COP27 Outcomes

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th December 2022.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-07093, in the name of Màiri McAllan, on outcomes from the 27th United Nations climate change conference of the parties. Members who wish to speak in the debate should press their request-to-speak button. I call the cabinet secretary, Michael Matheson, to speak to and move the motion.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Today’s debate addresses one of the most important challenges facing not only Scotland but the international community. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a stark picture of the damage that human beings are causing to the planet. The report said that climate change is already causing widespread disruption in every region of the world and that 1.1°C of warming is resulting in droughts, extreme heat and record floods.

There are estimates that, in the next decade, climate change will drive between 32 million and 132 million more people into extreme poverty. Global warming will jeopardise food security as well as increasing heat-related mortality and other serious issues. We are on a journey where the risks will escalate quickly, with higher temperatures and climate change having often irreversible impacts. Inequity, conflict and development challenges heighten vulnerability to climate risk while climate change also increases the risk of conflict and exacerbates existing inequality. Although we are all vulnerable, it is clear that those who have contributed the least to climate change are suffering the worst of its impacts.

In Scotland, we have taken urgent action. Our target, which was set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 and voted for overwhelmingly in this chamber, is to reach net zero by 2045. We have known from the start that achieving that level of ambition will not be easy and that meeting the target will require a whole-society effort, but we also know that the cost of inaction greatly outweighs the cost of acting. We must do all we can now, for the sake of generations to come.

There are no easy options left. To avoid catastrophic impacts, we must now take the difficult decisions that are needed for Scotland to do its part in protecting the Scottish people and acting in solidarity with those across the world who face loss and damage caused by climate change.

The transition to net zero is not only an environmental imperative but an economic opportunity, in which Scotland can become world leading and can secure first-mover advantage in key areas. ScotWind, for example, represents the world’s largest commercial round for floating offshore wind. We are embracing the opportunities that are presented by net zero technologies such as renewable energy and the hydrogen economy, prioritising our world-renowned natural capital and building a sustainable and inclusive economy that is resilient to future shocks.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

When I speak to businesses, they say that the public support from Governments—both Scotland’s Governments—is difficult to access. What can the Scottish Government do to ensure that the available investment reaches the companies that can push that new technology forward?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

That depends on the type of technology and the area in which those companies are working. For example, support with inward investment opportunities could come through Scottish Development International or from Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise or South of Scotland Enterprise. The answer depends on whether we are talking about an inward investment opportunity or an expansion opportunity. There are relevant bodies that can provide companies with support to expand their work in those areas. If the member has specific examples that he would like to share with me, I am more than happy to take that information away and to ensure that he gets a more detailed response.

However, we cannot meet the climate crisis alone. It is a global challenge that requires us to work together as a global community with a shared sense of urgency. The two annual United Nations conferences of the parties—COP27, on climate, which was held last month in Egypt, and COP15, the 15th conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which will start tomorrow in Montreal—are key moments for the international community to come together to build consensus, commit to taking action and, importantly, hold one another to account.

Over 100 heads of state and Governments and 35,000 participants attended COP27 and negotiations finished two days later than planned, making the international gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh one of the longest and largest COPs that has been held. The agenda was packed with opportunities to strengthen and deepen relationships in order to tackle climate change and for the wider benefit of Scotland.

During COP27, the First Minister and the Minister for Environment and Land Reform held bilateral meetings with a significant number of different parties including ministers from across the world and other key stakeholders. Additionally, building on our work at COP26 in Glasgow, we committed to providing a platform for the voices of those who are traditionally underrepresented at COP events. In order to take that further forward, the minister and the First Minister met a range of representatives from youth organisations and civil organisations, particularly from the global south.

There was huge interest in Scotland’s transition to renewables, particularly in relation to offshore wind and green hydrogen—spaces in which Scotland is seen as a world leader. We shared our pioneering model for a just transition. We also used COP to urge our partners to prioritise as far as possible an approach to energy security that focuses on sustainability, with measures to promote energy efficiency and to accelerate the development of renewable and low-carbon energy.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I ask the member to allow me to make a little more progress first.

What did COP27 achieve? It has seen the clearest acknowledgement to date that the people who are least responsible for global warming are often the ones who are suffering its worst consequences. It is fundamentally a matter of human rights. That recognition led to a watershed agreement at COP27 to establish a global fund for loss and damage to provide financial assistance to developing countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Questions about who will pay into the fund and who will be able to draw from it still have to be answered, and it is clear that much remains to be resolved. Despite that, however, the agreement alone is a hugely important achievement after 30 years of lobbying by leaders from the countries and communities that are worst impacted by climate change. It is those leaders’ tenacity and resolve that lie behind the breakthrough. Particular recognition must go to Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, whom the First Minister met at COP, for her ability to bring parties together on the issue and for putting forward a meaningful proposal on behalf of the G77 and China negotiating group.

Last year, the Scottish Government became the first global north Government to announce funding to address loss and damage, and we have now increased our commitment to £7 million. As one of the first movers, our action has helped to catalyse a total of over $300 million in international pledges, which demonstrates the progress that has been made in just one year.

We also helped to keep the focus on the practicalities of funding for loss and damage, for which we set the scene at our October loss and damage conference, which focused on practical action. The report from that conference was referenced throughout COP and used to inform the negotiations. How to fund loss and damage in a way that meets the needs of the most vulnerable communities will be debated over the next year and beyond as negotiators seek to put the COP27 loss and damage agreement into practice.

However, alongside that success, it is deeply disappointing that the recognition of loss and damage has not been matched by greater action in preventing a worsening of the climate crisis. Keeping 1.5 alive and delivering the fastest possible transition away from fossil fuels are key to preventing greater loss and damage in the future. It is simply not good enough that countries have failed to make progress on that agenda and that there has been such a strong pushback on the action that we all know is needed if 1.5° is to remain truly within our reach.

I give way to Monica Lennon.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I am grateful to the cabinet secretary, because he is making some very important points.

I want to bring the debate back to the topic of the just transition, because that is an important issue. In the closing preliminary session of COP27, there was considerable support from the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union for the phasing out of fossil fuels. However, here in Scotland, the cabinet secretary will be aware that Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has asked for further clarity from the Scottish Government about its policy on fossil fuels, including a target date for phase-out and measures to ensure a just transition in its forthcoming energy strategy. Is the minister meeting the coalition to discuss those points and to make such commitments?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Monica Lennon has raised an important point. We have set out clearly our position that the continued and unabated extraction of fossil fuels is not compatible with achieving the principles of the Paris agreement. It is important that we take forward measures that retain those key principles.

I assure Monica Lennon that when, in the coming weeks, we publish our energy strategy and just transition plan, we will set out very clearly how we intend to take that forward here in Scotland. However, she will also recognise that the key powers to make decisions on such matters remain reserved to the Government in London, which is why, in order to make further progress on those matters, we need to have those powers here in the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I will give way to Liam Kerr, although I am keen to finish within the timescale.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am genuinely grateful to the cabinet secretary. At the weekend, I read that the possible future Scottish National Party leader in Westminster, Stephen Flynn, had described Nicola Sturgeon’s opposition to new North Sea oil and gas fields as “crazy”. Does the cabinet secretary agree with Stephen Flynn or with Nicola Sturgeon?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I have not seen such a quote from Stephen Flynn. If he said that, he is entitled to his view. However, I am sure that Liam Kerr is wise enough to recognise that he should not necessarily believe everything that he reads in the newspapers.

It is vital that countries recommit themselves to doing everything that they can to keep 1.5 alive and, ahead of COP28, to build a coalition that protects and drives progress against any further pushback.

The COP27 cover decision included mention for the first time of nature-based solutions, but there was little other recognition of the need to tackle together the twin crises of climate and nature. We need nature to mitigate the effects of climate change, and nature needs us to manage climate change in order to avoid its collapse. That has to be reflected in the outcomes of both the climate and the biodiversity COPs. COP15 begins tomorrow in Montreal, and it is vital that nations reach an ambitious global agreement on the protection and restoration of nature.

I have highlighted the fact that, although we have made progress, there is still much more to do. We need to work collectively to meet the international climate change challenge. The Scottish Government will now turn its attention to making good on the opportunities that COP27 has provided—as will the global community.

Although much remains to be decided about the how and the who of the funding of the loss and damage fund, its establishment was a genuine success and a rare positive news story. Nevertheless, COP27 came to a close with too many of the big decisions being deferred to a later date.

