I welcome the opportunity to debate the imminent COP26 summit in Glasgow and to outline the Scottish Government’s plans and ambitions for what is a historic event.
I assure members that a key priority of this Administration is the successful delivery of COP26, along with our net zero and climate commitments in the years beyond the event itself. COP26 is our best—indeed, possibly our last—chance to deliver the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement, to match the science and to respond to the climate emergency that we see all around us.
To achieve our global goals, delegates must arrive with enhanced nationally determined contributions that keep the prospects of 1.5°C alive. However, the First Minister said plainly on Monday that
“their pledges must be backed by action”— and not just from the point of view of “keeping 1.5 alive”.
The issues of fairness and justice are at the heart of the climate crisis, and we have a responsibility to take decisive, meaningful action to support us all.
We are rightly proud of the significant progress that Scotland has made in decarbonising our economy—our 2019 greenhouse gas emissions were 51.5 per cent lower than 1990 levels—while increasing economic growth. Indeed, the United Kingdom’s independent statutory adviser, the Climate Change Committee, commended us for having
“decarbonised ... faster than any G20” country since 2008.
Our updated climate change plan provides a clear and credible pathway for continuing that trend to beyond 2032. Last year, the equivalent of 96 per cent of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources, and by the end of this year we will have allocated £1 billion since 2019 to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency.
That approach is underpinned by the Scottish Government’s issuing of consents for almost 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in the past two years alone. Over this parliamentary session we will invest at least £1.8 billion to decarbonise heating in homes and buildings, which will reduce emissions while creating green jobs.
We are also building in £1.7 billion for sustainable public transport in this financial year, and we introduced legislation to provide for free bus travel for people aged under 22.
The member will recognise that this is an ambitious target. Funding will come from a number of sources—partly public sector and partly private sector—and there will be changes in how we deliver heat in buildings, as my colleague Patrick Harvie set out during his statement.
Scotland can point to successes. This Government has prioritised the climate emergency and introduced a rigorous legislative framework that underpins our climate emissions journey. After all, a crisis of this scale warrants a collective and unified political response. The Scottish Parliament has, rightly, set highly ambitious and legally binding targets to reduce emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2045, all of which are to be met without relying on offsetting credits.
Scotland’s ambitious and global leadership goes beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report says is required to deliver the aims of the Paris agreement, as is set out in our indicative nationally determined contribution for COP26.
Although I am proud of the progress that we have made so far, I have no doubt that our aim to decarbonise emissions through a just transition over the next 10 years will be challenging. In line with the requirements of Scotland’s climate change legislation, today we laid in the Parliament an emissions reduction catch-up report, which sets out the additional emissions reductions that are required to make up for missing the annual target in 2019. The policies and proposals in the report will supplement our ambitious and transformational commitments in the updated climate change plan and advance and strengthen Scotland’s emissions reduction pathway to 2032. We are proud of Scotland’s world-leading targets and we are proud that we are accountable for any missed annual goals in that way, to ensure that the promises that we make are underpinned by urgent and ambitious action.
In the course of the past month alone, I have probably raised the matter with it specifically on at least two, if not three, occasions.
I turn to COP26. We will deliver an ambitious programme of events, which will support the global objectives of COP26, advance our climate agenda, strengthen collaboration and showcase Scottish activity.
As the First Minister said earlier this week, climate
“loss and damage … is … suffered already by communities around the world, due to drought, floods, desertification, loss of life and population displacement.”
Scotland is, therefore, committed to doubling our climate justice fund over the next four years, leading the way, even as a small nation, on this issue.
We make the best use of our international role, and our networks and influence, to achieve global change. That includes launching the net zero futures initiative, with the Climate Group and Bloomberg Philanthropies, to galvanise state and regional governments. Our aim is to act as a bridge between those outside the formal negotiations and those inside the room, and—true to our responsibilities as hosts—we will look to amplify a diversity of voices from less-heard nations and people.
We are working alongside children and young people—those who face the greatest impact of the climate crisis—so that they have meaningful opportunities to participate and can powerfully advocate for their future. We want children and young people, regardless of their background and location, to have the opportunity to act as climate ambassadors with peers in their communities and on a global stage. That is why we are providing opportunities for children and young people from Scotland and around the world to work together on climate action to support the conference of youth. We have launched a series of initiatives to engage wider communities across Scotland, empowering them to take action, while we support the international implementation of global citizens assemblies as a means to ensure that the views of people worldwide are heard.
We have worked in solidarity alongside our colleagues in the global south, ensuring that their voices are heard and that they can participate in shaping the ambition of COP26 through initiatives including the Glasgow climate dialogues, the Women’s Environment & Development Organization and the Malawi climate leaders project. We have created multiple opportunities for Scotland, at COP26, to showcase and raise the profile of our renewable energy sector and our transportation sector’s decarbonisation, positioning Scotland in the vanguard of action internationally and as an accelerator for system change. We are working in partnership with Scottish businesses to accelerate their journey towards net zero and to support a just transition, enabling them to adapt and leverage new, fairer and greener opportunities for all.
In that way, we will lay the groundwork for more and easier ways by which to get to net zero and to create climate resilience in our economy by 2045, while at the same time retaining a focus on tackling inequality and injustice in our country. I am proud of Scotland’s world-leading targets and the responsibility and accountability that we are taking on. We wish to ensure that the promises that we make are underpinned by urgent and ambitious action, even if the terms of the devolution settlement do not allow us to access fully many of the levers of control that decarbonisation requires. It will be absolutely fundamental to action on emissions reductions for the UK Government to match Scotland’s level of ambition and act with us in areas such as electricity policy and regulation, and on rebalancing energy prices. We have been calling for a review of fuel duty as a mechanism for demand management for car travel. While the United Kingdom Government’s “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” document emphasises technological advances, it does not go far enough in tackling that issue.
Regardless, Scotland is acting decisively, focusing on the transition to clean technology, reducing demand for high-emission products and encouraging behaviour shift. To that end, we look forward to sharing our approach with international partners at COP26 as an example of world-leading best practice. Underpinning that, we have set stretching delivery targets—for example, to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030. Those are the measures that will help us to achieve our targets.
I once again welcome the world to Scotland for the COP26 summit in Glasgow, and I thank all those who have contributed to enabling it to take place. I echo the First Minister’s call for world leaders who are gathering in Glasgow to take the necessary action in their own countries to keep the target of 1.5°C and beyond very much alive. I look forward to hearing contributions from members this afternoon, and to engaging with delegates and stakeholders over the coming weeks as we take part in COP26.
That the Parliament welcomes the world to Glasgow for the COP26 summit and thanks all those who have contributed to enabling the summit to take place; considers this to be humanity’s last opportunity to limit global warming and deliver on the ambitions set at the Paris Climate summit in 2015 and calls on world leaders gathering in Glasgow to make the necessary changes in their own countries to keep the target of 1.5 degrees alive and ensure it is achieved, and also deliver on the funding commitments made in Paris to support countries in the Global South in tackling climate change and its impacts; further calls on world leaders to take immediate and rapid action on emissions reduction and investment in low-emission and zero-carbon technology on a global scale, and to recognise the loss and damage already occurring as a result of climate change, recognising that those suffering most from these changes are those least responsible for it, and to support those countries already living with such loss; notes the commitments recently set out through the Programme for Government, the Cooperation Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group, and other documents that build upon the updated Climate Change Plan and increase the steps being taken in Scotland to address the climate crisis; looks forward to the publication, starting from next year, of sectoral just transition plans, and welcomes the undertaking, in support of this, of further analysis of Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas production to assess the compatibility of current and future field development with the Paris Agreement, and to Scotland’s economy, security and wellbeing.
We, too, welcome the world to Glasgow next week as the UK takes over the presidency of COP26. It will be an extraordinary event and one whose importance cannot be downplayed. I have lodged an amendment to the motion, but I acknowledge that the part of the motion that we do not want to amend picks up on the fact that many commentators suggest that this is our last opportunity
“to limit global warming and deliver on” the Paris agreement and that
“immediate and rapid action on emissions reduction and investment in low-emission and zero-carbon technology” must be made. That is why I am pleased that the United Kingdom has the opportunity to showcase its track record on combating climate change and seeking to lead by example. That example is clear.
