Green Recovery Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th February 2021.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I extend my thanks to Gillian Martin and members of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for their work, aided by witnesses and support staff, in producing a detailed and insightful report.

As we come to the end of this parliamentary session and look ahead to a new one that starts later this year, it is increasingly clear that some of the most profound and challenging choices and decisions in Scotland’s history will fall to the incoming generation of decision makers. Because the world is on the brink of irreparable damage, decisions that will be made over the next 10 years—and probably in less time than that—will either make or break our planet.

The climate emergency is beyond dispute. The year 2020 began with apocalyptic wildfires in Australia, which were declared to be among the

“worst wildlife disasters in modern history”.

Extreme weather and the fires, floods and droughts that follow it are becoming more and more commonplace, and a global average sea level rise of more than 3mm per year over the past two decades has set alarm bells ringing.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have long recognised the threat that is posed as well as the urgency and ambition of the action that is needed to combat that threat. We have been instrumental in forcing the pace of change, and we have played our part in ensuring that Scotland now has some of the most challenging emissions reduction targets in the world. Those targets push us to the brink of what is currently possible. The chief executive of the UK Climate Change Committee, Chris Stark, recently described the 2030 target as “very, very stretching”.

The challenge may seem daunting, but the pandemic has been a timely lesson in what radical change really means. Covid-19 has shown everyone what is possible when public interest and political will demand it. We have seen how a global emergency should inform and influence decisions at every level so that what happens on the ground reflects the best of our intentions. That transition from ambition to action must now be seen if we are to address the climate emergency. As Benny Higgins reminded us:

“The test is not in writing it down; the test is in doing it.”—[

Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

, 8 September 2020; c 3.]

Scotland already knows what happens when those issues drop down the political agenda. Ten years ago, the Scottish National Party promised 28,000 green jobs, with Scotland becoming a world manufacturing base for offshore renewables. Last year, contracts for 114 wind turbine platforms for the outer Forth estuary were awarded. A Scottish yard bid for just four of them and did not get any. All 114 platforms will be made in the middle east and China. Scotland also missed its emissions reduction target for 2018. Although the SNP’s rhetoric and promises are world leading, its delivery so far has failed to fully walk the talk.

As we move to ensure that our ambitious legislation results in ambitious action, Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to play a constructive role. We have done so in pushing for greater action on electric vehicles, warm homes and plastic pollution, and we will continue to do so across the range of areas in which progress is desperately needed. We have held the Government to account on its support for policies such as a third runway at Heathrow, which flies in the face of tackling the climate emergency.

We need a detailed, costed, funded and realistic route map for every sector and every area. What we do not need is a list of excuses about why promises are not delivered and how everything would be solved with the wave of a constitutional wand.

I again thank the committee, and I look forward to playing my part in the delivery of the actions that are set out in the report.