The goal of limiting change to 1.5° remains worryingly distant. We know that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. That is why Scotland has committed further funding to strengthening women’s participation in climate change policy and decision making. However, given that the negotiations on gender closed without any resolution, we are still no closer to addressing one of the fundamental inequalities of the climate crisis.

COP27 should energise our ambition at home and abroad. I look forward to hearing the contributions from across the chamber. I move the motion in Màiri McAllan’s name. I move,

That the Parliament notes the outcome of COP27; recognises the ground-breaking global agreement to give formal recognition to the fact of loss and damage as a result of the climate crisis and to establish a fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alongside other financial mechanisms, to provide support to those countries suffering loss and damage; commends the commitment of the Global South and campaigners over 30 years in arguing for such a fund; notes that the agreement at COP27 follows the commitment by the Scottish Government at COP26 of £2 million for loss and damage, making Scotland the first developed nation to recognise its obligations in this area; is disappointed that COP27 was unable to build on the progress made in Glasgow towards keeping 1.5 degrees alive, and failed to extend the language of the Glasgow pact on a phasedown of unabated coal-use to include other fossil fuels, despite support from the EU, USA, UK and others for doing so, and calls for a coalition of action to be built ahead of COP28 to secure greater progress in global efforts to tackle the climate crisis; welcomes the focus on human rights during COP27 and urges the Egyptian government to take firm action to ensure that human rights in Egypt are fully respected, protected and fulfilled; notes that COP15, the biodiversity COP, begins on 7 December 2022 in Montreal and that it is vitally important that nations reach an ambitious global agreement on the protection and restoration of nature, including reaching agreement on protecting 30% of land and seas by 2030, and welcomes the conclusion of the Edinburgh Process, which collated views from over 400 subnational governments, cities and local authorities, and resulted in nearly 300 signatories to the Edinburgh Declaration committed to take action for biodiversity.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I invite Liam Kerr to speak to and move amendment S6M-07093.2.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

To pick up from where the cabinet secretary left off, there is no doubt that COP27 did not have the groundbreaking commitments of COP26, but that is not to say that it was not a success, because it closed with what was described as a “breakthrough agreement”—the Sharm el-Sheik implementation plan, in which nations reaffirmed their commitment to keep 1.5 alive and strengthened their resolve to cut emissions and boost support for finance, technology and capacity building in developing countries.

The UK showed further leadership at COP27: it announced more than £100 million to support developing countries that are dealing with climate change impacts; it tripled funding for adaptation projects to £1.5 billion by 2025; and it committed £11.6 billion in international climate change funding.

COP27 was never going to match COP26. Indeed, Professor Peter Thorne, one of the lead authors of the UN report that warned of a code red for humanity, said that COP27 was always going to be more of a “technical” summit, as

“These COPs have a natural rhythm, and it is only every four to six years ... where major progress is expected ... Intervening COPs achieve much less tangible progress.”

However, what is crucial at any COP is that agreements and announcements are credible and deliverable. The motion rightly lauds the agreement between the parties to establish a loss and damage fund. As the cabinet secretary flagged, the First Minister tried to pre-empt that by suggesting that Scotland would put £5 million into its own loss and damage fund, yet when I asked Minister McAllan a few weeks ago what the eligibility criteria, the application process and the defined outcomes were, she replied that the Government was still designing the fund. Later, in responding to my written question, she confirmed that decisions on how the £5 million of loss and damage funding will be allocated are yet to be taken. In addition, it turns out that the £2 million scheme that the Scottish Government announced at COP26, which is mentioned in the motion, has not even been fully allocated yet. It is almost as though it is easier to produce soundbites than it is to produce hard data and action.

On which note, although it is absolutely right for the cabinet secretary to mention COP15, some might feel that it is brave for the Government to demand action on the protection of the seas in its motion when, last month, the Government told me that it would not respond to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report on regional marine planning—a report that was published in December 2020—until early in 2023. We should not forget, as the cabinet secretary flagged, that we are talking about a Government that, in 2018, put more than 200 policies and proposals into a climate change plan to achieve net zero by 2045, which it updated in 2020, but the cabinet secretary forgot to mention that, when I asked earlier this year how much it would cost to achieve, he told me that the Government did not yet know.

What the COPs show us is that we must strive towards accurate data. We cannot allow differing political visions or dogma to misinform the public, as that risks eroding trust. When Mark Ruskell, as an MSP in a party of Government, criticises the COP27 agreement for lacking any phase-out or even a phase-down of all fossil fuels, or Màiri McAllan says that the Scottish Government does not agree with the UK Government issuing new oil and gas licences, they must go on to address the fact that Britain’s electricity mix over the past four weeks—we should remember that that is the power that keeps us heated, keeps our lights on, charges our electric vehicles and keeps our cookers working—was: gas, 44.8 per cent; wind, 23.7 per cent; nuclear, 14.1 per cent; and solar, hydro and biomass, 10.2 per cent.

We already know that the Scottish Government will not allow any new nuclear plants to be built in Scotland and we also know, from the quotations that I have given and the text of the motion, that the SNP and the Greens want to stop North Sea gas production. However, it is blindingly obvious that there is no way that renewables can replace those energy sources any time soon, in which case, the Government is basically proposing to satisfy our gas needs by importing from places such as Qatar, which has two to three times the carbon emissions of the gas that is pulled up from the North Sea, even before the innovation and targeted oil and gas—INTOG—leasing round happens.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

On the member’s point about the production of renewable energy, by the same token, it would be very difficult and would take us considerable time to increase North Sea oil and gas production, because that does not happen overnight. I am not sure that it is totally accurate to say that we want to stop production. My understanding is that we are seeking a gradual decline.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The member’s intervention rather contradicts the quotes that I gave earlier. However, the point is that we all went to see a just transition, because the cost to the up to 100,000 workers in or connected with the oil and gas industry, around 70,000 of whom are located in Scotland, would be considerable if we were to stop production right now. We all agree that there needs to be a just transition, as is mentioned in the Labour amendment, but that requires us to work with our North Sea industries and not against them.

Without the following—BP putting around £12 billion by 2030 into offshore wind, hydrogen, EV charge points and carbon capture; TotalEnergies ploughing more than half its research and development budget into pioneering new energies and reducing environmental footprint; Shell investing between £15 billion and £20 billion into low and zero-carbon products and services; and Neptune Energy achieving gold status under the UN environmental programme for its plans to reduce methane emissions—that transition simply will not happen.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I know that Liam Kerr takes the climate emergency very seriously, but we must make real the aspiration for a just transition. If the Rosebank oilfield goes ahead, how will that help a just transition?

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

T he member is right—I do take the climate emergency very seriously indeed, as I know does she, which is why she will be interested to know that we must set Rosebank in the context of the bigger picture and the transition that she rightly talks about.

I go back to the point about where we get our supply from, and about the need to keep it domestic. Rosebank is projected to be worth more than £8 billion to the domestic UK economy over its lifetime, and there are wider economic benefits that will be worth more than £24 billion. At its peak, it will create 1,600 UK-based jobs. I know that the member is concerned about Rosebank, but we should not forget that Rosebank’s production emissions will be significantly lower than those arising from imports of liquefied natural gas from across the world, from places such as Qatar, which I mentioned earlier.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Will I have time at the end, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You will have a wee bit of time.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

In that case, I will take the intervention if the member is very quick.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

One of the issues that I have with the debate about oil and gas is that we talk about how we can lower the emissions that are involved in producing and extracting it, but there is a fundamental difference between that and what oil and gas is used for. We need to stop burning oil and gas. The real elephant in the room is not the production of oil and gas but the burning of it.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

T hat is a fair and well-made point, and it relates to how we present data and put information into the public realm, which is key. The First Minister needs to not blithely say, when speaking about this area, that, under the SNP Government, our net energy consumption is already provided by renewable energy sources. Anyone who knows—or has bothered to inform themselves—about the UK’s energy mix can say that that is demonstrably and evidentially false. Claims should not be made that Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind potential, when ministers have known for years that that was not, and never had been, accurate. That is particularly egregious, given that ministers Sturgeon, Swinney, Todd, Macpherson, Robertson, Slater and Matheson have all put that out knowingly. Even SNP members of Parliament, such as Cowan, Hendry, Blackford and Oswald, have trotted it out. That includes an MP who has thrown out that unevidenced, underresearched, misleading data not once, not twice, but five times in a public forum, including the Houses of Parliament: putative new leader Stephen Flynn MP.