Rishi Sunak spoke today for an hour on the budget without even mentioning the climate. He has lowered tax on beer and wine while polluting the rivers. Maybe we should be grateful for that lowered tax, because it sounds like we will not be able to drink the water. He has also incentivised internal flights within the UK by lowering taxes on flights that are already cheaper than train travel. How can Liam Kerr say that the UK is leading on climate change when those are its policies?
I am grateful to the minister for the invitation to say how the UK is leading. Britain has cut emissions by about 44 per cent since 1990, the fastest decline in the G7, while increasing the size of the economy by about 78 per cent. Denmark is the only other OECD country to have achieved a similar level of reductions. The UK is the second-highest performing country in the climate change performance index. The Yale University ranking of the greenest countries in the world across 32 performance indicators places the UK fourth, but second if only climate change and CO2 emissions are measured.
What of the leadership role? The UK was the first major economy to put into law targets to reach net zero by 2050 and it updated them just this year. The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world. The UK is doubling its international climate finance to help developing nations to £11.6 billion a year by 2025. Now, the UK Government has produced a net zero strategy in which it sets out how it plans to deliver its net zero targets for 2050, which the cabinet secretary was a little down on. That is surprising, because the UK Climate Change Committee described the strategy as “ambitious and comprehensive” and an “achievable and affordable” vision that sets
“a globally deliverable benchmark to take to COP26.”
The committee also pointed out that the strategy is the most comprehensive in the G20.
I listened earlier this week to Nicola Sturgeon calling on world leaders to take credible action, not issue face-saving slogans, to achieve net zero. However, I listened just now to the cabinet secretary’s relentless self-congratulation, so perhaps he did not get the memo. From data with which we are all too familiar, we know that the Scottish Government missed five of seven climate targets set out in its 2018 plan, missed its own legal emissions target for three years in a row and that its commitment to ban biodegradable landfill waste in Scotland by 2021 has been pushed back to 2025. The Scottish Government has also slashed the budget for agri-environmental measures this year by nearly £10 million and, four days before COP26 begins, the new Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, Patrick Harvie, is forced to admit to the Scottish Government’s latest failure on its renewable heat target.
The cabinet secretary referred to world-leading targets, a catch-up plan and matching ambition, but some might say that all that is just a face-saving slogan. We have not even talked about transport, the largest source of greenhouse gases, which has been reduced in Scotland only by about 0.5 per cent since 1990 in a context in which car journeys in Scotland have increased by about 8 per cent since 2016. I pointed out in August that to meet the required target of 30,000 electric vehicle chargers, we need roughly 4,000 extra charging points a year. I asked where the plan was to do that, and yesterday got the answer to a parliamentary question: there is no plan. In addition, we have learned that there are apparently too few chargers in Glasgow to charge the EVs ordered for the summit.
With Glasgow on the eve of hosting COP26, Britain’s largest ever summit, the Scottish National Party-led Glasgow City Council is being an utter disgrace by allowing rancid conditions in Glasgow’s streets to multiply, leading to a cleansing crisis that was entirely preventable. To be clear, the SNP in Glasgow has cut the number of staff in our city’s cleansing services, introduced a bulk uplift charge—
I am grateful to Dr Gulhane for the intervention and I agree with him. He makes a very important point in the context of this debate about COP26, during which, as the cabinet secretary said, the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow. An SNP council is doing the bidding of an SNP Government, and what are delegates coming to? There will be road closures across the city and ScotRail is going on strike because the Scottish Government shamefully refuses to get involved and the Minister for Transport has “no idea” why it is happening. Refuse and recycling workers, school cleaners, janitors, catering staff and lawyers are on strike, thanks to the legacy of nearly £1 billion of SNP cuts to local authority budgets in the past six years, which, I suspect, is what Dr Gulhane was referring to. An accommodation crisis means that as many as 3,000 people who are coming to Glasgow do not yet have anywhere to stay.
COP26 is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the UK and drive real global change. We must do that together, as one United Kingdom. The UK Government is providing almost £100 million for Scotland to ensure that COP26 happens. I am delighted with that and I am sure that the cabinet secretary will be, too.
Together, let us show that leadership. The Scottish Government must finally start taking credible action to show an example to the rest of the world and recognise that, working together, we must seize this last opportunity before it is too late.
I move amendment S6M-01769.4, to leave out from “the commitments” to end and insert:
“that the Scottish Government has missed its legal emissions target three times and that, according to the Climate Emergency Response Group, over two thirds of key climate policies are not on track; considers that the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have failed to properly prepare Glasgow and Scotland’s national transport infrastructure for hosting this global event, and calls upon the Scottish Government to urgently step up its support for making homes more energy efficient, bring forward a Circular Economy Bill, accelerate the roll-out of Scotland’s electric vehicle charging network, and invest as a full partner in the North Sea Transition Deal.”
We need to be honest about the challenges that lie ahead. We should take heart that there are solutions and keep a sharp focus on the bold actions that we must take to limit global warming and keep 1.5°C alive. As the cabinet secretary said, COP26 is regarded as the last, best chance to avert climate catastrophe; that is how important this summit is. Although COP26 is focused on securing international agreement, Friends of the Earth Scotland is right to say that the real action to tackle the climate crisis takes place at national and local levels. Therefore, although we welcome and support the Scottish Government motion, we should be using this time in the chamber—as I am sure that the Government will welcome—to scrutinise and challenge the Scottish Government and its partners across Scotland to do more and work with the entire Scottish Parliament to collaborate with local authorities, businesses and citizens in order to achieve more.
In the debate, we will hear some of the precise actions that need to be given priority by the Scottish Government, but I will take a moment to comment on the unique opportunity that we have in Scotland during the 12 days of the summit. The great city of Glasgow is providing the stage for COP26, and that should fill us with pride. We should embrace the unique opportunity to show the best of Scotland and provide leadership at home and internationally. However, it is also important that we get our own house in order and that is why the on-going organisation of workers, through their trade unions, is a strength that we should welcome, because climate justice and social justice or justice for workers are two sides of the same coin. Empowering and valuing workers is key to securing a just transition so, today, the Labour members send a message of solidarity to workers who are taking industrial action and to all those who are fighting for fair work and climate justice.
In its briefing, Close the Gap says,
“We cannot have a ‘just transition’ without enabling women and men to equally benefit from” the shift in the labour market towards green jobs and a new future. That is something that we must reflect on today.
We will hear a lot about ambition. I see Scotland as an ambitious nation, and the Scottish Government has rightly been working towards ambitious climate targets. However, we should all take stock and listen to Greta Thunberg, who said that Scotland is not a world leader on climate change. I say to Greta, perhaps we are not yet, but we can be. I hope that many of us will be out on the streets of Glasgow with Greta Thunberg, the workers and the people of Scotland who want to see urgent change.
For our part, Scottish Labour has consistently called on the Scottish Government to be bolder and take quicker action to tackle climate change. We believe that Scotland has the potential to lead Europe’s green energy revolution by putting green jobs at the heart of new employment, training and manufacturing opportunities across Scotland.
The people of Scotland were promised 100,000 green jobs and a renewables revolution, but only a fraction of the jobs have been delivered. Therefore, we understand why people across Scotland, particularly in the north-east, feel a little bit cynical about the prospect of a just transition. We must get on and deliver it.
Liam Kerr touched on a couple of the statistics that came out today. We learned that the Scottish Government target of 11 per cent of non-electrical heat demand coming from renewable sources by 2020 was missed—only 6.4 per cent was achieved, which is a decrease on 2019. We are not quite getting there with some of the targets.
In the interests of time, I will speed up my speech. I come back to the ambition for a public energy company, which we do not want to be kicked down the road. It is a real opportunity to be a game changer. The market-led energy model continues to fail customers and workers, and our transition will simply be too slow if we leave that work in the hands of the market.
