costs of policing not just the congress but the wider impacts across Scotland.

Our climate change bill has redefined climate leadership. Living up to the targets will require different and more difficult choices than has been the case to date. Only with the full support of the whole of Scottish society, including Parliament, will we be able to achieve the enormous transformational change that is needed.

If we all accept that responsibility, Scotland can and will be at the forefront of the low-carbon future. We will be in a strong position to reap the economic and social benefits that that will entail and we will create the conditions for a strong and secure future for our young people and for generations yet to come.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues that were raised in her statement, for about 20 minutes.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

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

It will be of deep concern to members that the 2017 statutory emissions reduction target has been missed. Of course, I recognise that that has in part been due to the revision mechanisms that were agreed to in the 2009 act. Nevertheless, transport emissions increased between 2016 and 2017, and urgent action is required in the housing sector.

Will the cabinet secretary outline the process for revising the climate change plan in the light of the new requirements in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, and will she define Parliament’s role in scrutinising that?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We are disappointed that the apparent fall in emissions is not reflected in the statistics. As I indicated in my opening statement, however, from next year we will be looking only at actual emissions, which will probably give us a far clearer understanding of Scotland’s position.

I anticipated questions about the climate change plan update, which is why I also advised members that royal assent to the climate change bill was received literally only a couple of hours ago, so the clock is now ticking on the six-month commitment deadline. As I hinted, that also means that colleagues across the chamber will have to think carefully about the speed with which they deal with it.

In a sense, we are already starting work on that; we were not going to wait until the update. The update is being done in a short time. As I understand the position, we hope to be able to give the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee some three months to consider the new draft. They are challenging timescales for Parliament—I appreciate that—but I hope that they can be achieved. We also have to engage with stakeholders and the public throughout the process. With the will of everybody, we will manage to do that in the time that we have available.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

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

Parliament must deliver a robust policy for a just transition if we are to be true leaders at COP26 in Glasgow. I welcome the clarification about the revised climate change plan, the citizens assembly and the just transition commission’s initial report, although I still urge the Government to reconsider the commission’s limited lifespan.

Agriculture is the second-biggest contributor to Scotland’s overall emissions but, crucially, it is also part of the solution. If we are to enable Scotland’s land managers and farmers to respond to the climate crisis, the Government must commit to careful planning, quality data and the involvement of rural communities across Scotland. Can the cabinet secretary update us on the next steps towards implementing the regional land use frameworks, which were committed to in the programme for government and by Labour amendments to the climate change bill?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I welcome Claudia Beamish’s comments. As she knows, the just transition commission has been set up initially for two years; no decision has been made that it will end after two years. We will wait to see what the interim report then the final report say before we consider what next steps might be taken within the just transition framework.

However, our commitment to a just transition is longer than just the duration of the commission. There might be future developments that do not look exactly like this particular commission, but which nonetheless take the issue forward.

The member asked questions specifically on agriculture. I know that my colleague Fergus Ewing is very aware of not only the potential but the challenges in achieving continued emissions reductions. However, there are already emissions reductions in the agriculture sector. We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge that, and to understand that work is ongoing and that, in the main, farmers are on board.

We hope to develop the regional land use partnerships over the next year. I will come back as regularly as possible to Parliament at each stage of that process. Obviously such things do not happen overnight. I know from the conversations that I have across the board with the farming community—tenanted and landowning—and with many of the bigger estates—that there is a huge commitment to making a really positive change for Scotland for the future.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

The cabinet secretary said in her statement that

“Sweden has performed better than Scotland”.

Next year Sweden will meet all of its heating needs from renewable energy, while in Scotland we will meet less than a tenth from that. Is the Scottish Government prepared to learn from Sweden, particularly on its approach to industry action plans, which could help to smooth supply chains and drive demand?