There is so much more to say on COP27, but time is short. My colleagues will seek to address other aspects of the motion and the amendments.

Perhaps COP27 was not as monumental as the UK-led COP26 but, as we have heard from the UN itself, that was to be expected. As with all COPs, what it shows is that the climate emergency does not recognise borders. It is a global issue that will be addressed only by global action in which we all work together. Indeed, the UN said that COP27 would be held with an

“appreciation of the value of multilateral, collective and concerted action as the only means to address this truly global threat.”

In a rare moment of accuracy, on Saturday, Patrick Harvie was quoted as saying:

“The whole world is behind the curve on climate.”

Unusually, he is right. The solution must therefore be to recognise what has been achieved, to ensure that Governments strive to use accurate, evidenced data, to avoid putting up borders, which only divide our collective efforts, and to work together to keep 1.5 alive.

I move amendment S6M-07093.2, to leave out from “, and failed” to “Egypt” and insert:

“; recognises that the Scottish Government has failed to meet a host of climate change targets and is on track to miss future targets; acknowledges that the ethos of COP27 was around working together and collaboratively across borders, and sees, therefore, that working with the UK Government as part of the UK is the best way to move Scotland towards net zero and meet future targets; calls for a coalition of action to be built ahead of COP28 to secure greater progress in global efforts to tackle the climate crisis; welcomes the focus on human rights during COP27 and urges all governments to take firm action to ensure that human rights across the world”.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

Despite COP27 having taken some modest steps forward on loss and damage support for countries that are vulnerable to climate change, we did not see the transformative leap that we urgently needed. The UN tells us that the new pledges agreed in Egypt will take just 1 per cent off global emissions in 2030. Far from keeping 1.5 alive, we are heading for a catastrophic 2.8°. Our planet is hotter than it has been for 125,000 years, yet our leaders are fiddling while the world burns. Despite the admirable efforts of COP26 president Alok Sharma, there was little leadership from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose most memorable act was to eventually decide to turn up.

Just as we needed leadership abroad at COP27, we need leadership here at home more than ever. Whether it is because of the devastating floods in Pakistan or Britain’s first 40° days, the accelerating climate crisis affects every one of us, abroad and here at home. I have no doubt that the Scottish Government has chosen to have the debate before tomorrow, when the Climate Change Committee will publish its assessment of our progress towards net zero here in Scotland. That tells its own story about what the Government knows that that report card is likely to say—it is likely to be a combination of fails and “could do better”.

Let us take the three big emitters, starting with the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Transport is responsible for a third of our emissions, with levels barely below those of 1990. We met our emissions target in 2020 only because the pandemic prevented us all from travelling, yet as we face the post-pandemic rebound back to car use, the Scottish Government’s response has been to axe 240 train services per day, which makes a total of 90,000 per year. It has also still not given councils the powers that I secured in the bill that became the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 and, more importantly, the resources that councils need to set up and run their own local bus services at a time when our bus service network is being dismantled route by route and bus fares are rising and rising. Bus passenger numbers have fallen by 25 per cent since 2007-08, which means 121 million fewer passenger journeys. Fares have risen by nearly 19 per cent in the past five years alone.

On electric vehicles, the Climate Change Committee estimates that we will need at least 30,000 public charging points in Scotland by 2030, yet the Scottish Government’s own target is just over 4,000 in the next few years. Where is the leadership on transport at home?

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Does Mr Smyth agree with me that the drag on producing electric vehicle charging points is preventing us from moving to the use of such vehicles?

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I absolutely agree with that. Recently, the BBC’s “Dispatches” programme showed that a quarter of our existing charging points do not work. There is no incentive there for many communities—particularly those in rural areas—to move towards using electric vehicles.

What about heating in buildings? How does the Scottish Government’s decision to cut the energy efficiency budget by £133 million, instead of tackling why the poorly designed schemes are not being utilised, show leadership? We have a shameful level of fuel poverty in Scotland, but we know that properly insulating our homes not only cuts fuel bills but cuts fuel use and therefore our emissions.

On the third big emitter, which is agriculture and land, it seems that progress still does not go far enough. It is six years since the EU referendum, and the clock is ticking on the end of the transition period when it comes to meeting our climate commitments. The only clock that seems to have stopped since 2016 has been the Government’s clock with regard to laying out what post-Brexit agricultural support will look like. We have had dither and delay, but we have not had the detail, direction or support that our farmers and crofters need to properly plan and make the necessary changes. That is not climate leadership.

Even in those areas where we have made good progress on cutting emissions in energy production—I recognise the significant progress that has been made on renewable energy—we have failed to show the leadership that is needed to deliver the jobs-led just transition that we need. The Scottish Government’s 2010 “Low Carbon Scotland” economic strategy promised 130,000 renewable jobs by 2020, and we were told that Scotland would be the “Saudi Arabia of renewables”. However, the Fraser of Allander Institute’s recent report has estimated that the number of renewable jobs that have been created is 27,000—only one fifth of that figure.

When we consider which sectors can tackle Scotland’s woeful economic growth and create a green, fairer country with good, secure jobs wherever in the country people live, we see that all roads lead to renewables. Net zero targets are not a barrier to economic growth, but the path towards it.

The long-term answer to the energy bills crisis and the climate crisis, and to delivering jobs growth, is not a dash for gas but a sprint for home-grown clean energy. However, we need not only to keep speeding up the race for renewables—for example, by properly resourcing Marine Scotland and our councils’ planning departments so that the consent process recognises that urgency—but to spread the benefits. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, which have meant that none of the wind turbines that are carpeting much of our countryside are even manufactured in Scotland. We need a proper industrial strategy with clear targets: 100 per cent clean energy; 12GW of additional onshore wind by 2030; 11GW of offshore wind; and between 4GW and 6GW of solar capacity.

We need a clear route and timeline for a steady stream of work to give supply chain companies the confidence to invest, with the backing of Government investment, in Scottish ports, skills and factories so that those supply chain jobs come to Scottish firms. That is why Labour has consistently called for every penny that is raised from the ScotWind leasing round to be ring fenced for a renewables fund to invest in making our supply chains ready to deliver.

The Scottish Government has offshored Scotland’s wind on the cheap; we cannot afford to offshore the jobs as well, and we should not be offshoring the profits to largely overseas-owned multinationals. That is why Labour also supports the establishment of a publicly owned energy firm to invest in technology and jobs of the future. It is what Labour in Wales is doing; it is what the next UK Labour Government will do; and it is what the SNP and the Greens used to want to do but are no longer supporting.

The lack of world leadership at COP27 should make us all even more determined to show more leadership here at home. We have ambitious targets to cut emissions by three quarters by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2045, but those targets will be meaningless if they are missed. Labour will support the Government’s motion, but my amendment urges Parliament to show leadership and to recognise that we do not yet have a plan, and that urgent action is needed to enable us to properly play our part in preventing the climate crisis from becoming a climate catastrophe.

I move amendment S6M-07093.1, to insert at end:

“; notes that the Scottish Government has repeatedly not met its own annual target for emissions; agrees that it is important for Scotland to lead by example through action and delivery, 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, including consideration of establishing a publicly-owned energy company, to improve public transport, including by providing adequate funding for councils to establish municipal bus companies, to implement a bold industrial strategy to grow domestic supply chains and create local green jobs in communities across Scotland, and to take all necessary steps to secure a just transition to net zero.”

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

I am pleased to speak for the Scottish Liberal Democrats in this important debate, and I thank Màiri McAllan and the Scottish Government for securing time for it in the chamber.

In referring to the environment, the late South African bishop and theologian Desmond Tutu once said:

“Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.”

In 2022, the year in which he passed, those words ring very true. It should go without saying that the climate crisis is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time, so it is right that leaders from around the world come together through COP to put the collective shoulder to the wheel.

To be sure, as other members have noted, there is much to be praised in the outcome of the latest conference. That includes plans to cut global methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and the establishment of a global loss and damage fund to support the countries that are set to be worst affected by climate change—we have heard much about that in the debate so far.