I am sure that Maurice Golden will cover the issue of the circular economy in his speech, but I was disappointed with the Scottish Government’s recent announcement on waste incineration. Friends of the Earth Scotland called it “a burners’ charter”, and I hope that the cabinet secretary will reflect on that.
Decarbonising transport must be the urgent priority. ScotRail proposes to cut 300 rail services a day. Today, we learned that the daytripper concessionary travel scheme is being axed, just as COP26 delegates are getting free transport. Bus routes in my region, such as the X1, have disappeared. We are getting a bit muddled here.
I will briefly mention Cambo. More than 60 charities, unions and community groups have urged Nicola Sturgeon to explicitly condemn the Cambo oil field proposal. There is an article in
The National today, so perhaps my colleagues on the SNP benches can read it.
We need to speak up. The children of Scotland are saying that this is the moment. We need to take that moment and put our ambitions into action.
I move amendment S6M-01769.1 to insert at end:
“; notes that the Scottish Government has not met the annual target for emissions in 2017, 2018 and 2019; agrees that it is important for Scotland to provide leadership through action and delivery; understands that having better, regular, interconnected and affordable public transport run in the interest of passengers will be essential to achieving the modal shift from cars that will be necessary to meet Scotland’s climate ambitions, and calls on the Scottish Government to use all the powers available to it to realise Scotland’s full potential in the renewable energy sector, create local green jobs in communities across Scotland, implement a bold industrial strategy to invest in and grow domestic supply chains, and take all necessary steps to secure a just transition to net zero in Scotland, ensuring that no individual, family or community is left behind.”
I add my welcome and that of the Scottish Liberal Democrats to delegates and others arriving in Scotland for COP26. As the motion rightly recognises, and as others have already said, this may well be humanity’s last opportunity to limit global warming and deliver on the ambitions that were set at the Paris summit in 2015. It is a weighty responsibility, but one that we cannot afford to shirk.
Often, ministers talk of the Parliament having passed world-leading climate legislation. I agree that the legislation, which was passed unanimously by the Parliament, is indeed stretching. I am certainly proud of the role that my party played in forcing the Government to be more ambitious in setting an interim target of a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. However, Greta Thunberg is right to question the extent to which ministers have followed through on the commitments made and the targets set.
From the figures that were published back in June, we know that, once again, the Government missed its overall targets.
Earlier today, Patrick Harvie revealed that, on renewable heat, far from hitting the targets, the Government is going backwards. In short, we are nowhere near where we need to be in reducing Scotland’s emissions.
If the picture is worrying on heat, it is little better when it comes to transport. Domestic transport, which accounts for around one third of emissions in Scotland, is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with rates scarcely budging from 1990 levels. Addressing that should be a priority and will need a multifaceted approach. That must include a step change in, for example, the scale of ambition on electric vehicle roll-out, with charging infrastructure incentives and the faster phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles.
The Government will need to reverse cuts to rail services and expand provision, as well as improve accessibility. We also need—as we will hear in the debate that follows this one—a strategic approach to ferry replacement.
However, we absolutely do not need the SNP Government’s continued support for a third runway at Heathrow. Let us be clear about what that would deliver: 75,000 extra flights and 600,000 extra tonnes of carbon pollution to Scotland. On the eve of COP26, to retain any credibility on climate, the First Minister should rip up the Government’s contract with Heathrow to support a third runway. Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie should be standing by with a recycling bin in which to dump that.
I want to briefly highlight what is happening in Orkney, as I believe that it offers an insight into what can be done to meet the climate challenges that we face. As we heard at the Scottish Parliament renewable energy and energy efficiency cross-party group last night, Orkney, with its world firsts and world-leading innovation, really is the energy islands. Those innovations include the first turbine on Burgar Hill in the 1970s, the establishment of the European Marine Energy Centre in 2003 and, as the minister will know better than most, the connection of the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, which was made by Orbital Marine Power, earlier this year.
More recent news is the plan to transform the Flotta oil terminal into a hydrogen production facility, which will use offshore wind produced west of Orkney. Tied in with innovative projects to develop hydrogen ferries, low-emission aircraft and the decarbonisation of heat across the islands, that shows how Orkney is playing a pioneering role in the transition to net zero and in the creation of green jobs. That should be backed by the UK and Scottish Governments through funding and a supportive regulatory environment. It represents the bold, innovative action that we will need to see from Scottish and UK ministers if we are to rise to the challenge of being a global leader in tackling climate change.
I move amendment S6M-01769.3, to insert at end:
“; notes the Scottish Government’s commitment to develop an aviation strategy, and believes that, as part of this work, the Scottish Government should withdraw from its written agreement with Heathrow Airport to support the building of a third runway.”
We must raise our eyes beyond the horizon of our own interest and COP must work in leadership as the engine of a global attack on climate emissions and of mitigation and adaptation, bringing together the global north and south. There is only one world and there is only this one last chance.
A just transition means ensuring that nobody is left behind globally as well as nationally. It is vital that world leaders listen, engage and understand those who are experiencing climate change now, and listen to the countries and people who did the least to cause the climate emergency. Global south countries are bearing the brunt of climate change, with warming temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns driving economic hardship, food insecurity and migration, leading to the mass displacement of people.
In September, the Glasgow climate dialogues took place, which were co-convened by the Stop Climate Chaos alliance and the Scottish Government and in which global south leadership provided detailed recommendations to inform discussions at COP26.
Recommendations from the dialogues include the need for industrialised polluting countries to significantly increase the financial support that is available to help impacted communities adapt to spiralling climate impacts and the need to ensure a global just transition based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s principles of common but differentiated responsibilities.
It is important that we all increase our climate funding, but we cannot use that to mask cuts in international development aid, which the UK Government has done, as, indeed, have others. It is important that we welcome that funding, but we must be mindful of how that might be presented.
Yesterday, I heard from Dr Asha from Kenya Red Cross about the need to provide funding for loss and for mitigation and adaptation. Those priorities must be placed at the heart of COP26 by participants. The editors of more than 100 respected medical journals across the world have published a common editorial calling for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity and protect health. The joint article points to the chilling fact that, in the past 20 years, heat-related deaths among those over 65 increased by more than 50 per cent.
A decade ago, in my previous role as a minister, I remember calling on the European Union to prepare for environmental refugees fleeing northern Africa. The displacement of millions of people because of the climate emergency will be a consequence of actions by the polluting global north. People, businesses and organisations across the country are active and ready to work towards the drive to net zero. Just last week, at the Parliament’s festival of politics, we heard from David Farquhar, chief executive officer of Intelligent Growth Solutions, who shared the global opportunities of vertical farming to support the exponential global demand for food at a time when we need to reduce farming emissions. That is a great global innovation, driven from Scotland. Innovation has to be global and it has to be shared.
The climate emergency presents us with one big challenge, but there are many solutions, and we must be conscious of and non-judgmental about how other countries with different experiences strive for change. Scotland and the wider UK, which contributed to and led the industrial revolution, must listen and embrace. Instead of judging too swiftly those who are following our past path, we should help and share experience in transitioning to greener energy and technologies.
It is true that we have one of the most ambitious pieces of climate change legislation in the world and, because of that, we have more responsibility. People around the world will be watching how we turn our goals into actions, and we must lead by example. We are going to have to move faster, quicker and over more areas, with more solutions than we thought. We are going to have to stretch our capabilities. Yes, this is a global challenge, but there is not one global solution. Justice and fairness at home and abroad must be at the heart of our ambitions. We succeed only when we all succeed. East, west, north and most definitely south—we have one world; we have one chance.
COP26 is being held against a backdrop of a worsening climate crisis. Over the past year, we have seen severe weather events tear across the planet: soaring temperatures in the United States, dust storms and cyclones in the far east, and flash floods across Europe, including here in the UK. Property has been damaged, businesses have been ruined and, worst of all, lives have been lost. There is, therefore, no doubting the warning from COP26 president Alok Sharma that
“the cost of inaction on climate change is most definitely greater than the cost of action.”—[
Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee
, 16 September; c 11.]