Even when the renewable heat incentive was high, before the Tories cut it, it failed to bring about the changes, and now we are looking at failed targets on heating.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That is quite a general question. I hope that Mark Ruskell and everybody else in the chamber is conscious of our willingness to learn from almost anywhere where there are lessons to learned, just as other countries could learn from us.

I am happy to talk to my Swedish counterparts. Indeed, I have had meetings with them and intend to have meetings at the COP25 gathering—wherever that might now be—not only with them but with others. I have spoken before with our New Zealand and Danish counterparts, and will continue to do that.

Equally, it is not a one-way process, and as willing as I am to learn from other countries, perhaps they can also learn from us. I note that although Sweden is ahead of us in terms of the EU15, and we concede the leadership role to it, we include a share of aviation and shipping in our stats and Sweden does not, so maybe it can learn something from us as well.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary referred in her statement to external events that have affected the outcome and the review related to the emissions trading scheme. I know that in May she wrote to the UK Government about the actions that it needs to take that will affect our ability to meet our targets. Has she had any response that might help us to understand how we are going to operate the scheme in future?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I have not received a substantive response to the letter that I sent in May. To the best of my knowledge, the UK Government has not made any progress on any of the issues that I raised. It might have been otherwise occupied during that time, which is a shame, because the situation is far from satisfactory. I can assure members that my officials and I have been trying to get a substantive response for some time. We now have another hiatus, and I will continue to pursue the matter with any new UK Government.

However, I want to be very clear that I do not want to allow any UK Government to get in the way of Scotland achieving its ambitions to play our full part in helping to end climate change.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The cabinet secretary has outlined some useful measures in her statement today, but she is right that different and difficult choices will be required. Following the declaration of the climate emergency, when she is in discussion with the UK Government, will the cabinet secretary raise the issue of the third runway at Heathrow? I assume that the Scottish Government will write to the Prime Minister and withdraw its support for that third runway in the light of the climate emergency.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am certain that Willie Rennie knows perfectly well that such a letter would not emanate from my portfolio. I will make sure that the appropriate minister for that is advised of his interest in the matter. I note that he does not have anything to say about climate change beyond that, which is a pity, because there is quite a lot that could have been said, even on the aviation sector, but I will not attract his ire by going on about it.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

It is unfortunate that the difficult decision has had to be made not to hold COP25, which I understand the cabinet secretary was to attend, in Chile. Can she outline the areas that the Scottish Government was intending to highlight in which other countries stand to learn from Scotland’s leadership on climate change?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

What has happened is a shame, if perhaps understandable. However, it is still vital that the international community works together.

I had planned to attend and highlight the progress that Scotland is making in reducing emissions while promoting sustainable and fair economic growth through the work of the just transition commission, which I find to be of enormous interest wherever I go internationally to talk about climate change. I had also planned to highlight Scotland’s leadership on climate justice and gender considerations, in which many activists in many other countries would wish their own Governments to take an interest.

I was also looking forward to deepening our international partnerships—for example, through the Under2 Coalition—and I will continue that work at COP26 next year and at COP25 in whatever shape or form it will now take.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

Today’s figures remind us that agriculture is a major source of emissions in Scotland, but we must recognise that farmers are already making big changes to help with the climate crisis. They are willing and able to go further, but they need support to do so. Can the cabinet secretary provide an update on the development of the agricultural modernisation fund to which her Government committed in its programme for government, and which Scottish Conservative amendments secured during the passage of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am advised by my colleague that the Government is already providing very substantial amounts of money to farmers in respect of the environment. I am aware of the member’s interest—he must know that it is an area in which we have a significant interest too. As I indicated in an early response, we very much want to support farmers to go through the process of change, and we find that they are very keen to do so.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary will be well aware that disposable beverage cups in Scotland produce an estimated 5,900 tonnes of CO2 per year, with much of that coming from the plastic lids. I welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement that it is going to legislate for a charge to be applied on single-use drinks as part of the proposed circular economy bill.