However, the promised actions still fall short of what is needed if we are to effectively combat the global climate challenge. As the Scottish Government’s motion rightly notes, it is disappointing that agreement could not be reached on extending promises on the phasing down of coal use. That in itself was an unhappy compromise at the last COP of the ideal of the phasing out of coal and other fossil fuel types.

Calls for cutting back on fossil fuel use have of course been hindered by events in the world around us, and particularly by the conflict in Ukraine, although that only underlines the need to move away from our dependence on oil and gas—our energy security depends on that. It now seems increasingly likely that the dream of keeping 1.5 alive is, sadly, dead on arrival; estimates indicate that to achieve that, we would need to halve global emissions by 2030, which is well beyond the aspirations of the largest emitting nations, and beyond the practical reality of many others besides.

However, that does not mean that all hope is lost or that we should give up now. Every fraction of a degree of warming that we can avoid results in a better outcome for humanity and our planet. Before COP began, I said that Scotland needed new hope when it comes to tackling the climate emergency. We need decisive and tangible actions—not just promises, but radical credible policies that will drive down Scotland’s emissions.

It must be said that there is much to welcome in the attitude of the Scottish Government and Parliament to climate policy, and the reach of their ambitions. We should be proud of the ambitious target to reduce emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 that was passed into law through the work in part of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. I welcome the attention that is already given to areas such as biodiversity, renewables, energy production and heating, but there remains a considerable value-action gap between the Scottish Government’s rhetoric, the promises that have been made and its world-leading targets, and the reality of its actions.

Scotland met its emissions reductions for the first and, so far, only time in 2020, in the context of a national lockdown when everybody was at home, leaving the distinct impression that Covid has done more to curb emissions than the Scottish Government has managed so far. Last year, the Climate Change Committee assessed that most of the key policy levers are now in the hands of the Scottish Government but that promises have not yet turned to action. The committee’s latest Scottish progress report comes out tomorrow, and I fear that the review will not be much improved.

The Government’s aims for retrofitting buildings are admirable and could, in theory, drive down emissions while improving ordinary people’s quality of life, stimulate the economy and create new work opportunities, but there is still no answer to the question of how Scotland is to meet the £31 billion gap between the heat and buildings strategy’s expected cost and the promised funding. It may be unsurprising, then, that the retrofitting roll-out has so far been woeful. Scottish Liberal Democrat research indicates that, at the current rate, insulating the homes of Scotland’s fuel-poor households alone could take 300 years.

The ScotWind offshore leasing deals, as Colin Smyth rightly mentioned, were heralded by the Scottish Government as revolutionising Scotland’s energy sector, but they have resulted in Scotland’s natural resources being sold off on the cheap while underdelivering on supply chain promises. With no phasing, there will be insufficient capacity in the Scottish sector to deliver on those projects, and the Scottish Government should not have applied the cap, as we have previously discussed. Meanwhile, even though we know that it will add some 600,000 tonnes of CO2 to Scotland’s carbon footprint, the Scottish Government continues to doggedly support the Heathrow airport expansion deal.

All that leaves the inescapable feeling that the environmentalism of the SNP-Green Government is half-hearted, distracted and comes a distant second to its goal of driving forward with independence. More than ever, we need to urgently address Scotland’s role in climate change. If we are to meaningfully achieve a just transition, this moment calls for focused attention and dramatic action, not promises and platitudes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the open debate.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Can you clarify whether we are able to intervene on remote speakers and how we do so?

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Mr Mason, I was as intrigued as you were about why there did not appear to be anything flashing on Mr Cole-Hamilton’s screen. Members should be able to make interventions on remote speakers. I do not think that the system has functioned as it should have done in this instance, but we will have to investigate that further. I thank you for your point of order.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Further to your comments, is it being checked that, if anyone else is joining remotely, we can intervene if we seek to do so and that they will be aware that someone in the chamber is trying to intervene?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That is what we are checking. I am not aware of other colleagues intending to participate remotely. However, for this debate and future business, the Parliament will want to ensure that the system is working as it is intended to work.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

It hardly seems to be a year since Glasgow played host to the COP26 climate conference and welcomed world leaders, environmentalists, young people and many others who were invested in protecting our climate and our planet. In April, the IPCC warned that is “now or never” to limit global warming.

The successes at COP26 included the signing of the Glasgow climate pact and the development of the Paris agreement rule book to provide guidance on how the Paris agreement is delivered.

Twelve months on, Egypt has just hosted COP27 in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Against the difficult backdrop of an unprecedented cost of living and energy crisis and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, COP27 restated the global commitment to tackling climate change. The progress included a focus on food security for the first time, which highlighted the importance of safeguarding food supply. Only this morning, the National Farmers Union stated that the UK is walking into a food supply crisis under a perfect storm of low yields, supply challenges and soaring energy costs bearing down on farmers across the UK. There was a renewed focus on finance, and on mobilising private finance as a key aspect of global action. However, the most important breakthrough focused on climate impacts. It was recognised that climate change is already adversely affecting many countries and threatens increasing damage and destruction with every additional increment of warming.

Many have seen COP27 as the COP that will go down in history as the UN climate change conference in which the breakthrough loss and damage fund was agreed. As the First Minister outlined in her speech at a loss and damage panel:

“the nations that suffer the worst loss and damage ... continue to be ... those nations that have done least—in some cases, virtually nothing—to cause the problem of climate change in the first place.”

The loss and damage fund will assist climate-vulnerable countries to address impacts that cannot be or have not been adapted to. That important breakthrough demonstrates real progress, but it is only the beginning of a difficult process. Key agreements are still needed on which countries will contribute to the fund, how much each country will pay, and which countries will be able to benefit.

COP27 made it clear that discussions on support must run parallel with dialogue on how to mitigate the impact of, and protect against, climate change through adaptations. Therefore, there is much work to do.

The Climate Change Committee report entitled “COP27: Key outcomes and next steps for the UK” sets out the economic damage, such as destruction of property, and the non-economic damage, such as loss of cultural heritage, that are already affecting communities, ecosystems and businesses. There have been the devastating floods in Pakistan and Nigeria and the drought-induced famines in Somalia. Who could not avoid the intense heatwaves in Europe in the summer? Those are all testament to the impact that is already bearing down on all of us.

What can a small nation such as Scotland realistically achieve in the context of a global climate crisis? I am delighted that Scotland was the first nation to pledge financial support to address loss and damage, and I am aware that Scotland saw huge interest in our renewable sector at COP27.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The £5 million loss and damage fund is worth only a quarter of the £20 million that is earmarked for independence. Does the member understand why people might feel that the Scottish Government has the wrong priorities?

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

That is a discussion for a different day—I am concentrating on COP27.

At home, our ambitious net zero targets mean that we all face hard choices in relation to how we travel, heat our homes and source our food. It is right that our focus is now on renewable energy and emerging green technologies. Wind power is already the cheapest form of power in our energy mix. Our expertise in oil and gas is an opportunity to deliver our just transition, not just because that is an environmental imperative but because it offers a significant economic opportunity.

In my constituency, the just transition is everywhere—it is a pivotal part of our local economy, landscape and future prosperity. Frustratingly for the north-east, however, the UK Government’s questionable decision making and woeful political instability is hugely detrimental to the north-east. Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce recently reported that half of the companies surveyed for its latest energy transition report said that

“the current political and regulatory environment is a barrier to diversification”.

The uncertainty over the Acorn carbon capture, usage and storage project and the lack of commitment shown to such a vital project by the UK Government is just one example of those barriers.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

Do I have time to take an intervention, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I can give you the time back, Ms Nicoll.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I just wanted to flag up the fact that meeting our commitments under the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 is dependent on the implementation of CCUS. As a country, we will not reach our targets until the UK Government acts on Acorn and the Scottish cluster.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

The member raises a hugely important point. I have read a little bit about CCUS because of its relevance to my constituency, so I know that the only body that is dragging its feet on the issue is the UK Government, which is essentially dimming the lights on our local energy industry.

Given the £400 billion or so of tax revenue that has flowed from Scotland to the UK Treasury over many decades, I urge the Scottish Government to press the UK Government to honour its commitment to Scotland’s just transition and to tackling global climate change.