However, we can be proud that Britain is taking action. Among the world’s major economies, Britain was the first to establish legal targets to reach net zero by 2050 and is decarbonising fastest. In fact, Britain is now the second highest performing country in the Climate Change Performance Index. Britain is also committed to helping the rest of the world to take climate action, too, committing £11.6 billion a year by 2025 to help developing nations. That combination of action at home and a helping hand overseas gives Britain enormous climate credibility. We lead by example, which is vital if we are to convince others to take the action that is needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. COP26 gives Scotland a platform to aid that effort—what WWF Scotland describes as a
“historic opportunity to help create a ‘race to the top’ on climate action.”
I have always welcomed the Scottish Government’s setting of ambitious climate targets—ambition that can encourage others, especially other devolved Governments around the world, to set their own bar higher. Welcome as that ambition is, there is simply no getting around the fact that emissions targets have been missed for three years in a row. Where the Conservative UK Government is building credibility, the SNP-Green coalition is running out of it.
“to be credible, the Scottish Government must, at a minimum, deliver Scotland’s emissions targets … we can afford no more excuses.”
Those are not my words but a damning assessment from Oxfam. That is the SNP’s problem on the environment. It is quick to tell everyone what it wants to do and just not very good at doing it.
It is enlightening to hear the member discuss Britain’s credentials in tackling the climate emergency. Will he reflect on how much Scotland’s renewable potential and the ample scope of our natural environment, including in peatland restoration and tree planting—given that we are planting 80 per cent of the trees that are being planted in the UK—have contributed to Britain’s credentials on emissions?
Let us look at the SNP’s track record. Air quality standards have not been met for 10 years in a row. Of 20 international biodiversity targets, more than half have been missed. The renewable heat target has been missed, along with the target for locally generated renewables. Recycling is going backwards, with a rate worse than that in 2016. Incineration capacity is skyrocketing, and the SNP and Greens could end up having to import waste to burn. In Glasgow, which is the COP26 host city, the SNP-run council has plunged the city into a growing crisis of rubbish and rats.
That is not all. The SNP failed to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, broke its promise to deliver 28,000 green jobs and failed to meet its cycling target—at the current rate, it will take 290 years to meet it. The use of public transport and active travel by commuters is down. Of the plastic waste that is collected in Scotland, 2 per cent is recycled here, with 3 tonnes of waste leaving Scotland every minute. The SNP has failed to introduce a landfill ban on biodegradable waste. The deposit return scheme is a shambles, with businesses in the dark even though the SNP has been working on it for a decade. The SNP cancelled Zero Waste Scotland’s textiles programme.
I genuinely hope that Scotland can set an example for the rest of the world but, with the SNP and the Greens in government, I fear for it.
In 1869, a poem was collected by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael in Ìochdar in South Uist and published in the second volume of “Carmina Gadelica”. The poem predicts this for one fertile coastal area of Uist:
“Torranais of the barley, with the great sea around its middle. The walls of the churches shall be the fishing-rocks of the people, while the resting-place of the dead shall be a forest of tangles, among whose mazes the pale-faced mermaid, the marled seal, and the brown otter shall race and run and leap—Like the children of men at play.”
Members might find the poem to be unnervingly prophetic of the coming disasters that sea-level rises will bring to coastal regions across the world. Lest the reference to mermaids makes members inclined to dismiss the poem, I should say that it is far from the only unsettling and very specific prophecy of its kind in Gaelic folklore. It mirrors many of the fears that are now being voiced in contemporary scientific debate.
In the past decade, global sea levels rose by 3cm, but the situation is predicted to get worse. The most recent UN report on climate change, which was published in August 2021, warned that we could see the ocean ascend by nearly 1m or more by the end of the century. Such outcomes threaten many societies existentially. Under that scenario, island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu will simply disappear. Cities including New York, Shanghai and Kolkata will be exposed to coastal flooding by 2070. Bangladesh could lose up to a fifth of its land mass, displacing 15 million to 20 million people.
Scotland will not be immune. Among the places that will be particularly vulnerable are low-lying areas with soft coasts of machair, including Uist, Islay and Tiree, as well as Sanday in Orkney. Large tracts of arable land in Uist were created through centuries of drainage programmes. However, that means that land is often below the mean high-water mark. If a storm large enough broke through the machair dunes, the land could become inundated, and possibly permanently so. In the aftermath of the deadly 2005 storm, the primary school close to the shore in Balivanich was abandoned and a new one was built further away from the sea. If we multiply that up, we can see the kind of threat that now faces human infrastructure across much of the planet and the cost of dealing with that.
The climate crisis will also undermine intangible cultural heritage—many of the things that make it worth being human—so it is important that the debates on climate change take notice of indigenous voices in addition to science and that they reflect on the cumulative experience and knowledge of such societies, whether they be in Greenland, Tuvalu or Uist.
The Gaelic word for a person, “duine”, literally means “one who is from the land”. They inhabit a homeland, or “dùthaich”. The social and ecological bond that ties the two together is “dùthchas”, which is an untranslatable concept comprising heritage, culture, ancestry and identity, concentrated in a place made sacred. We should be in no doubt that rising sea levels represent a threat to all that, as well as to everything else.
We should listen to the breadth and depth of information that exists in endangered and indigenous languages across the globe. That information is not only relevant to fully understanding the crises that we face; it might just point to a way out of them.
“credible action, not face-saving slogans”.
I certainly agree, but, unfortunately, “face-saving” is the default setting of the Government all too often. No platitudes to world leaders, no gestures at the conference and no greenwashing of the Government benches in Holyrood can change that. On so many issues, there is a gulf between rhetoric and reality under the SNP, and it has been exposed by COP26. This is no time for self-congratulation in Scottish politics; it is time for some self-awareness. The Scottish Government must confront its record.
The Government’s motion specifically refers to the co-operation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP. I want to address what that agreement means for transport, which, as other members have said, is a major emitter. The Labour amendment in the name of Monica Lennon makes it clear that delivering
“better, regular, interconnected and affordable public transport” in the interest of Scotland’s passengers is one of the principal ways in which we can make a difference.
As Monica Lennon said, on the day that the SNP and the Greens announced their coalition, ScotRail unveiled a consultation on a new timetable that will cut 300 services per day compared with pre-pandemic levels. That means drastic reductions in the number of rail services to and from Glasgow, the COP26 host city. The Minister for Transport has defended that consultation. He refused to accept calls to restore services to pre-pandemic levels. He ignored those cautioning against reducing rail capacity when we are facing a climate emergency. I will be interested to hear the thoughts of the Green minister on that in her summing up.
Car travel has already returned to pre-pandemic levels, but the use of public transport has not. A modal shift to our railways is essential, but we cannot achieve the modal shift that Scotland needs if the Government makes it harder for people to leave the car at home. That is a critical challenge for us.
I want to acknowledge the rail workers who kept Scotland moving throughout the pandemic. Even if there is a resolution to the outstanding dispute with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, which could continue during COP26, the past few months have still been immensely difficult for industrial relations on the railways. The Scottish Government must take its share of the responsibility for that.
The new publicly owned ScotRail must provide proper representation for trade unions in its governance structures. Passengers must be represented, too. They deserve improving and affordable services. There is no reason to hike passenger fares in the coming year, which is what is set to happen, and it will again chase people away from using public transport.
The most common form of public transport is not the train, but the bus. However, as Monica Lennon said, bus services are also in decline in Scotland. Under the SNP, the total number of bus passenger journeys in Strathclyde and the south-west—home of the Glasgow city region and the host city of COP26—has fallen by 79 million. In the greater Glasgow and Strathclyde area, 48 million vehicle kilometres have been lost from the bus network and fares are up by a fifth.
We clearly need investment in our bus network if we are serious about tackling climate change, and the Government needs to ensure, again, that the rhetoric matches the reality and that it gets the resources that it needs.
The bus market is broken in Glasgow and in the west of Scotland. Labour fought for improvements to the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to make local control a reality through public ownership, but the Scottish Government’s bus partnership fund is directed at operator-friendly improvements. There is no strategy to intervene in the market in Glasgow or anywhere else in Scotland to put the interests of passengers first.
