Green Recovery Inquiry

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

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Photo of Angus MacDonald Angus MacDonald Scottish National Party

I a m pleased to contribute to the debate in the week that it was confirmed that Scotland’s carbon footprint has hit another record low. Analysis by the Scottish Government shows that Scotland’s carbon footprint fell by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2017. That compares with a 21 per cent decrease in the rest of the UK.

During the 10 years of SNP governance, Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 30.4 million tonnes of CO2

—that is equivalent to the emissions from nearly 400,000 lorry loads of fuel. That is what you call progress, but that progress should not detract from the urgency of addressing the climate emergency in tandem with our green recovery.

As we have heard, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused sudden and dramatic changes to our way of life, and every person and industry has felt the effects. The Covid-19 crisis has not reduced the urgency of addressing climate change, but it means that it is imperative that the necessary economic recovery is sustainable. The green recovery allows us to link the economic and environmental advantages of investment in a sustainable recovery. However, we need to ensure that the transition happens in a way that leaves no one behind. Of course, it is imperative that that work gets under way now.

The ECCLR Committee report states that, for a just transition to be successful, new skills, technology and infrastructure will be required at a scale that has not yet been seen. That includes the need for investment in carbon capture and storage. Although there is much debate about the inclusion of CCS in the climate change plan update, there is no doubt in my mind that it must be part of the equation.

I say that not least because I represent the Falkirk East constituency, where Grangemouth sits. Grangemouth emits 33 per cent of the total emissions from companies in Scotland. A related statistic is that it accounts for 8 per cent of Scotland’s emissions but only 2.9 per cent of the total population. We can therefore understand why the Scottish Government, Falkirk Council and major industry players including Ineos are keen to develop plans for carbon capture and utilisation schemes in Grangemouth, as part of the green recovery.

I am pleased to say that Ineos engages closely with Falkirk Council on measures to reduce the amount of carbon that is emitted from the site. Actions include investment in a new energy plant, replacement of flaring equipment and upgrades to the KG cracker. Ineos has also been actively engaged in work on the investment zone and on carbon capture and utilisation schemes. Although I have put on record my disappointment that Ineos has not engaged directly with the Parliament’s scrutiny of the updated climate change plan, it is fair to say that it has engaged indirectly via the Chemical Industries Association, which Ineos believes can give broader industry input.

It is also fair to say that the petrochemical industries are key not only to our local economy in the Falkirk district, but the Scottish and UK economies. Our economy in the Falkirk district has a symbiotic relationship with Scotland’s oil and gas sector, and we must accept the need to support those industries through this immediate crisis and recovery, as well as looking to the longer term and developing a new, greener industrial base in Grangemouth.

It is, of course, worth pointing out that Scottish industry would become less competitive if it were required to decarbonise at a faster pace than competitors, and there is a risk that that would lead to the offshoring of operations, which is clearly the last thing that anyone would want.

We have learned from the pandemic that the new normal must reflect the need to build wealth and resilience into local economies. It should have a strong focus on promoting carbon reduction and reinforcing the value of place and how people engage with the spaces around them, as lockdown eases.

In my view, the Falkirk district typifies the risks and opportunities post-Covid-19 and there are opportunities for my Falkirk East constituency to act as a demonstrator for the transition. There are potential early wins around the significant investment plans of local industry to modernise its infrastructure, creating new energy generation potential and upgrading assets.

I look forward to the work of the newly-formed Grangemouth future industry board proceeding at pace and to having the Grangemouth industry’s keenness to be part of the just transition and green recovery recognised and embraced as we move towards net zero by 2045.