The most recent greenhouse gas emissions statistics for Scotland were published this morning. The statistics are historical and apply to the period up to the end of 2018 only. They therefore predate the First Minister’s declaration in 2019 of a global climate emergency and the substantial work that has been undertaken by the Government since then to combat climate change.
Reporting to Parliament is an annual requirement under Scotland’s climate change legislation. However, this year’s statement occurs in circumstances that could not have been predicted. Of course, our immediate focus must continue to be on responding to the public health crisis of Covid-19 and on protecting lives and livelihoods. However, the climate crisis has not gone away. It remains the greatest long-term challenge facing humanity. Unchecked, climate change has the potential to cause significant and irreversible social and economic damage, here in Scotland and globally. That is why the Scottish Government’s response to the global climate emergency continues in earnest. We remain absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s emissions contribution by 2045, with a 75 per cent reduction being achieved by 2030. Covid-19 means that our starting position has most definitely changed, but our ambitions have not, and we are committed to delivering a green recovery from this pandemic.
Today’s statistics are the first to be reported under the new, more transparent arrangements that the Government introduced in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, in accordance with recommendations from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change. On that new reporting basis, emissions in 2018 were down by 50 per cent from the 1990 baseline, which is exactly half of the way to net zero. That strong long-term progress means that Scotland continues to lead the UK as a whole and to rank second only to Sweden among our western European neighbours.
However, the annual target to reduce emissions by 54 per cent has been missed. That outcome is certainly disappointing, but we should not lose sight of two things. First, Scotland’s annual targets, shaped and agreed across the chamber as they were, have intentionally been set to provide an extremely stretching pathway to net zero. Such a world-leading pathway will inevitably face challenges but, by being ambitious and by stretching ourselves in pursuit of net zero, we will go a long way to reaching our destination.
Today’s statistics highlight one such setback, with changes to the national energy mix and freezing temperatures from the beast from the east during the early months of 2018 contributing to a rise in emissions from energy supply and heating used for buildings. To set that in context, although emissions reductions were seen in all other sectors—including transport, industry and agriculture—during 2018, the overall effect was a 1.5 per cent increase, and we expect that a substantial part of that was driven by the cold weather.
Secondly, many other developed countries are experiencing a journey towards net zero that is similar to ours. We are now in a transition period in which changes across the whole of society will be essential to achieving future reductions.
As I have said, we must remember that these statistics are always two years after the event and so do not capture many recent Scottish Government actions. Among the actions that are not yet being picked up are most aspects of our 2018 climate change plan, which rises to the shared, international whole-society challenges that I have referred to. The statistics also miss all the measures that were announced following the First Minister’s declaration of a global climate emergency in 2019.
Just a few examples of specific work that is not yet captured in the statistics are the development of an ambitious deposit return scheme; the further increase in our tree-planting ambition; last year’s announcement of increased funding for the restoration of our vital peatlands; increasing the budget for the energy efficient Scotland programme this year to more than £150 million across a range of domestic programmes; making available an extra £2 billion of infrastructure investment over the next parliamentary term for measures to support tackling climate change; and ensuring that the Scottish National Investment Bank has the transition to net zero as one of its primary missions. The recent acceleration in action reflects our recognition of the scale of the challenge that is represented by Scotland’s world-leading targets, and of the need for a national effort to meet those targets.
However, the nature of the challenge that is faced by Scotland and other countries has now been fundamentally altered by the lasting impacts of Covid, particularly on our economies. The foundation from which we will now journey towards net zero has changed. In recognition of that, the Scottish Government is developing a green recovery and reflecting carefully on last month’s advice from the Committee on Climate Change. We have welcomed the committee’s six key principles to rebuild while delivering a stronger, cleaner and more resilient economy.
That will include a revised version of the 2018 climate change plan, which I hope to lay before Parliament in December to align with the Scottish budget, if possible. The recast plan will set out a credible pathway, as part of a green recovery, to meeting Scotland’s world-leading climate targets over the period to 2032. It will also set out plans to reduce emissions further in order to make up for the shortfall from the missed annual targets for 2018 and 2017. I continue to chair a sustainable renewal advisory group to help shape the recasting of the plan and to work towards a green economic recovery.
In addition to the principles from the Committee on Climate Change, we are awaiting further expert advice on shaping the recovery from Scotland’s just transition commission and the advisory group on economic recovery. That strong collective platform of expert advice will guide our approach to sustainable economic recovery.
We are also looking to learn lessons from the changes to people’s lives during the pandemic. We know that there is support for a green recovery, and we are committed to supporting people to embed new behaviours that reduce emissions and benefit both our environment and health.
