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Scotland is almost halfway to achieving net zero emissions, with a 47 per cent reduction in emissions having been achieved between 1990 and 2017. That strong progress is recognised in the recent report from the Committee on Climate Change. In line with that report, we also recognise that more needs to be done to reach net zero emissions by 2045. That is why we are currently updating our climate change plan to reflect the new targets. The committee’s advice for the United Kingdom Government is also clear: it must
“step up and match Scottish policy ambition in areas where key powers are reserved”.
The report by the Committee on Climate Change, which was published in December, criticised the Scottish National Party Government for lagging behind both England and Wales in designing a future farm funding system that encourages environmentally friendly farming. It identifies that as an area in which the policy levers exist here, at Holyrood. Urgent action is required to meet the 2045 target. Will the cabinet secretary explain what is taking so long?
The Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy has now left the chamber, but I can tell the member that I have had a number of conversations with Fergus Ewing, including this week, about the extent to which agriculture must contribute to achieving net zero emissions by 2045. As the member may have heard the First Minister say, there was a Cabinet discussion on Tuesday about the overall issue of Scotland achieving net zero emissions by 2045. Work towards that includes a range of actions across everything that is addressed in the climate change plan, which includes agriculture.
What assurances has the Scottish Government received from the UK Government that, in the key areas that it has responsibility for—such as carbon capture and storage, decarbonisation of the grid and an increase in the pace of vehicle transition—it will take action in the coming year to ensure that Scotland meets the 2045 target?
Given the Scottish Government’s very slow progress to date on decarbonising heat and Citizens Advice Scotland’s recent call for greater investment and action on tackling heat emissions, what new action will the Scottish Government take to tackle emissions from heat, to help Scotland to reach net zero emissions?
I am sure that the member listened to my earlier responses. We are currently carrying out a very quick revision—an update—of the existing climate change plan, and the question of heat decarbonisation is key: it will need to be addressed, and we are looking at the potential for action. However, it is also one of the key areas in which action from the UK Government will be required if we are to achieve what we need to achieve to get to net zero emissions by 2045.
People really need to look in detail at what the UK Committee on Climate Change flagged up as the division between devolved and reserved requirements, because it is a real issue for us in achieving our net zero targets.
Last night’s challenging Channel 4 documentary by George Monbiot emphasised the scale of the changes that may be needed globally in our food production in order to meet net zero targets. Although some people will feel threatened by that message, in the week that the Greggs vegan steak bakes arrived on the shelves in Scotland, what is the Scottish Government doing to ensure that we are capturing the economic and environmental opportunities that are being driven by consumer demand for reduced-meat diets?
I thank the member for inadvertently having given me advance notice of the supplementary question that he was going to ask. I did not see the programme that he referred to, but I am aware of the debate that is taking place.
There are a couple of things that I should say in addition to my comments on agriculture, which I will not repeat. There is a global challenge, but we will encounter difficulties if we try to attach global solutions to local conditions. The situation in Scotland, particularly in relation to livestock production, is very different from the situation elsewhere. I know that the member understands that, because we have already had some conversation on that point.
My colleague Fergus Ewing is considering the issue carefully. We are very conscious of the need to deal with agricultural emissions, but we need to do that in a fair way that recognises the continued future of that industry. Dietary changes are always to be welcomed, particularly when it comes to increasing fruit and vegetable intake, which is a health issue as well as a climate change issue, but we need to approach the matter in the context of the current Scottish agricultural system. We must not presume that the mistakes that are being made globally are being repeated in Scotland, because they are not.