If public control is good enough for Edinburgh and London buses, and for the modern, thriving cities of Europe, why is it not good enough for Glasgow and the west of Scotland? Public transport should be a public service again if we are serious about tackling the climate emergency.
The IPCC’s “code red” report shows the clear threat that the world faces, but there is still time, if we act now, to take collective action and limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C. As Scotland is the birthplace of the industrial revolution, it is right that we should be at the forefront of the green revolution.
Action is required at the local, national and international levels. A lot of important work has been done at the local level to position East Kilbride as a smart and sustainable town. I recently visited an award-winning East Kilbride business—Re-Tek UK Ltd—which focuses on sustainable information technology asset disposal, and it was great to see how its operations make a positive impact in the fight against climate change. I hope that companies such as that one will continue to grow at home and abroad.
The Scottish Government is committed to raising global climate ambition and action at all levels and from all sections of society. Having launched the world’s first climate justice fund almost a decade ago, the SNP Government recognises that those who suffer most from climate change are those who have done little to cause it.
Recently, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the Scottish Government co-convened the Glasgow climate dialogues, which enabled citizens from the global south to publish their COP26 demands. As the First Minister said earlier this week, Scotland
“will help those around the negotiating table listen to activists”,
“from the global south.”
Another important voice in the debate is that of young people, many of whom are so engaged in the fight against global warming. Greta Thunberg will be in Glasgow, and I am sure that she will inspire even more young people to stand up for their future.
It is important that children and young people are able to speak out and encourage leaders to go further, which is why the Scottish Government’s investments of £450,000 in support of the COP26 youth climate programme and £350,000 for the conference of youth are so welcome.
I really look forward to taking part in the moment on Friday. It will be great to chat with pupils from St Vincent’s primary school in East Kilbride, as well as with a group of secondary school pupils, to discuss the climate and hear about the actions that they want to be taken. The legacy of COP26 must be rooted in actions. It is our best, and possibly last, chance to achieve what is required to safeguard our planet.
Following the Paris agreement in 2015, the Scottish Government set a legally binding 2030 target of reducing emissions of all major greenhouse gases by at least 75 per cent compared to baseline levels.
Furthermore, we will end Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. We must, however, deliver a just transition to net zero to people in all parts of Scotland and in all corners of the globe.
Scotland is the right place for a COP that is focused on delivery and action. We are ready to play our part in delivering successful outcomes, and, importantly, the Scottish Government will ensure that the voices of everyone, including our young people and the citizens of the global south, are heard.
COP26 is finally here and I am sure that many of us in the chamber will have mixed emotions. Perhaps we feel a sense of relief that it is finally happening, or a sense of hope and belief that we can deliver better agreements through the Glasgow talks. However, I hope that there is also a sense of collective guilt that no Government around the world has taken sufficient action to tackle the crisis.
The Paris agreement provided a skeleton of the framework that is needed to keep the increase to within 1.5°C. The Glasgow COP must now flesh that out with ambition from all nations acting in solidarity with those who have contributed the least to the crisis but who will inevitably suffer the most.
The pledges that states have made so far simply do not add up. We are heading towards an increase of nearly 3°C in global heating, which would be a huge climate injustice—a crisis that is based on the idea that some people are worth more than others, as Greta Thunberg described it.
The voice of the marginalised and colonised global south needs to be heard loud and clear at COP26. I look forward to the Scottish Government amplifying that voice using the Glasgow dialogues communiqué.
The focus on how we cut emissions is critical, but it cannot crowd out discussion and agreement on how to compensate for the vast amount of loss and damage to life and the economy that is already happening in the global south.
The annual $100 billion-dollar pledge that was made in Paris to help countries to adapt is just the starting point and it must be delivered in full. That is just the first bill from the cleaner half of the world to the developed nations such as ours for using our shared atmosphere as a waste dump for generations. It must be paid in full.
I suspect that many different COPs will take place in Glasgow, in the blue and green zones, on the streets, and in private lobbying spaces. For many of the businesses that will be providing the products, services and, I hope, fair work of the future, COP is a great opportunity to build confidence that rapid change is possible now. There is a first-mover advantage for Governments to drive recovery through investment in innovation supply chains while creating entirely new markets. However, we must also recognise that, for many fossil fuel corporations, COP26 is a further opportunity to steal the narrative around just transition, just as it tried for years to control the narrative about whether climate change was real.
Many corporations continue to spin the myth that maximising the economic recovery of every last drop of fossil fuel reserves is totally compatible with climate objectives, while parading false solutions, such as negative emissions technologies, as being capable of allowing their business models to continue largely unchanged. The time has come for all Governments to stop copying and pasting drivel from fossil fuel corporations into their energy strategies. For example, the concept of a net zero basin in the North Sea is utterly meaningless when the industry wants to scale up from 6 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas extraction.
Last week, the UN production gap report showed how states are planning to allow the extraction of double the amount of fossil fuels that we can afford to burn if the heating increase is to stay under 1.5°C. Then we wonder why young people are so angry about the failure of Governments to address that basic fact of physics.
The politics and the action have to be in line with the science, and so far, they are nowhere close.
The Scottish Parliament’s post-COP legacy to the young climate strikers, the global south, and the world will be to double down on our climate plans, take responsibility, drive a real just transition, and deliver the system change that is needed to tackle climate change. The hard work has barely begun.
I have been dipping into the Radio 4 series “39 Ways to Save the Planet”. The episode called “Local Wisdom” caught my attention. The programme suggested that indigenous knowledge and direct historical experience had lots to offer the world in the journey to net zero. Whether that wisdom is the knowledge that has been passed down through the generations by the Inuit or the astute observations in a 100-year-old Islay farmer’s diary, those are insightful glimpses into how our forebears lived their lives in tune with nature.
How do we get back to that? Well, COP26 in Glasgow is a great opportunity to do so. Rather than being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it is perhaps a once-in-a-species opportunity for our species.
We should not only demand that our leaders hammer out solutions; we need to inspire them to do so. I get my inspiration—and my optimism for the future—from the local wisdom that I find in abundance in my community. I suggest that world leaders do the same, to keep 1.5°C alive.
Across Argyll and Bute, people are engaging in finding solutions for climate change and a just transition. Time for Change Argyll is one such group. It is mobilising for a better world by joining in the school strikes at Lochgilphead joint campus, creating a great blue wave of people along the seafront at Oban to represent the rising sea levels and flooding that have been caused by climate change, and celebrating our fantastic coastal communities that we must protect.
The Dynamic Coast project has been providing strategic evidence on the extent of coastal erosion across Scotland since 2012. As Alasdair Allan mentioned, Tiree’s natural beaches and sand dunes have in the past provided important protection to the low-lying land behind. Those natural features must continue to be valued and managed so that they can continue to provide such protection.
As part of COP26, the former slate-producing island of Luing has been chosen as one of the six sites across Scotland to have a Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland marker, made from traditional materials, to highlight places that could be affected by rising water levels. Like the neighbouring island of Easdale, Luing is suffering from serious costal erosion. Its community is investigating different ways to reduce the erosion and is working with Dynamic Coast to give it a framework for doing so.
Separately, the community is exploring with Historic Environment Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise the possibility of mining slate again, which would involve starting a community enterprise to provide local material for local use and creating local jobs. In seeking to bring back traditional skills to work with a local resource, that initiative represents local wisdom combining with science to find workable solutions.
There are many more projects happening across Argyll and Bute. Seawilding is returning to Loch Craignish native oysters, which create complex reefs where young fish thrive and biodiversity increases, thereby restoring the health of the local marine environment. Local people are working with the scientists at the Scottish Association for Marine Science. Fyne Futures on Bute is aiming for a carbon zero island. It has a myriad of projects, from electric bikes to upcycling furniture. This year’s project encourages activities around growing and sharing food, and making use of local resources while learning new skills. Work is also being done with farmers across Argyll and Bute who are committed to sustainability but who need to be involved in decisions that will affect them, as they know what works for their land.
COP26 in Glasgow will bring together senior politicians and scientists from all over the world, but as well as talking, they need to listen. They need to listen to the women and men of their own communities—people who already possess the local will and wisdom to combat climate change. Of course, I think that Argyll and Bute is special, but it is not alone in being home to people with the local wisdom to find the solutions for climate change. The great and the good at COP26 in Glasgow need to listen to them.