I am immensely proud of Scotland’s ambition, leadership and commitment to COP27, the global south and tackling global climate change. I look forward to monitoring progress and to playing my part, in my constituency and beyond, to ensure that Scotland becomes greener, cleaner and net zero.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We are now pretty much out of time so any interventions will have to be within the allocation for members’ speeches.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I have taken part in debates on COP26 and COP27, looking back and looking forward. After COP26, it looked as though 1.5 might still be alive: more than 100 countries signed a pledge to halt and reverse deforestation; at least 40 countries agreed to stop using coal; and leaders signed a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.??I guess that there was some hope. We could look at the positives.

However, I have to be honest: these COP events look to me like junkets for world leaders and for people like Susan Aitken, and they do not appear to change anything. After COP27, I am not filled with hope.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative


As the Climate Change Committee notes, while the summit restated the global commitment to tackling climate change in the face of the current energy crisis, global emissions remain at record high levels and the world is on track to warming well in excess of 2°C. I cannot see that much has been achieved by Nicola Sturgeon attending either event, and even less was achieved by a delegation from Glasgow City Council flying to Egypt.

I will take the intervention.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Susan Aitken was invited to attend COP27 in Egypt to talk about COP26 and the participation of young people and those from deprived areas in it.

I also make the point that, if Nicola Sturgeon had not been there, we probably would not have had any outcomes from COP27, particularly on loss and damage. [


.] The Scottish Government led on loss and damage.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I am sure that Ms Aitken had a wonderful time, but I do not see that she has achieved very much.

This debate should have been held tomorrow, because that is when we will hear from the Climate Change Committee on how Scotland is actually doing. We can be fairly certain that it will not be a glowing report.

Although there has been progress in decarbonising our electricity supply, there has been precious little progress in decarbonising industry, transport—which, as we have already heard, is the biggest emitter—and buildings.

I will talk about transport. The SNP Scottish Government has a rather lofty ambition to cut car mileage by 20 per cent by 2030, which is just over seven years away. That target was introduced in its climate change plan update of 2020.

After setting such a target, if there is to be any hope of reaching it, some pretty unpopular things will have to be done, such as hitting people hard in the pocket. I presume that that is why the SNP has not come up with any policies to trigger a change from gas-guzzling private vehicles.

You will note, Presiding Officer, that the target is just for cars, not for vans and certainly not for lorries. Thankfully, we have the UK Government leading on efforts to decarbonise lorries, with Glasgow firm Hydrogen Vehicle Systems being awarded £30 million to develop technology that could lead to lorries running on hydrogen.

It is pretty obvious that, if we want people to ditch their cars, we will need to provide an alternative, unless we want a nation of hermits. That might appeal to the Greens, but, in the real world, that should mean creating a comprehensive, joined-up and cheap public transport system of the kind that we can only dream of.

The fair fares review is nowhere to be seen. When it appears, there will be thousands of words of Government waffle. However, I can tell whichever minister here wants to listen that that can be boiled down to just two: lower fares. Maybe another two words could be added: for all.

Lower fares for all might get people on to buses and trains, but it will take more than lower fares. Having routes that connect communities—rural and urban—is vital, but we have too many public transport deserts. We should be helping councils to use the powers that they now have to organise bus services; we should be looking at train routes, too, and dualling tracks such as the East Kilbride line; we should be using technology to have multimode smart cards; and we should be treating ferries as buses and offering free travel to under-22s who live on the islands.

I return to the 2030 car target. There is no point in banning the sale of diesel and petrol cars if the infrastructure to replace them is not there. We are a long way off having the number of electric vehicle chargers that are required to produce a sea change.

According to ChargePlace Scotland, there are 2,400 chargers in Scotland. However, the target is to have 30,000 by 2030, which means that we must install about 400 a month. Last month, we managed eight—not 800; eight. Of course, in addition to that, we know that many of those that have been installed do not work.

There is much more to do with buses, too, and our ageing ferries are gas guzzlers and there is no sign of decarbonising the fleet any time soon.

The Climate Change Committee’s report, which will be published tomorrow, will make for interesting reading, as did its UK-wide report, which was published this month. That talks about how targets are still not matched by actions. We should not be patting ourselves on the back, because the world is still not acting fast enough on climate change, and I am afraid that that includes Scotland.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

We are in the middle of a global climate emergency—of that there is no doubt—and countries throughout the world understand and agree that there is a need for radical action to save the planet from further damage. However, we are playing catch-up after decades of neglect and denial on all fronts.

After the promises made and optimism shown by most countries at COP26 in Glasgow last year, there is a palpable sense of disappointment that COP27 in Egypt was unable to build on that progress and that the 1.5°C target was in danger of ebbing away until it was contested.

However, despite the disappointment and major concern about the lack of progress, unlike Graham Simpson, I am proud that Scotland has agreed to establish a fund for loss and damage to smaller countries that are bearing the brunt of the devastating effects of climate change. Scotland is the first developed country to make such a financial contribution and commitment.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Given the point that I made earlier about there being no details about outcomes or criteria for the loss and damage fund, when does the member expect her Government to provide that detail?

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I am confident that those details will be provided soon. The fact that the commitment has been made is to be celebrated; it should not be talked down.

Scotland’s commitment in that regard is truly groundbreaking and is testament to 30 years of hard campaigning by the global south and civil society, which had, until now, been ignored by northern countries. It also shows how our nation always punches above its weight when it comes to taking responsibility. Ironically, and cruelly, the countries that are bearing the brunt of the worst consequences of climate damage are those that are least responsible for global warming, and we recognise that.

In Scotland, we are making great progress in areas of devolved responsibility, but urgent action from the UK Government is critical if we are to meet our ambitious climate change targets in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s motion calls for

“a coalition of action to be built ahead of COP28”.

I support that whole-heartedly. We cannot continue to wait year after year for pledges to be made and, often, broken.

Make no mistake: rich, developed countries have a moral obligation to support those experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis in the here and now. The total funding that Scotland has announced might seem like a small sum in relation to the overall scale of the loss and damage that developing countries face, but it sends an important message and shows just how important the actions of smaller Governments can be. There is, of course, a lot of detail to be worked out over the next year, but, from the inclusion of loss and damage on the agenda to the agreement to establish a fund, there has been a real breakthrough for vulnerable and developing countries.

The fact that COP27 was held in Egypt meant that there was a focus, rightly, on the human rights obligations of every country and that, in a similar vein to the world cup in Qatar right now, a light has been shone on the host country’s less-than-perfect record, which can only be a good thing.

Gender inequalities are exacerbated by the effects of climate change, so I am pleased that a co-design approach with women who experience climate-related harms, coupled with the funding, will seek to tackle the disproportionate impacts of climate change that are felt by women and girls. A package of measures relating to climate action to strengthen the role of women from the global south was announced at COP27 by the Scottish Government. That will ensure that more women from the global south can attend and influence crucial climate negotiations, including next year’s COP28 in Dubai, and it will give female human rights defenders from the global south the opportunity to spend several months in Scotland, where they can continue their work in a place of safety.

A few months ago, I watched a BBC documentary called “Big Oil v the World”. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not watched it and who cares about our planet—I think that it is still available on catch-up. However, I give a warning: it will make them angry. It made me very angry as I watched in disbelief as it showed how, for the past 50 years—half a century—oil company bosses ignored scientists and dismissed claims of the damage being done to the planet, all in the name of vested interests and greed. What legacy have we left our young people and future generations? During school visits, climate change is the number 1 topic, and I am ashamed that my generation has let young people down and caused them that concern.

As part of the Scottish Government’s work to widen access to climate negotiations, young people from countries that already face the worst impacts of climate change were given the opportunity to attend COP27 in Egypt. It is vital that countries recommit to doing everything that they can to keep 1.5 alive and to build a coalition ahead of COP28 that protects and drives progress against any further push-back.

Scotland believes that all levels of government, particularly in areas in which responsibilities are devolved, have a central part to play in delivering the transformative action that is needed to halt biodiversity loss in the coming decades. The Edinburgh declaration is Scotland’s call to state parties to hear the voices of more than 280 signatories at COP15 in Montreal. We need them to take stronger actions and make bolder decisions in the next decade.

Scotland, as a country, is at the forefront of renewable energy and a just transition away from oil and gas. That transition is exemplified by Scotland’s offshore wind industry, with ScotWind representing the world’s largest commercial round for floating offshore wind.

We can and we must do so much more if we are to save our planet for future generations, and I am confident that Scotland will do that.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the cause of climate justice, the legacy of COP26 and the discussions that have recently taken place at COP27 in Egypt. At COP26 in Glasgow last year, I was glad to be able to meet with many representatives and delegations from around the world.