We are already taking action. In April, we announced a £10 million fund for Scottish pop-up cycle lanes and wider pavements to support active travel during lockdown. In May, the fund was tripled to £30 million. Last week saw the launch of ScotWind—the first offshore wind leasing round to be administered in Scotland—which is a significant milestone for Crown Estate Scotland and for our climate change ambitions. We have also launched the energy transition fund, which is a £62 million package of support for recovery and a just transition through growth in markets such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
Tomorrow, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands will set out plans for low-carbon infrastructure funding, as part of the phased delivery of the heat transition deal, to support recovery in the energy efficiency, heat and low-carbon energy sectors, and to accelerate much-needed investment in heat decarbonisation projects.
Of course, Scotland’s ability to deliver a green recovery and meet our emissions reduction targets is also dependent to a very significant extent on United Kingdom Government action. That matter was also referred to by the Committee on Climate Change. Substantial responsibilities and regulatory controls that could assist in our objectives are retained by the UK Government. Those include parts of the fiscal system, decarbonisation of the gas and electricity grid, the development of hydrogen capacity and further investment in carbon capture and storage. I have recently written to the UK Government to call on it to take the action that currently only it can in those vital areas.
Finally, global co-operation is crucial in the fight against climate change, just as it is crucial in the fight against Covid-19. The 26th conference of the parties—COP26—will be in Glasgow in 2021. We look to other countries to follow our lead and come forward with strategies to reach net zero emissions and deliver a green recovery. We will share our experiences, but we will also learn from others. COP26 must build on green recovery plans and help to set the world on course to net zero in a way that is fair and just.
We are committed to a green, just and resilient recovery for Scotland—one that places us firmly on the pathway to net zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. Covid-19 and climate change present global challenges of unparalleled scale, and Scotland is making progress in tackling both.
I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement.
The Scottish National Party Government is very good at setting ambitious targets, but meeting them is a whole different story. Not only did we miss the target by 4 per cent, but we are actually going in the wrong direction: source emissions have gone up. The cabinet secretary’s statement blamed the cold weather for the increase. Does she really believe that cold weather is a good excuse in Scotland? We were all aware of the cold weather when those targets were set.
The cabinet secretary also talks a good game about what this Government has done in recent years. However, the SNP has been in power for more than a decade. The missed target is their failure. How will the Government make up the lost ground? We need a clear road map, not just promises.
A few years ago, we saw a lot of headlines about Nicola Sturgeon’s energy company. Where is it?
Finally, during this pandemic, what is the Government doing to help people to recycle more?
I remind her that Scotland continues to outperform the UK in reducing long-term emissions, and that in western Europe it is second only to Sweden. Targets have been intentionally set to provide an extremely stretching pathway. If we did not set stretching targets, we would be accused of making things too easy for ourselves. Instead, this country has one of the most constrained, legislative ways of dealing with climate change of any country in the world. We are the only country in the world that sets these annual targets for ourselves. There will always be hiccups on the way.
Of course we have to take Scotland’s weather into account. However, even Annie Wells has got to acknowledge that, occasionally, some of our winters are more severe than others, and the “beast from the east” was one of those winters.
I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of her statement.
It is immensely disappointing that the 2018 target has not been met. At worst, sectoral changes showed inexcusable emissions increases, and at best there were measly reductions of a few percentage points. If we are to meet the interim 2030 target of a 75 per cent reduction in emissions—which is vital to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees—we need robust and urgent action now.
There are indisputable connections between the climate and nature emergencies, and we must address them together for the sake of people and the planet. The failures of the years that are focused on in this report only strengthen the need for transformational change and bold governance now.
Will the cabinet secretary act to extend the life of the just transition commission to help embed equality at the heart of the path to net zero?
Will she guarantee to work with all portfolios to ensure that the updated climate change plan reflects the urgency? As the cabinet secretary mentioned in her statement, the UK Committee on Climate Change’s letter to her highlights a number of actions that we can take to bring in the new skilled jobs across Scotland that we need, both urban and rural, and the recent Scottish Trades Union Congress report reinforces the opportunities that we can take together as we come out of the Covid crisis. That includes action for a publicly-owned energy company. Can the cabinet secretary give an update on the progress toward that?
The question was quite long, but I will try to be as quick as possible.
Claudia Beamish knows that the energy company does not sit in my portfolio. I will refer her comments to the relevant portfolio.