The debated is titled “COP26: Action and Ambition”
. I fear that we will see little of the former and only warm words about the latter, because that is what we get in SNP Scotland. Just today, we learned that the SNP’s target to meet 11 per cent of non-electrical heat demand from renewable sources by 2020 has been missed by a mile.
Most of the people of Glasgow and the surrounding area will be unaffected by COP26—unless, of course, they want to get into and across the city centre. In that respect, it will cause a big amount of hassle and inconvenience. Delegates will get the five-star treatment and be kept away from the rubbish in the streets and the creaking public transport system, while locals are told to keep their distance for the fortnight.
If anyone wanted to get into Glasgow, there would be little point in driving. They might think that turning to public transport was an option, but not if the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has anything to do with it. The barons of that particular union have decided that the latest pay offer should not be put to its members and are hell bent on causing chaos—unless they have changed their minds in the past couple of hours.
To strike for the entire period of the conference is irresponsible. They should do the right thing and ditch the strikes. Perhaps if the transport minister did what I have been urging him to do for weeks and got round the table with the RMT, they could be persuaded to tone down the posturing—for that is what it is. They know that nationalisation is coming and they smell blood. We can see through it, so they need to grow up.
After the conference, we need a transport system that is greener. Transport is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. We all know that we need to decarbonise the way that we travel. It is therefore ironic that delegates to the conference will be ferried around in electric cars charged up at electric vehicle charging points powered by diesel generators. Who are we trying to kid here? Or, if they are lucky, they may get to go on an electric bus.
The coalition of chaos’s programme for government announced plans to remove the remaining 4,400 diesel buses that are currently on the road by 2023. That is a noble and lofty ambition—which they will get nowhere near achieving at current rates. There is £50 million in the pot from the Scottish zero emission bus challenge fund when it will take £640 million to replace those 4,400 buses.
I will be taking part in a mass cycle ride to Glasgow a week on Saturday. People from all parts of the UK are wheeling their way to the city, which leads me on to action and ambition.
If we want to get people out of cars and on to bikes or public transport, that needs to be funded. We do not achieve that by cutting rail services and cutting projects such as the dualling of the East Kilbride line—the member for East Kilbride did not give an opinion on that. That is not how to do it.
A Cycling Scotland survey showed that people would be motivated to cycle if there were more cycle lanes, traffic-free routes and off-road cycle paths, because the main barrier to cycling is feeling unsafe on the roads. Cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh need to show the ambition of, say, Paris and make themselves bike and pedestrian friendly. We also need properly organised and integrated public transport systems, such as those in London or Manchester.
I am afraid that Glasgow is not miles better on this or anything—rats apart—but the COP26 delegates will not get to see any of that.
Parliament needs to be very clear that we need ambitious outcomes from COP26, and I do not think that party-political point-scoring is necessarily the way to do that. I hope that we can unite around a clear message on behalf of the people of Scotland that we want to see ambitious outcomes, and that we amplify some of the more radical voices that we will hear during the coming days and raise our game.
I say that because we all need to be humble and recognise the challenge that we face. Greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in two million years. In 2018, the UN said that, based on the work of scientists and Government reviewers, it was necessary that global temperatures rose no more than 1.5°C to help us to avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a liveable climate.
According to Al Gore’s climate reality project, however, even 1.5°C of warming will lead to wildfires, dwindling biodiversity, storms growing even more powerful, and oceans becoming more acidic, killing off our seas and, indeed, many parts of the planet that we have become so aware of.
The first thing that Parliament should be saying is that we have a duty to speak on behalf of the people of Scotland. We recognise that Scotland does not necessarily have that status in the negotiations, but our role as the host means that we are uniquely placed to give a clear message and work with those from all parts of the world who will be campaigning on our streets and arguing that a far more ambitious approach to the challenge that we face is necessary.
We are not one of the 10 countries with the highest emissions. As has been said, however, we have the history of the industrial revolution and we have contributed to the situation that we are in. Between 1988 and 2015, 100 companies producing fossil fuels were responsible for 71 per cent of all global emissions. As a major country in the energy sector, our message needs to be very clear and distinct. Oil and gas make up 75 per cent of Scotland’s energy consumption, 90 per cent of our heat demand and 6.6 per cent of our gross domestic product, and the sector supports more than 100,000 jobs as well as being a massive exporter—82 per cent of Scotland’s oil and gas is exported—so its role is a key issue in the discussions. The voices of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government need to be heard.
A lot has been said about transport in the debate. Of course, Scotland no longer has the domestic capacity to build and maintain its own trains, and it has been said that a massive cut to train services is coming, which is far from the message that we want to send when we welcome delegates in a few days’ time.
We need to send a clear message. I hope that the party-political bickering is not mainstreamed in that message and that we unite in the coming days to say that we stand with young people in this country, with those in the streets and with the trade unions, and that we will fight and argue for a more ambitious proposal to come out of COP26. As politicians, we will be fighting for that.
I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate. The impact of COP26 is being felt right across Glasgow, but it is into the former industrial communities of Anderston, Finnieston and Yorkhill that global leaders, delegates, and activists will descend to discuss and debate the best ways forward for our environment and, ultimately, our planet.
Scotland’s impact on the world has been significant, and central to that has always been our greatest resource: our people. The excellence of our thinkers and the institutions that educate them continues to be pivotal and will undoubtedly impact the conversations that take place at COP26.
We know that the work to develop critical thought must start early, and I warmly welcome the Caledonian club, a Glasgow Caledonian University initiative that works with schools in Glasgow to equip primary 5 and 6 pupils to answer questions such as “What is climate change and its effects?” and “What can I do to raise awareness about climate change?”
Glasgow Caledonian University is also supporting a series of talks focusing on the climate emergency that will involve local and international experts in conversation with girls from Glasgow.
The focus on young people and providing them with an environment and platform to flourish is shared by the University of Strathclyde, which is hosting the UN climate change conference of youth. That event is designed to prepare young people for their participation in COP26, and to ensure that the voice of youth is heard.
Against the backdrop of Brexit and the United Kingdom’s hostile immigration policies, I welcome those demonstrations of international co-operation that reinforce that Scotland does not share in an isolationist dogma but instead embraces an outward and collaborative approach to solving truly global problems.
Indeed, COP26 is a unique opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world, including what we are doing to meet our world-leading climate targets. A perfect example of that is a Glasgow Kelvin business, Katrick Technologies. Its CEO moved from India to Scotland to attend the nautical college, before eventually graduating from the University of Strathclyde with a master’s degree and an idea. That idea developed into a technology to capture, converge and convert energy from waste heat, wind and waves into mechanical vibrations, producing profitable zero-carbon electricity. That truly revolutionary work was done in Glasgow and it could power our homes and electric cars for many years to come. Once again, the excellence of Scottish education, which has been safeguarded by successive SNP Governments, has attracted and developed the best and brightest, and we are delighted to call Katrick Technologies a local success.
With the Scottish Government committed to delivering the ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2045 and an interim target of a 75 per cent reduction by 2030, I am proud of the world-leading research and development that is currently under way in Kelvin and in Scotland. That work could provide the solutions to the global challenges that are being addressed at COP26.
As we have heard today, tackling the climate emergency must be a shared national and global endeavour. The IPCC has made it clear that we do not have the luxury of time, and that everything that we do needs to be seen through the prism of the climate emergency. It was therefore right that Fiona Hyslop urged us to raise our horizons, particularly in the interests of those who will be affected most by but are least responsible for and least able to cope with, the effects of climate change.
Even in our own self-interest, the need to act is obvious. Alasdair Allan made an excellent speech, pointing to the impacts of rising sea levels in the community that he represents. He even alluded to the island where I was brought up, which I have long known as low lying and at risk from rising sea levels. Therefore, in that spirit of our own self-interest, we need to act.
Maurice Golden graphically outlined the worsening picture of severe weather patterns and the costs that they are incurring. That reminds us that the costs of inaction are considerably greater than any costs that we will face in taking the required action, and it reminds us of the fatal consequences that we are seeing more and more.