I had a fruitful discussion with the Bangladeshi delegation about the challenges that Bangladesh faces and the way in which Scotland and countries in the global south can work together on climate change.

That includes using Scottish technology and expertise to assist with climate mitigation, which is increasingly important for countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, both of which have seen devastating floods this year. Weather events that, only 20 years ago, might have been considered to happen once in a generation or in 100 years are now being seen every year. The need for the accelerated timetable of the conferences is shown by the accelerated progress of climate disasters around the world.

I will return to the theme of mitigation shortly, but I want first to consider COP27. The parties have finally reached an agreement on a loss and damage fund. The work on that, which began in Glasgow last year, acknowledges internationally what has been an obvious truth to many participants for years—namely, that the countries that contributed the least to climate change are the ones that are now being largely affected by climate change’s devastating impact.

We should not underestimate the importance of that acknowledgement, as it is the necessary starting point for climate justice. Through that framework, loss and damage can be calculated and mitigation can be funded across the world. It is a big step, b ut it is not the only step that is needed for climate justice. I am sure that there are arguments yet to come about the amount that is in the pot and the time that it will take to release funding to countries in need.

A nother truth that runs parallel to the one that I have just mentioned is that the global north has benefited greatly from the fossil fuels that have caused the damage, and, as a result, it is now in the best place for a green transition. Therefore, the other hand of climate justice must be to ensure that the countries of the global south are not locked out of the transition and have access to renewables.

Unfortunately, I fear that that part of climate justice is in danger of being lost. Despite all the progress on loss and damage at COP27, we saw no further progress on phasing out fossil fuels. I fear that, without that other side, we will never know true climate justice; instead, we will simply be asking the global north to subsidise the global south while it makes the same mistakes.

That is where the issue of climate mitigation comes into play. We must now take mitigation incredibly seriously because, in the absence of agreement on reducing fossil fuels, it will be more necessary than ever before.

When we see the scale of the damage caused by this year’s floods, we get an idea of what we might be facing in the future. Climate refugees already exist, but their numbers might become greater than we dare to imagine if we do not take mitigation efforts seriously.

The cross-party group on Bangladesh recently heard that there could be as many as 18 million climate refugees from Bangladesh in the coming decades if the worst climate effects are realised. That is the equivalent of the population of the Netherlands becoming refugees. We are fooling ourselves if we think that such large flows of people from climate-hit regions will not have a significant impact on the rest of the world.

It is in all our interests that that does not happen. That means a relentless focus on climate mitigation, but it also means reducing the use of fossil fuels and allowing the global south to have its own part in the green revolution. I greatly hope that COP28 regains that focus on reducing fossil fuels, for all of us.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

As a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, I am happy to speak in this debate on the varied outcomes of COP27. COP27 will go down in history as the UN climate change conference where the loss and damage fund was agreed. After decades of pushing, that is a momentous victory for the climate-vulnerable developing countries.

The shift in the conversation and in the position of developed countries since COP26 is remarkable. COP27 has finally seen an acknowledgement by developed countries that the people who are least responsible for global warming are the ones who are suffering its worst consequences. Crucially, it also recognised that rich developed nations have a moral obligation to support those who are experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis in the here and now.

There remains a lot of detail to be worked out over the next year, ahead of COP28, but from the inclusion of loss and damage on the agenda to the agreement to establish a fund, COP27 has delivered a real breakthrough for vulnerable and developing countries. Having worked with others over the past 12 months to build the momentum, Scotland should be proud of playing its part in the lead up to that decision. It is crucial that parties continue to build on the positive momentum that was created in Sharm as challenging discussions ensue on how the new loss and damage fund will work and who will contribute to it financially.

In being the first developed country ever to make a financial contribution, Scotland has been able to play a small part in the loss and damage journey. Last year, Scotland was the first developed nation to pledge finance to address loss and damage, with a commitment at COP26 of £2 million from the climate justice fund. Other countries such as Wallonia and Denmark have now followed suit and we should encourage all economically developed nations to do similarly.

An additional £5 million of funding was announced by the First Minister at the COP27 climate summit, taking the total funding that Scotland has announced to £7 million. Although that is a small sum in terms of the overall scale of the loss and damage that developing countries face, it sends out an important international message. It shows just how important the action of smaller Governments can be in making a huge difference internationally and encouraging others to do so. In virtually everything that we do on loss and damage, Scotland is trying to ensure that we listen to international perspectives, especially those of the global south.

Although the action of Scotland and our European neighbours is vitally important and, indeed, has been recognised as such by the likes of the United Nations, COP27 was a hectic and sometimes chaotic event. It advanced some matters, but on others it failed to drive ambitions towards the climate action that is required to keep alive the possibility of restricting climate change within the envelope of the Paris agreement to 1.5°C. Loss and damage progressed, but, especially in week 2, there was a risk of going backwards in COP27 relative to COP26 in Glasgow.

The final cover declaration managed to avoid the worst, but it also avoided the best. Notably disappointing was the fact that the recognition of loss and damage has not been matched by greater action to prevent a worsening of the climate crisis. Keeping 1.5 alive and delivering the fastest possible transition away from fossil fuels are key to preventing greater loss and damage in the future. It is crucial that countries recommit themselves to doing everything they can to keep 1.5 alive and to building a coalition ahead of COP28 that protects and drives progress against any further pushback.

While discussing COP27, it would be remiss of me not to mention the other COP: COP15, on biodiversity, which will begin in Montreal tomorrow. Climate change and nature loss are twin crises and must be tackled together. The Scottish Government recognises that and, through the Edinburgh declaration, has shown international leadership to highlight the crucial role that sub-nation and local government can play in protecting nature. Scotland has suffered from high historical levels of nature loss, and we face huge challenges today. Nearly 50 per cent of species have decreased in abundance since 1994, and one in nine species are at risk of national extinction.

It is expected that COP15 will result in a new global framework to tackle biodiversity loss, with a draft target to protect 30 per cent of land and sea for nature by the end of the decade. It is known as the 30 by 30 target, and the Scottish Government has already committed to implementing it in Scotland. Research that was conducted by Survation found that two thirds of Scots support the target.

A report that was published this week by the coalition group Scottish Environment LINK underlined how important 30 by 30 can be. The report said that protected areas

“are the frontline of defence for nature against growing pressures from human activity and climate change and are vital for supporting our species and habitats.”

We have a climate emergency. Scotland is doing what it can to tackle that emergency, but we need greater effort from the international community, and I ask the Government to continue to press for such action.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

After COP27, the odds are now, sadly, stacked against keeping the world to 1.5° of heating. The UN secretary general described the latest IPCC report as an “atlas of human suffering”. This is what we now face; it is completely inevitable.

However, the threat should galvanise us, because, even if 1.5° is now dead, we must redouble our efforts to keep hope and progress alive. It will not be enough to have short-term technical decarbonisation plans that allow business as usual to simply continue. We need a revolution in our thinking, and we must look forward to future generations with every action that we take, because the footprints that we leave today will last for generations to come.

It is time to join the dots and see the connections in what is already happening to our world. Europe is currently heating at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, while the Arctic is heating three times faster. Every fraction of a degree of Arctic temperature increase has resulted in a more erratic polar jet stream, bringing heat waves, droughts, forest fires and excess deaths across Europe.

A melting Arctic permafrost could mean game over for this planet. If the tipping point is reached, 25 to 40 per cent of global carbon budgets could be blown by permafrost emissions alone. We are one people living on one planet with a shared history and a shared future, and what happens in the Arctic writes the future of a community in Bangladesh.

That is why it was so important that COP27 finally took a critical step forward towards climate reparations for nations that are at the front line of the crisis, with a dedicated fund established for loss and damage. However, as the conference came to a close, we saw the progress that was made in Glasgow start to wither away without delivering the necessary commitments on a phase-out from all fossil fuels.

Despite Alok Sharma’s leadership at COP26 and his calls for a phasing out of all fossil fuels, the Westminster Government has largely continued with business as usual. Despite continuing calls from the International Energy Agency for there to be

“no new investments in oil, gas and coal”, we have seen a disastrous expansion of oil and gas licences in the North Sea and may even see permission being granted this week for a new mega coal mine in the north of England. We cannot drill our way out of either the energy cost crisis or the climate emergency; the answer to both of those is a rapid transition away from oil and gas that delivers for both workers and the planet.

