Fossil Fuels

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

3. This week, half a million people marched through Madrid during the 25th conference of the parties, or COP25, to demand climate action. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s plans for tackling the climate emergency have been rated “insufficient”. It is no wonder that Tories have been absent from climate debates during the election. However, there is a cosy consensus in the Scottish Parliament that also ignores the science. The science says that we must not use all the fossil fuels that we know about, let alone explore for more. Opening COP25, the United Nations secretary general called for the

“political will to stop subsidies for fossil fuels” as the planet is close to

“the point of no return”.

Will the First Minister accept the science, as the progressive New Zealand Government has done, and recognise that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, is at COP25 in Madrid right now, representing the Scottish Government and, of course, helping with the preparations for COP26, which will take place in Glasgow next year. The Scottish Government accepts the science. That is why we put forward and had passed in the Parliament the most ambitious climate change targets of any country in the world—not just the headline targets but what is included in our calculation of emissions.

I have made very clear that we are in a transition away from fossil fuels. That transition must accelerate, but we must make sure that it happens in a way that satisfies two things. First, it must not lead to an increase in our dependence on imports, which would increase, not decrease, our carbon footprint in the short term; and secondly, we must do it in a way that is just and fair, so that we do not leave people behind. That is why we have established the just transition commission. We will continue to take actions on this front. Seventy-five per cent of our electricity already comes from renewable sources and we now need to replicate that success in how we heat our homes, how we travel to work and in other ways.

I hope that the consensus in the Parliament is around the sometimes quite tough actions that we will have to take to meet those world-leading targets.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The First Minister is fond of saying that the tap cannot be turned off overnight, and no one is suggesting that, but the just transition that she speaks about has to start now. Frankly, the evidence that it is happening is unavailable. The Scottish Government is not doing enough to reduce demand for fossil fuels. The First Minister could take her huge road expansion fund and put it into expanding public transport. Her Government could decide that it wants to properly insulate every home to eliminate fuel poverty. Instead, incredibly, since the Paris agreement oil and gas extraction is up in Scotland, transport emissions are up and the world-leading targets are being missed. Instead of kowtowing to the fossil fuel lobby, will the First Minister please get her act together before thousands march at COP26 in Glasgow?

The First Minister:

The transition is under way. As I said, 75 per cent of our electricity already comes from renewable sources. The Scottish Government supports renewable energy, but some of that has been frustrated by the perverse decisions that UK Governments have taken, particularly around onshore wind and the continued obsession of the Tories—and Labour, I am sorry to say—with nuclear power. I point to energy efficiency schemes to help people insulate their homes; the new regulation that we have spoken about to put in place rules that say that, from 2024, houses should not have fossil fuel boilers but should have boilers using renewable sources; and the £500 million investment in bus infrastructure to encourage people out of their cars. We are ahead of the rest of the UK—I think that we are ahead of most of Europe—when it comes to a charging infrastructure to support the move to electric and low-emission vehicles. These things are already happening. Of course, we want them to accelerate, but perhaps the Greens should get involved in discussions about what is actually happening. I would certainly welcome that.