Katy Clark made a reasonable point about the predictable back-and-forth between SNP and Tory colleagues about who should shoulder more blame, with accusations and counter-accusations over missed targets, counterproductive actions and the need to do more. Frankly, the UK Government and the Scottish Government—all Governments, as Mark Ruskell fairly said—clearly need to do more.
Transport was the focus of many colleagues’ speeches. Neil Bibby particularly focused on the need for a modal shift in transport, and on the need to make it easier for people to get out of their cars. If people remain in their cars, we need to reduce their carbon impact. We need to expand the charging infrastructure for EVs, and we need Government-backed rental schemes and loan schemes to increase take-up.
We also need to decarbonise other areas of transport. In my speech, I pointed to what is happening in Orkney with ferries and air services. That matters. As Graham Simpson reminded us, transport is Scotland’s largest source of emissions. Heathrow is the single biggest producer of emissions, yet the Scottish Government holds a contract with that single biggest polluter that is aimed at adding around 75,000 flights between Scotland and London by 2040. That is not tenable, credible or sustainable, and her Green colleagues and party members should encourage the First Minister to bin the contract ahead of COP26.
We have heard a great deal today about this being our last and best chance, but if we are to take advantage of what Jenny Minto described as a “once-in-a-species opportunity”, we need to move from talk of world-leading legislation to world-leading action. The world is watching, and COP26 must see the Scottish Government, the UK Government and all Governments walk the talk. I commend the amendment in my name.
The motion recognises the disproportionate impact of climate change on the people who are the least responsible for it. As members across the Parliament said, we see that across the world, from coastal erosion in Bangladesh to erratic rainfall and droughts in Malawi. We need to work together.
I was delighted to see the dear green place project launch in
The Scotsman today. It is a Glasgow-inspired partnership story-telling project, which links young people from the countries that are most acutely affected by the climate emergency with journalism students in Scotland and across the UK. The aim is to raise awareness among the public and add to the voices that are calling for climate justice as world leaders arrive in our dear green place for the world’s biggest climate change conference.
This is a vital moment, because we need the leaders who are gathering in Glasgow to make the necessary changes in their countries to keep the target of 1.5°C alive, ensure that it is achieved, and—vitally—deliver on the funding commitments that were made in Paris to support countries in the global south in tackling climate change and its impacts.
In his opening speech, the cabinet secretary talked about the importance of action on a global scale, but he did not really reflect the fact that the annual emissions targets have been missed for three years in a row under the SNP Government.
That is why we are calling on the coalition SNP-Green Government to use the powers that it has, such as planning powers, to realise Scotland’s full potential in the renewable energy sector, create local green jobs in communities throughout Scotland, implement a bold industrial strategy, grow domestic supply chains and take the necessary steps to secure a just transition for Scotland, so that no individual, family or community is left behind as we transition to net zero.
That needs political leadership, as Monica Lennon said. We need bold action on our homes—how they are insulated and heated—and we need to use that action to eradicate fuel poverty. One in four of our households was experiencing fuel poverty in 2019—and that was before this year’s rising costs. We need the community and co-operatively owned heat networks that we know work, and our councils need support and finance from the Scottish Government if they are to deliver them.
There is a huge opportunity to create jobs and provide training, right across society, reaching every community. However, as members said, that requires our Governments to work together, which is something that we do not see happening. The SNP minister will not work with his colleagues in local government in Glasgow to find a solution for the workers who are vital to maintaining a healthy environment in the city. The Conservatives in the UK Parliament have not convened a joint ministerial committee meeting, to bring national and devolved Governments around the table, since 2018. Why has no JMC on the environment and climate issues been set up?
The posturing of members across the chamber will not solve the climate emergency, as several members said. Where is the work on cross border high-speed rail? Where is the new capacity in long-distance freight?
We have called for better, interconnected and affordable public transport and investment in active travel. There is support across the Parliament in that regard. If we are to get modal shift from cars, we need better alternatives. We need to entice people to use different options by making that possible for them.
Discussions with the rail unions have been going down to the wire. It has been embarrassing to watch the Government drag its feet for months when it comes to giving key workers a fair pay deal—and that is against a backdrop of cut services, as Neil Bibby said. We need action. We need more public transport, not less, especially after a pandemic that has led to people using their cars more. Train use is 50 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels and research shows that many people are deterred from using trains because they are worried about enforcement of the face covering requirements and about the ability to distance from other passengers.
Looking forward, passengers could also face hikes of up to 200 quid extra for a season ticket on key commuter routes, when such tickets are already expensive. We need to encourage people to travel by train, and we need to make it possible, with more attractive and affordable services. As a start, let us go for a rail fare freeze. Will the Scottish Government sign up to that?
We also need, as Neil Bibby said, to make bus services more reliable, usable and affordable. In Lothian, we have an example of municipal ownership, which works—the service is award winning. Could we have the same system across the country, and let our councils work together using the powers that were included in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 when we amended it? Let us get the action that we need.
I hope that ministers will reflect on today’s speeches from members on all sides of the chamber, because there is political agreement on the core issues where we can act, on which this Parliament and Government can use the powers that we already have. I hope that we will have the political support to get moving.
In conclusion, I go back to my opening comment about the importance of fairness and a just transition in Scotland, and of our support for the global south next week. We need to act and get the change that is needed.
As people arrive in Glasgow, let us look at the distribution of vaccines as well. Oxfam, Christian Aid and Gavi—the global vaccine alliance—have done a brilliant job in raising awareness of that issue. However, of the 1.8 billion doses that were promised by rich countries, only 14 per cent have been delivered, and at a UK level the delivery has been less than 10 per cent of what was promised.
It is in our collective interest that we work together on that—we need to act. The spirit of COP26 means that we stand together and, as with tackling the climate emergency, getting the virus under control means working together. I hope that the minister, in her closing speech, will commit to act. We need to work together on a climate emergency and Covid recovery—it is in our global collective interest. Let us get the political commitment to work across the chamber to make the change that we need now, not in 20 years’ time when it is too late.
I am delighted to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. As members have said, COP26 is a hugely significant event. It cannot be understated that it is—as has been said—the best, and probably the last, opportunity to reverse the global climate emergency. It is a global crisis and will require global solutions, so—despite the absence of some significant global players—as the UK takes over the presidency of COP, the eyes of the world will look expectantly and hopefully towards Glasgow. Warm words will not cut it, and targets without deliverable outcomes can no longer be acceptable.
The debate has been a bit predictable. The Scottish Government has been keen to avoid talking about its consistent record of failure on climate change targets—a point that was hammered home by that guru of the circular economy, Maurice Golden, in a speech that laid bare those failures. We have heard from members on all sides of the chamber about the degradation of Glasgow under the stewardship of an SNP-led council. The council leader has declared that a wee “spruce up” is all that is required, but anyone who frequents Glasgow cannot fail to be shocked at the speed at which this great city has been allowed to become dirty, litter strewn and rat infested.
“We have … practical, costed policies for a fair and green recovery, nearly all of which we can implement under the current constitutional arrangement. We don’t need to wait for independence”.
She is, of course, right. However, if we roll forward to post-election, and a ministerial car later, we see the same Scottish Government minister do a screeching U-turn and say:
“I don’t see how I can realistically talk about tackling the climate crisis when I don’t have all the powers to do all those things”.
Which is it? Perhaps the minister will enlighten us in closing the debate.
The Scottish Conservatives say that, with COP26 on our doorstep, the time to take definitive action has to be now. We are a small country, so, given the global nature of the crisis, what can we be expected to do? We can lead by example—we can weave climate change and the green economy learnings and qualifications throughout the education system, and immerse them in it, in order to deliver the skills that will be required for the jobs of the future.
Innovation is the key; Fiona Hyslop made that point in her very balanced speech. Education is completely devolved to the Scottish Government, but—as I have said before—we import too much of the technology for wind power and import much of the servicing expertise. The Scottish Government has had years to think about that and sort it out. It was Alex Salmond—I do not know whether members remember him—who declared that Scotland would become the Saudi Arabia of wind. However, the Scottish Government has failed to recognise and act on the economic and environmental opportunities, preferring instead to blame Westminster.