COP26 showed us that, when they work together, small nations can lead the world on climate justice. That is exactly the message sent by the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, when a flotilla of countries joined together to plan for a fair and fast phase-out of fossil fuels. Chile, Fiji, and Washington were among the newest members to join the alliance and commit to fossil fuel phase-out dates at COP27. I expect that this Government’s programme of work to understand our energy requirements in Scotland will lead to us joining that growing network of climate leaders.

It is also crucial that the Scottish Government continues dialogue with Westminster about joining international calls for collective withdrawal from the Energy Charter treaty, which is now beyond reform. Fossil fuel companies should not be allowed to sue Governments for hundreds of millions of pounds if they introduce policies that limit the use of coal, oil and gas in line with our climate ambitions.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You would have to accommodate it within your six minutes.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Sorry, in that case, no.

The biodiversity COP starting this week underlines how the climate and nature crises are two sides of the same coin. In Scotland, rising temperatures have threatened some of our most iconic species. The very habitats, such as peatlands, that can help us to naturally capture and store carbon from the atmosphere are now under threat, causing them to release the carbon that they hold. I look forward to the forthcoming Scottish biodiversity strategy starting to address those twin crises head on.

Much in the Scottish Government’s programme for government has put us on a faster route to net zero. There is an ambitious heat in buildings strategy; free bus travel for the under-22s, which we learned today is now benefiting more than half a million young Scots; a surge in tree planting; and a new deal for wind power. However, no Government is yet going far enough and the UKCCC and Scotland’s Climate Assembly have both highlighted areas for faster and more radical change, especially in the areas of aviation, peatland restoration and diet change. Like other members, I am sure that there will be further challenges when the UKCCC releases its Scotland update report tomorrow.

The challenging and necessary targets set by this Parliament mean that a far more ambitious climate plan must be developed early next year. The current plan is already way out of date and does not reflect the ambitions of the Bute house agreement. No options should be off the table in developing the new climate plan. The leadership shown by the French Government, which this week banned domestic flights where there is a rail alternative, signals the kind of options that must be considered if we are truly to deliver. Whether we currently have the powers is a different question, but we must spell out what is necessary.

It is clear that an outdated business-as-usual model will lead us down a road of no return. I will continue working as a member of the NZET Committee and with Greens in the Government to ensure that Scotland delivers transformative action on climate and nature.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

After the anticipation and build-up before COP27, the biggest climate meeting of the year is now over. The crowds of delegates that thronged the Sharm el-Sheikh international convention centre for two long weeks have all headed home to recover, many fatigued after long hours and sleepless nights as negotiators tried to seal a deal that would move the world forward. The crucial question is whether COP27 was a success.

I turn first to the not-so-good news. Many people consider that COP27 did not achieve what the science is telling us we desperately need. With the window of opportunity closing fast on the world’s goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5° or less, there is agreement that COP27 did far too little on the all-important issue of mitigation and the urgent need to cut global emissions.

The case for urgent action keeps getting stronger. The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make for grim reading about what to expect if we let temperatures rise too much.

The head of the key negotiating group of developing countries was Pakistan, which has been dealing with the worst floods in its history. They have left 1,717 people dead and cost an estimated $40 billion in damage. In 2022, there have been 15 climate-related disasters in the US that have each exceeded $1 billion in costs. Meanwhile, in Africa, according to Carbon Brief’s analysis of disaster records,

“extreme weather events have killed at least 4,000 people and affected a further 19 million since the start of 2022.”

The pressure was therefore on for COP27 to respond to such disasters.

Attending COP27 were 112 world leaders and more than 300 Government ministers. Some 27,000 people from Governments or intergovernmental agencies, stakeholders and journalists also attended. The backdrop was the UN secretary general warning us that we need to “co-operate or perish” and to take urgent action to take us off

“a highway to climate hell”.

That really serious warning from the UN is underpinned by global scientific evidence, and we need to listen to it.

However, in the face of our global climate emergency, progress on mitigation was modest at best. Although some delegations pushed hard for stronger commitments on cutting emissions, the appetite from some nations—mainly those with high emissions—did not seem to be present. I therefore ask the Scottish Government to do all that it can to redouble its efforts to lead by example in pressing for global action on climate mitigation and on reaching the 1.5° target.

There were, however, some significant advances at COP27. Perhaps the most significant is the agreement to create a loss and damage fund to help the most vulnerable countries. That has been a key issue for almost 30 years, particularly for small island developing countries. I am proud that it was Scotland that started things off at COP26 with a voluntary contribution of £2 million for loss and damage. The First Minister’s additional announcement of an extra £5 million to help the nations that are most impacted by the implications of climate change is, of course, welcome.

More recently, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Belgium have also made financial commitments to loss and damage, and the contributions now amount to $244.5 million. That makes the final outcome all the more welcome. The door is now open for the most vulnerable countries to receive more support. A goal has been set to fully operationalise the fund at COP28 in a year’s time.

For Scotland’s part, the funding for loss and damage will enable communities to take direct action to address climate impacts. However, we must ensure that the funding works as expected. There are five critical steps, and the first is quantification. That involves deciding how much countries will receive in loss and damage funding. The funds must assess accumulated damages and losses over a specific baseline.

The second step is assessment. How will loss and damage be assessed, both quantitatively and non-quantitatively? The funding must take account of indigenous cultural heritage and loss of national and local ecosystems.

The third step is attribution. Countries must be supported to monitor and spell out attribution clearly. Disentangling unfolding impacts from past disaster events or other slow processes and natural factors such as salinisation and loss of biodiversity must be considered.

The fourth step is payment monitoring. A fund needs to be capitalised and managed. Once the mechanics of the fund have been determined, we will need an impact monitoring system.

The final step is evaluation and optimisation. Lessons should be learned from existing climate funds to channel private finance towards low-carbon investments.

I would welcome a commitment from the minister that our funding in Scotland will meet those important principles as set out by the UN.

The steps that the Scottish Government is taking are crucial. We are leading by example in the face of the global climate emergency, but the world must follow suit. I ask the Scottish Government to do all that it can in that regard.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on COP27, the climate and biodiversity crises, and the response of the Scottish Government to those crises.

At previous COPs, most of the focus has been on getting big emitters to commit to emissions reduction. Last year in Glasgow, the COP26 president said that the target of no more than 1.5° of global warming was still “alive” but that its “pulse” was “weak”.

A prominent talking point at COP27 was the viability of that 1.5° target. We should talk about targets: the ambitious targets that have been set by the Scottish Government and voted through by the Parliament. I will talk about biodiversity, which is often the poor relation to climate change but is every bit as important in our bid to tackle that climate change. I have used this figure in previous debates: Scotland ranks 212th out of 240 nations that have been assessed for the quality of their nature through biodiversity intactness.

We know that, when we manage biodiversity, increased carbon sequestration follows, because a healthy environment is a productive environment, especially when it comes to biodiversity and the economy.

The “State of Nature Report Scotland 2019” found that the overall abundance and distribution of Scotland’s species had declined, including in the past 10 years, and that the pressures that drive biodiversity loss are collectively continuing to have a negative impact on nature. It says that

“There has been no let-up in the net loss of nature in Scotland”, despite the Scottish Government’s target to halt nature loss by 2030. Targets are not enough: action is required.

The SNP-Green coalition has presided over a decline in species, including 531 habitats and 603 species in Scotland being in poor condition. I will use a marine example because we often forget that the marine environment is at least as important in tackling climate change and biodiversity decline. The Blue Marine Foundation suggests that the west of Scotland cod population has already declined by 92 per cent since 1991, and 12 breeding seabird species have declined in abundance by an average of 38 per cent between 1986 and 2016.

To reverse that trend, we need investment—including, certainly, private investment. A key role that the Government plays in the market is in signalling to investors. The Scottish Government can grandstand all that it likes about how we need to progress towards net zero, but if it is not delivering on its statutory targets, that does not signal positively to investors to stick their financing where we most need it. The Scottish Government has missed three annual emissions reduction targets in a row, and was successful in meeting the 2020 target due only to the temporary travel restrictions that related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An analysis of COP27 by Institutional Shareholder Services echoed the confusion that many businesses are experiencing around investment in net zero and net zero policies. It stated:

“By demonstrating a lack of credible commitment to their pledges, governments are sending conflicting signals to investors, who may conclude that they should scale back their own ambitions and focus on adaptation instead.”