I have already tasked the just transition commission with looking at the economic recovery scenario that we are immediately dealing with, and it is working hard on that. Although I have not taken any formal decision about extending the life of the just transmission commission, I do not want to say that that will not happen. I need to consider it.
Claudia Beamish knows that work is happening with all portfolios. Very serious work is being undertaken across all portfolios. All portfolios are challenged to reduce emissions, and all are trying to do that as well as dealing with Covid. We will keep trying to do that across the board as we move out of the economic emergency that we are confronting. The cross-portfolio work goes almost without saying. I speak regularly on those matters with my colleagues.
Today’s statistics are final evidence that the Scottish Government has failed to have any positive impact on transport emissions.
You get what you pay for. In Ireland, 20 per cent of the transport budget will now go to walking and cycling and two thirds of the rest will go to public transport, thanks to the Irish greens.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that the experience of the Covid lockdown shows us that people want change and that they want green transport choices? Does she agree that the billions of pounds that the Government is spending on road expansion should be redirected to cycling, walking and public transport to give everybody real transport choices?
One year’s report on what is an annual reporting issue is not final evidence of anything. Somebody will be standing here next June giving a statement on the statistics. An enormous amount of work is being done, as Mark Ruskell knows.
Mark Ruskell must also be aware that transport is one of the areas facing major challenges as a result of Covid-19. There are strong moves—as I highlighted in the statement—towards walking and cycling. We hope that we can embed those behaviours. I would have expected Mark Ruskell to acknowledge that there may now be significant challenges about any return to mass transportation. Those are some of the issues that we must grapple with as we analyse the impact of the Covid crisis on people’s behaviour.
Our natural assets will be central to our national journey towards net zero emissions. Claudia Beamish also referred to that.
The recent launch of ScotWind reflects how our seas host some of the best offshore wind resources in the world. The North Sea oil and gas sector can also play a positive role in Scotland’s energy transition by helping to design the diverse energy system that we need for the future. I welcome today’s report from Oil and Gas UK, which is committed to halving operational emissions over the next decade. That report is timely and follows our announcement last Friday of £62 million to support the energy transition.
I could not let the opportunity pass without mentioning the ambitious programme of nature-based solutions, including the action to restore Scotland’s vital peatlands, which is one of the things that I am most excited about.
I thank the cabinet secretary for early sight of her statement.
The fact that Scotland has again missed its climate change targets is seriously damaging. The rhetoric and promises have been world-leading; the delivery of change has not.
Given that the work “not yet captured” by the statistics includes the deposit return scheme, the Scottish National Investment Bank and other promises that are still only in the pipeline, does this not mean that we are looking at more annual targets being missed in the future?
I cannot speak for the future; I can speak only for the statistics that I have in front of me. I spoke about a minister standing here next year and dealing with the 2019 statistics.
I rather suspect that the minister standing here in 2022 dealing with the 2020 statistics will have a very different story to tell for very different reasons. That is one of the issues that we have to deal with, because the fact is that, year to year, we sometimes have to cope with unpredictable scenarios.
A lot of measures are now in play. I cannot wave a magic wand. I cannot say that a deposit return scheme, having gone through Parliament, can be instituted overnight—we all know that that is not possible. However, we also all know that a DRS will contribute to the longer-term emissions reductions, and that is what the Parliament has to keep doing.
It is the case, as the Committee on Climate Change notes in almost every one of its reports, that Scotland’s ability to deliver a green recovery is dependent on UK Government action. Substantial responsibilities and regulatory controls remain reserved. In particular, to progress in Scotland, urgent action is required in parts of the fiscal system, in the decarbonisation of the gas and electricity grid and in the development of hydrogen capacity. Additional investment in carbon capture and storage is also needed.
There are also key areas where action from the UK Government is essential to help capture the opportunities from the transition, such as in heat decarbonisation, industrial decarbonisation, zero emission vehicles and green finance.
I have written to the UK Government on a number of occasions in that regard, and did so most recently at the start of this month.
I must remind everyone that the Committee on Climate Change suggested a target of net zero by 2045 for Scotland at the same time as it suggested that target by 2050 for the UK as a whole.
The UK as a whole will not reach the 2050 target if Scotland does not reach the 2045 target, and we will not reach the 2045 target if the UK Government does not commit itself to getting to the 2050 target and shows itself to be willing to take the action to do that.
This Government has failed and will fail to deliver on time the reaching 100 per cent—R100—programme. It has failed to deliver on its commitment to implement the deposit return scheme in its suggested timescale. This Government is good at making big announcements but appalling at delivery. The Government likes to tell the world how ambitious it is, but, when it comes to hugely important issues such as reducing emissions, it simply does not have the policies to deliver.