We can demonstrate that transitioning to a green economy does not mean abandoning a growing economy. Progress has been made. Liam Kerr rightly pointed out that Britain has cut emissions by about 44 per cent since 1990, the fastest decline in the G7, while increasing the size of the economy by 78 per cent. The UK is the second-highest performing country in the climate change performance index and the UK is measured as the fourth-greenest country in the world. That is not enough, of course—I have a rare point of agreement with Mark Ruskell on that—and we need to accelerate that transition significantly. However, it does show us that the road that we must travel can support a robust economy.
The change at the scale and pace required will also require significant funding, but Governments will not be able to foot all of that bill. We need a collaboration with the public and private sectors. In so many potential projects, seed funding from the Government will lead to significant private investment. However, the Scottish Government’s record on that is abysmal, but little wonder, given that the Government’s partners in crime, the Greens, are against growth and that the Scottish Government has neglected the private sector for too long. How on earth can we expect the private sector to be an enthusiastic partner of a Government that is so hostile to and distant from private enterprise?
We need to help the transition from an oil and gas economy, especially in transport and heating, which is a step that the oil and gas sector acknowledges and is already taking place. The sector is investing in wind, tidal and hydrogen renewables, among others. We need that sector’s research and development budgets and its innovation; instead, we have a Government minister hell-bent on vilifying the sector at every opportunity. Patrick Harvie’s heat and building strategy requires input from the private sector, a point that was conceded by the cabinet secretary. I look forward to Mr Harvie reporting on his negotiations with the private sector. I asked him a couple of weeks ago when the Scottish Government would be able to give consumers the date for replacing gas boilers with hydrogen boilers and he inadvertently gave away the Scottish Government’s built-in excuse for not hitting the target. He will blame Westminster when the target that he set in a paper that he produced is missed.
Moving transport away from fossil fuels is an essential element of transition. As Graham Simpson pointed out, the Scottish Government has announced a plan to remove by 2023 the 4,400 diesel buses that remain on the road, but it knows that it will not meet that target. Leaving aside the considerable financial investment required, the charging infrastructure and the network capability is not there. At some point, the Scottish Government has to realise that it is outcomes that will tackle the climate emergency, not targets designed to create headlines.
COP26 will come and go, and our hopes are that the world will finally collaborate to get a global grasp of the climate emergency and put significant policies in place—anything less has to be too little. For Scotland’s part, we demand that the Scottish Government does its part and stops setting targets without strategy, which is what has led to it continually failing to meet targets. There are so many people in Glasgow and the rest of the country who COP26 will bypass and the delegates will not see, but they are the very people who we need to take on this journey. Where is the Scottish Government’s consideration of their needs? The smoke and mirrors approach of the Scottish Government will no longer be tolerated. I ask members to agree to the amendment in the name of Liam Kerr.
I thank my parliamentary colleagues for their contributions to the debate. It always warms my Green heart to hear so much passion for and commitment to caring for our planet and being good global citizens. I, too, welcome the world to Glasgow for the COP26 summit and thank those who have contributed to enabling this vital summit to take place. As the motion notes, Glasgow will be
“humanity’s last opportunity to ... deliver on the ambitions set at the Paris Climate summit in 2015” and to limit climate change to within 1.5°C, beyond which the impacts for people, wildlife and our planet would become intolerable.
The climate crisis is intensifying with every day that passes, and we are now witnessing impacts, suffering and loss at a frequent and devastating scale around the world. This is no longer about targets; it is action that we need, because inaction is costing lives. Our response to this crisis and emergency has to be—
I am going to try to get through all my responses to the debate, so I will not take interventions.
Our response to the crisis and emergency has to be commensurate to its size, scale and urgency. Today, I have heard—and will reflect on—many suggestions from across the chamber about how we can do more. I look forward to the chamber’s support as we strive to bring about transformative action at the scale at which we know it is needed.
The cabinet secretary has spoken to the progress that Scotland is now making. I am proud to see Green policies being taken forward in the programme for government and the co-operation agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens. Those policies include warmer, more efficient homes; free bus travel for young people; a massive increase in funding for cycling, walking and wheeling; record investments in marine renewables; and plans to double the size of the onshore wind sector. Those changes are a good start, but I have no doubt that they are not enough.
Monica Lennon is right to note in her amendment that the Scottish Government has not met its climate targets. It is right that we show some humility here, because we have not been getting it completely right and we have not done enough.
I welcome Monica Lennon’s amendment because it talks about “modal shift” in transportation, achieving “Scotland’s full potential” in renewable energy and creating “local green jobs”. I am glad that we share a vision for investing in and growing domestic supply chains and securing a just transition that leaves no individual, family or community behind.
The Scottish Greens will also support Liam McArthur’s amendment, because it covers an area of policy—aviation—that is excluded from the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Government. It is also the Scottish Government’s position that demand for aviation must decline in order that we reach our climate targets.
With respect to Maurice Golden, the UK is not credible on climate. The International Energy Agency says that on-going oil and gas extraction is not compatible with keeping global heating to 1.5°C. Therefore, as long as the UK does not commit to ending oil and gas extraction, it cannot be credible on climate.
I will go through my responses to the other members.
Alasdair Allan and Jenni Minto were right to highlight the very real dangers of sea level rises in Scotland, the cost and damage of which are immense. Every time anyone asks who will pay for preventing climate change, I wonder who will pay the cost of not preventing it.
I welcome Neil Bibby’s comments on public transport, which, along with an increase in active travel, is the key to meeting our target of a 20 per cent reduction in car miles.
I have to keep cracking on.
The co-operation agreement provides funds for councils around Scotland to look at setting up their own bus services.
It might come as a shock to Graham Simpson that councillors and some MSPs from his party have been voting against cycle lanes being installed and, where they have been built, campaigning to get them removed.
No, I will keep going.
Katy Clark was right to highlight that 1.5°C of warming is not safe. It is pretty bad, but it will not bring quite the apocalyptic levels of disruption that we will see at the 3°C of warming that Mark Ruskell described.
Sarah Boyack’s support for community and co-operative heat networks is very welcome, as is her recognition of the jobs that the decarbonisation of our heating will create.
If Brian Whittle is not clear on which powers are reserved to Westminster, I am happy to elaborate, and there is an excellent Wikipedia article on the subject. [
.] It is clear both that we can do more in Scotland and that we could do even more if those powers were devolved.
We have reached a critical moment in time. I sincerely hope that the UK Government can lead the talks to a constructive and productive conclusion in a way that allows all Governments to reconsider their priorities and secure our survival.
I also call on world leaders to take immediate and rapid action on emissions reduction and investment in low-emission and zero carbon technology on a global scale, lest the losses and impact of climate change intensify and become more destructive.
As a global citizen, I am proud of the positive start that we have made with Scotland’s climate justice fund—highlighted by Fiona Hyslop and Collette Stevenson—which will help those in the global south tackle the climate crisis. We recognise the loss and damage that are already occurring as a result of climate change and that those who are suffering most from the changes are those who are least responsible for them.
At home, I look forward to the analysis that will be conducted of Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas production, with a view to assessing the compatibility of current and future field development with the parameters of the Paris agreement.
The impact of climate change will reach every area of our country and culture, so we must act now and prepare ourselves and all aspects of our way of life. Otherwise, the consequences of our inaction will be too awful to bear.
I thank members for today’s debate and for all the points that they raised.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance. During the debate, Sandesh Gulhane intervened on Liam Kerr. He was interrupted by the Deputy Presiding Officer, who told him to hurry up and ask a question.
Mr Kerr was untroubled by the intervention, which seemed perfectly normal to me. Can you advise whether there is now a time limit on interventions and whether they need to end in a question?
The Presiding Officer:
It is a matter for the Presiding Officer who is in the chair at any point to make a ruling on any question that is put to them. I will certainly look into the matter that Mr Simpson has raised, but I have no doubt at all that my Deputy Presiding Officer will have handled it in a manner that they saw fit.