Can the cabinet secretary outline what other actions the Scottish Government is taking to tackle the environmental impact of single-use plastics?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We are taking a range of actions on single-use plastics in Scotland, and we are aiming to meet or exceed the standards set out in the EU single-use plastics directive. We are proud to be the first UK Administration to introduce regulations that ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds. We will take further action by restricting sales of other problematic single-use plastic items such as cutlery, plates and food-and-drink containers by July 2021. We will consider carefully the potential impacts on equality for disabled people in particular, and apply exemptions where appropriate.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

What new resources is the Scottish Government allocating to ensure that local authorities have the funding and capacity to lead the transition on low-carbon, affordable community heat and power schemes across the country, and the re-engineering and planning of our communities to deliver low-carbon transport and active travel, in order to support employment and health and reduce our emissions?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

As the member knows, we no longer hypothecate funding to local authorities. The agreements are done on the basis of negotiation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and an agreed amount of money is disbursed to individual local authorities for them to make decisions as and when they choose.

I congratulate a number of local authorities for having very high ambitions indeed. The high ambitions of the likes of Glasgow City Council, City of Edinburgh Council and others is creating a bit of competition among local authorities, which can only be to the good. However, it is for local authorities themselves to make decisions about how they spend their money and what they choose to do. I expect that that will involve a significant conversation between COSLA and the Scottish Government each time they meet to discuss the annual global figure.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I support the Scottish Government’s efforts to ensure that Scotland meets its world-leading climate change targets. To that end, what consideration is the Government giving to encouraging local planning authorities to take a more relaxed approach to the installation of solar panels on homes and in conservation areas such as Kings Park, in my constituency of Stirling?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

That was not a planted question, but it resonates extraordinarily with me, because I live in a conservation area. I experience some of the same issues that Bruce Crawford has raised in relation to his constituents. The programme for government commits us to reviewing and extending permitted development rights in a range of areas, including microrenewables such as domestic solar panels, which is very good news. We commissioned a sustainability appraisal to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts, including the potential impacts of such changes on conservation areas. We will publish the findings shortly, together with a proposed work programme for taking forward consideration of such changes. Bruce Crawford might be interested in that work when it is published, and I assure him that I will be, too.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I note my entry in the register of members’ interests in relation to renewable energy.

Scottish Power’s “Zero Carbon Communities” report, which was published last week, says that the estimated cost of installing heat pumps in homes is £16.5 billion, with more than 70 to be installed every day between now and 2045. Will the current support that the Scottish Government gives to the sector be sufficient to achieve the target?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am advised that there is a £30 million fund for that work. I might be wrong, but my guess is that the issues will be about not only money but availability of skills and materials and so on. Those are some of the practical challenges that we will all face when we make some of the big changes that require to be made. I know from my experience of developing the existing climate change plan that the rapid acceleration of change that people might wish to see can be stymied not so much because of money but because of being physically unable to do some of the work that is necessary. Money is available, and I am sure that my colleague Paul Wheelhouse will engage directly with Alexander Burnett on the detail.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

We sometimes notice that although Opposition MSPs are very keen to have ambitious targets, they are wholly opposed to practical measures, such as the workplace parking levy. Does the cabinet secretary think that we can reach the targets by easy methods, or will difficult decisions need to be made?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Who can John Mason mean? It never ceases to amaze me how often Opposition parties are happy to will the ends but not the means. That, frankly, will not be possible in the future. As I made very clear during the debates on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, if we set bold and ambitious targets, we must be prepared to take bold and ambitious action to meet them. All parties that supported the target of reducing emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 did so knowing how enormously challenging that will be, and they must now be prepared to join us in making the difficult decisions that are necessary to meet the target.

However, we must not lose sight of the opportunity that addressing and mitigating climate change represents. It is a challenge, but there are opportunities relating to skills, jobs, industries and new technologies, which can help to support the country’s economic and social wellbeing in the future. We must grasp those opportunities fully.