Unlike the air that many people are forced to breathe, the result of the Government’s decade of failed policies to improve air quality is clear. Domestic emissions rose by 1.5 per cent between 2017 and 2018; emissions from energy supply are increasing; and emissions from transport, which is still Scotland’s highest-emitting sector, fell by only 4.9 per cent.
Under the requirements of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, when a target has not been met, the Scottish Government must now lay a report setting out proposals and policies to compensate for the excess emissions. Will the report be delivered on time, and why should we have any faith that the policies contained in it will deliver?
I am interested in the fact that Finlay Carson was so opposed to the delay in the introduction of the deposit return scheme. I suspect that many of the companies and organisations that he normally wants to speak for will be astonished at that.
In Government, we have to deal with reality. We have to make sure that what we are doing is doable—that is important. Yes, we have to report on the 2017 and 2018 missed targets. That will be done as part of the work that is being progressed for December, and the report will laid before Parliament as part of the recast climate change plan update.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that hydrogen has an important role to play in reducing Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions? Will she outline what support the Government is giving to universities for research and development work on using hydrogen as an alternative source of energy?
I have mentioned hydrogen a couple of times already. It has the potential to play a very important part in a low-carbon future and to assist in the comprehensive decarbonisation of the Scottish heat, industrial and transport systems.
We have appointed consultants to undertake a Scottish hydrogen assessment, on which work is well under way. In accordance with our commitment in the programme for government for 2020-21, the findings of that assessment work and other studies will help to inform the development and delivery of a Scottish Government action plan for hydrogen and a hydrogen policy statement.
Given the huge impact of the pandemic, what is the Scottish Government doing now to accelerate investment programmes to reduce CO2 emissions, to increase energy efficiency and community-owned renewable heat networks, to tackle fuel poverty in our homes, and to create Scottish jobs, including in manufacturing, from the offshore wind projects that the cabinet secretary mentioned?
A lot of work is being done in those areas right now. My statement mentioned some of the aspects that Ms Boyack has raised, including the money that has been allocated in the area of transport. We are doing a lot more, but I do not want to step on possible further announcements or to pre-announce matters from portfolio areas that are not mine. We intend to do—and will do—as much as we possibly can.
Among other things, Sarah Boyack ought to at least acknowledge the £2 billion that has been committed to investment in low-carbon infrastructure over the lifetime of the Parliament. Enormous amounts of both money and resources are being, and will continue to be, committed to such work. That has to be the case, because it is the only way in which we will achieve our targets.
We are currently trying to understand the impacts of the crisis on emissions reductions in Scotland.
John Mason has mentioned one positive example that has come out of it, and the increase in cycling and walking is another.
However, other aspects have been less positive. The planned activity on nature-based solutions and other work that would have happened in recent months of this year has had to be restricted because of the physical distancing requirements. No doubt, some members will pooh-pooh the advancing of that as a reason, but the reality is that that has been the impact. There are other challenges, including, as I mentioned earlier, people’s concerns about using public transport in the current situation.
We must work towards having a better understanding of such impacts, learning from the crisis and applying our learning as we build a greener, fairer and healthier future.
I welcome the cabinet secretary’s responses to earlier questions on the Government’s engagement with groups such as the CCC and the just transition commission. It is clear to us all that there needs to be industrial decarbonisation on a large scale, together with a global shift to clean growth by driving technologies, services and markets to produce low-carbon industrial products. What discussions has the Scottish Government had with the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre—IDRIC—which is based at Heriot-Watt University, with a view to moving clean growth forward at pace?
There is constant engagement along the lines that Angus MacDonald has asked about—it is part and parcel of the work that we do. As a matter of fact, I have raised industrial decarbonisation with my counterparts in the UK Government. In our discussions on the setting up of an emissions trading scheme,
I pressed very strongly for the money that would flow through such a scheme being very much dedicated to industrial decarbonisation. I would like the UK Government to make the same commitment.
Transport remains Scotland’s biggest emitter, and its emissions have been falling 10 times more slowly than overall emissions since 1990. We will need transformative policies to get people back on to public transport when it is safer to do so. Is the Government still committed to delivering free bus travel for under-19s by January 2021, and will it consider extending free bus travel to all under-26s?
I understand that the commitment is still there. There may be some delay—we are trying to analyse the impact of Covid—but we are not withdrawing from that commitment at all.
The Presiding Officer:
Thank you very much. That concludes this item of business. We will move on to the next item shortly. I remind members to observe social distancing when entering or leaving the chamber and when moving throughout the building.