Green Recovery Inquiry

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

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I thank Gillian Martin and the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for such a thorough and positive report. I wonder, though, whether Peter Chapman actually read a single page of the committee’s report. He could have done that instead of rubbishing the committee’s efforts on the report, including his own party members’ contribution to it. I am sure that they will have been delighted with that.

The report chimes with much of the work that is being done in the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, which has been taking a close look at the update to the climate change plan and, in particular, energy and local heat networks and how those can help us to advance the green economy. From climate change to Covid, we are certainly facing some difficult challenges ahead, but I hope that one of those challenges is jobs. We must think differently, if we can, about how we will do things in the future.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee agreed with the basic principles set out by the Climate Change Committee that underpin a green recovery. However, I was pleased to see the ECCLR Committee go a bit further and embed wellbeing and the need for a just transition and human rights to be at the heart of the green recovery programme in Scotland. We are not starting from scratch, because we are already well placed in Scotland to deliver the agenda, and we already lead the world in many aspects.

We aim to achieve net zero by 2045 and to be carbon neutral by 2040; and we are including a fair share of the emissions from international aviation and shipping in those targets. We want to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, and, to achieve that, we will provide electrical charging points on our motorways while doubling our investment in active travel. To help us to get there, we are looking for a 43 per cent reduction in industrial emissions by 2032, which is a tall order, as it is the difficult stuff that is still left to do. Professor Stuart Haszeldine told the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, at our meeting last week, that our beer fermentation and whisky distilling industries emit about half a million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is not captured, of course. So, not just the Government but industries have a vital role to play in the transition to net zero.

In terms of energy, by 2019 we had already generated 90 per cent of our electricity consumption from renewable sources, so good progress is being made. Financing the green recovery is fundamental to having any chance of success. The ECCLR Committee rightly focused on that, asking the Government to ensure that it aligns with all its spending plans and objectives but particularly its green recovery objectives. The budget proposals that have just been announced will see a record £1.9 billion invested in tackling the climate change emergency and creating sustainable green jobs.

Locally, in Ayrshire, we are doing our bit, too, with a number of innovative projects in the green growth deal that will help to take the green agenda forward. Our world-leading HALO project in Kilmarnock will operate on its 28-acre site powered by electricity with a net zero carbon footprint, and the national energy research and demonstration project in Cumnock is looking at storage solutions for local energy, to help that community to become energy self-sufficient. Some great work has been done, but there is still much to do, including making faster progress on carbon capture and storage.

I suggest that the green recovery group that has been called for by the ECCLR Committee should ask Governments and businesses to think seriously about where people can and will work in the future—an aspect that has been raised time and again by the many young people to whom we have spoken during our Covid deliberations. We have excellent and fast-improving digital technologies at our disposal, and one of the many lessons that we are learning from our Covid experience is that we no longer need to clog up our motorways and rush into our main cities every day to work in expensive, power-hungry buildings. Young people want to live and work in their own communities, and they expect us, as leaders, and the business community to take that seriously. What a wonderful opportunity we now have to progress that in the green recovery programme.

I commend the committee for producing a fine report.