Scotland’s climate week focuses on encouraging climate conversations in order to deepen understanding of the climate emergency and to encourage action across the nation. That is supported by our climate conversations pack and a toolkit to help individuals and organisations to get involved in climate week, which are available on the netzeronation.scot website.
We are encouraging broad participation across Scotland through our social media channels and our participation with the public, private and third sectors, including enterprise agencies, local authorities and the community network. The Scottish Government is also delivering three public events, which sit alongside a ministerial engagement programme and a series of announcements.
This week, Zoe and her mule, Falco, have arrived in Lanarkshire as part of the walk for earth—a journey that is taking them from Oxford to Loch Lomond in support of the Stop Ecocide International campaign. Along the way, Zoe has been having many conversations with well-wishers, who have voiced their strong support for ecocide law. That is particularly poignant during Scotland’s climate week, given the role of the late Polly Higgins—who was a Scottish barrister, author and environmentalist—in spearheading the ecocide law campaign. What will the Scottish Government do to ensure that Scotland plays a key role in the movement for ecocide law?
First, I record my thanks for the work of Zoe and Falco in bringing attention, through their walk, to a very important issue. Members will appreciate that in Scots law we have, at present, very robust protections for animals and habitats. We have also made clear our commitment to looking at how we can add to that through a new natural environment bill and our biodiversity strategy.
I am aware of the growing international campaign to see a fifth crime being added to the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, with a view to making provision for ecocide. We are very closely monitoring developments on that and the impact that it might have on Scots law.
I am keen to make sure that, in Scotland, we are doing everything that we can to play our part at both domestic and international levels to support tackling the issue of ecocide. I am more than happy to engage with colleagues from across the chamber on how we can develop that further.
The director of Stop Ecocide International, Jojo Mehta, has said that one of the most important steps that national Governments can take is to publicly express their support for an amendment to the Rome statute to add ecocide as a fifth crime against peace. It has already been discussed at parliamentary and governmental levels in 23 countries. Will the cabinet secretary and his colleagues work with me and with Stop Ecocide International to explore further how we can include ecocide law in Scotland’s response to the climate and nature emergencies?
We all have a collective responsibility to make sure that we protect our natural environment—not just for this generation but for generations to come. We should leave no stone unturned in seeking to do so, by ensuring that we have in place the necessary robust legislative provisions through which to achieve that. I am more than happy to accept the invitation from Ms Lennon to engage with her and other stakeholders on the issue of ecocide, and to ensure that Scotland is playing its part by helping to support not just what we do here locally, but what we do at national and international levels to tackle the increasing challenges of biodiversity loss and nature loss right across the globe.
Climate change and the destruction of nature are twin emergencies that need to be treated with equal urgency. What is the Scottish Government’s assessment of the United Kingdom Government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and the impact that it could have on environmental standards here in Scotland?
We are deeply concerned and are fundamentally opposed to the UK Government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill as it is currently drafted. Retained European Union law provides Scotland with very robust standards on environmental regulations in a wide range of areas. Our concern is that the bill seeks, in effect, to remove 40 years of protection, in what can only be described as an ideological drive towards deregulation and a race to the bottom.
The bill could undermine polluting substances controls that ensure that standards of water and air are maintained, and ensure protection of natural habitats and wildlife, which we have just touched on. That is why we are fundamentally opposed to the UK Government’s bill.
To add insult to that, the UK Government also intends to use the bill to take powers to legislate in areas that are within the competence of this Parliament, without our consent and without consulting us. That is unacceptable.
I believe that the bill could undermine both our environmental and natural environment protections.
Scotland’s biodiversity and natural capital form vital parts of Scotland’s climate response. The
Sunday Post reported at the weekend that NatureScot had withdrawn its objections to a controversial wind farm application in the Highlands—apparently because the development of so many other wind turbines in the area means that it can no longer be categorised as wilderness. How does the cabinet secretary envisage ensuring that, in the drive towards renewables, the Government does not inadvertently compromise our biodiversity and natural capital, which are, of course, integral parts of the climate emergency and, thus, of climate week?
I cannot comment on individual applications for energy consents, because they come to me for ministerial consent. However, I can say that, as a Government, we are absolutely determined to do everything that we can to ensure that we play our part in tackling climate change through decarbonising our energy systems and investing in renewables, with all the economic, social and environmental benefits that come from doing that.
Ways in which we would not help our environment include expansion of nuclear power provision, with the potential risks that it poses, and extension of fracking, which the UK Government has chosen to do and which will have a very negative impact on biodiversity and natural life.