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The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2017

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2019.

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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.