Liam Kerr raised the issue of the oil and gas sector, which is much debated in the Parliament. The International Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report sets out that, for temperature rises to be kept within that 1.5°, the use of global oil must decrease by 60 per cent, and the use of gas by 45 per cent, by 2050. I note that the IPCC does not advocate for the end of fossil fuel use entirely, but a consistent reduction is needed by 2050 and, of course, the target should be to eliminate the use of fossil fuels entirely. However, that needs to be done in a gradual and sensible way that ensures that we protect jobs and deliver a real future for the energy sector and the north-east. To do that, we need to actively and transparently engage with the fossil fuel sector and encourage it to move faster and invest more in the renewables sector, rather than meeting it with demands or constantly trying to shame it. That is not how to deliver tangible working relationships—a fact that is completely lost on the SNP-Green Government.

The International Panel on Climate Change AR6 report is also clear that, as we reduce our use of fossil fuels, we need to replace that with widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen. The Scottish Government needs a comprehensive energy plan that includes smart and targeted investment—not scattered investment whose level does not have any real impact. It also needs to get rid of the red tape and to release funds to those companies that are at the forefront of emerging technology; otherwise, we risk losing the great opportunities that Scotland has of driving a global green economy. Those opportunities could be in hydrogen, solar or nuclear, and the Scottish Government has to review its blinkered and blanket objection to the potential of nuclear energy. Our current significant investment in wind energy leaves us vulnerable if the wind does not blow.

The Climate Change Committee suggests that action to address the rising cost of living should be aligned with net zero. There remains an urgent need for equivalent action to reduce demand for fossil fuels in order to reduce emissions and limit energy bills.

On net zero housing, as was reported in

The Herald three days ago, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens and minister for housing told the newspaper that Scotland is “too late” in making the switch to heating buildings without relying on fossil fuels, which will cost £33 billion. He is right, but he is not the right person to lead on that, given that his party does not exactly embrace the private sector.

It is not enough to have ambition; there must be an action plan with measurable targets for which someone must be accountable to address the scale of the crisis that we are facing. The Scottish Government needs to stop lecturing the rest of the world and focus on our part in delivering the drive to keep 1.5 alive. Targets without outcomes are just hot air; if we miss the targets, 1.5° will be missed. The Scottish Government needs to allow Scotland to demonstrate what can be achieved rather than talk about what could be achieved.

Photo of Baroness Katy Clark Baroness Katy Clark Labour

We are in the midst of an emergency. It may well be too late now to keep

1.5 alive, but that means that, now more than ever, we need unprecedented and co-ordinated action from Governments.

Last year, the IPCC said that,

“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors”, it would be impossible to contain average global temperature rises to 1.5° above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, there is no sign that those deep emissions reductions are taking place. Scotland has, of course, repeatedly failed to meet our own annual targets.

The commitment at COP27 to give formal recognition to the fact of loss and damage as a result of the climate emergency and to establish a fund under the UN framework convention on climate change is a positive step, if overdue. It is widely accepted that those most acutely affected by the impacts of the climate emergency have contributed the least to creating that emergency. I welcome the Scottish Government’s pledge of £2 million for loss and damage through the climate justice fund. However, I have absolutely no doubt that the ministers accept that the amount that has been committed is not a true reflection of the climate damage created by Scotland’s past—or indeed present—emissions and that the sum is mainly symbolic. I have no doubt that they also accept that this must be only the start of a sustained and focused long-term commitment to ensuring that Governments, including the UK and Scottish Governments, deliver for climate-vulnerable countries by ensuring that commitments on adaption and loss and damage are honoured.

Between 1988 and 2015, an estimated 100 companies producing fossil fuels—excluding agricultural methane—were responsible for 71 per cent of all global emissions. Those companies are overwhelmingly based in the so-called global north. Those injustices only compound the long history of colonisation and oppression that many climate-vulnerable countries have suffered. Foysol Choudhury spoke knowledgeably about that from his own experience and his involvement in the cross-party group on Bangladesh.

Although the Government is right to express disappointment in its motion in relation to lack of action, it is also appropriate, here in the Scottish Parliament, to talk about the Scottish Government’s own lack of action on the issue.

The Scottish Government’s own energy strategy noted that there are significant opportunities in the North Sea, with up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining. I take on board that the issue is whether those barrels of oil are burned. However, in October, when I asked the cabinet secretary to take a clear public stance against the proposed Rosebank oilfield development, his response was that the Scottish Government’s opposition to Rosebank was conditional, and that Rosebank should be subjected to a rigorous climate compatibility checkpoint to ensure that it is consistent with emissions reductions targets. That simply is not good enough. We need to address fossil fuel production and deliver local renewables production, particularly municipal and community production. At a Scottish level, we also need to look at initiatives such as a publicly owned energy company, as proposed by Colin Smyth and noted in the Scottish Labour amendment.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

T he position that the Scottish Government has taken on new oil and gas production and a compatibility checkpoint is in line with the independent advice that we have received from the Climate Change Committee. The committee has said that there should be a rigorous, robust climate compatibility checkpoint before any production is taken forward. Does Scottish Labour support the position of the Climate Change Committee, or is its position that there should be absolutely no new oil and gas development—end of?

Photo of Baroness Katy Clark Baroness Katy Clark Labour

I have got very limited time, so will not be able to give the cabinet secretary a full response. The cabinet secretary is very well aware of the scale of the challenge and that we cannot continue to extract oil and gas in the way that we have been doing.

The International Energy Agency has repeatedly stated that rejecting any new oil or gas developments is a bare minimum requirement if the world wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050. I hope that the Scottish Government accepts that we are going in the wrong direction. A Friends of the Earth report last year found that North Sea oil production has increased 15 per cent since the climate emergency was declared.

We need to take radical action. People and planet demand more urgent action. Unfortunately, I have not been able to respond fully to the cabinet secretary due to lack of time, and I am now over time. I hope that, in the debates that take place in the Scottish Parliament, we agree on more radical action for the future.

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Presiding Officer,

“Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

Those are the words of António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, has said:

“There can be no effective climate policy without peace ... There are still many for whom climate change is just rhetoric or marketing ... but not real action. ... They are the ones who start wars of aggression when the planet cannot afford a single gunshot, because it needs global joint actions.”

That is the global context of COP27—the first UN climate summit in the global south for six years. It was billed as the implementation COP, at which rhetoric would be turned into action—in particular, in support for countries that are on the front line of the crisis. COP27 did not deliver on that expectation—to say nothing of what is needed to stop complete climate breakdown.

However, COP27 has secured some important wins—I mention in particular the loss and damage fund and the renewed emphasis on equity. We still need the world to agree on a new long-term goal for climate finance, and on whether so-called emissions removals and avoidance will be allowed to be traded in Paris agreement carbon markets.

The securing of a loss and damage fund to address the now unavoidable impacts of climate change was a huge win for the global south countries that had made it their priority issue at COP27, when there was finally acknowledgement by developed countries that the people who are least responsible for global warming are the ones who are suffering its worst consequences. There was considerable resistance from wealthy historical polluters to establishment of the fund, with those countries instead promoting technical assistance and deeply inadequate insurance schemes.

The Scottish Government played an important role in championing the loss and damage fund, and civil society campaigning was key to securing that vital win. Scotland should be proud to have played its part in the lead-up to that decision by working with others to build momentum over the past 12 months. António Guterres said:

“Scotland is one of the first international actors that has determined money for loss and damage—that is a very important point for developing countries. I would like to start by saying how much I appreciate the Scottish effort in this regard.”

It is deeply disappointing that that recognition of loss and damage has not been matched by greater action to prevent worsening of the climate crisis. Despite 26 years of UN climate negotiations, emissions are still rising and, despite all the hype around keeping 1.5 alive at the Glasgow summit last year, the world is on course for a catastrophic temperature rise of 2.8°C, or more. In recognition of that, countries were asked to voluntarily update their pledges to cut emissions ahead of COP27. Updated pledges will reduce emissions in 2030 by only 1 per cent and, despite leading that call as outgoing president of COP26, the UK Government has failed to increase its own commitments.

The next official round of nationally determined contributions—NDCs are climate action pledges under the Paris agreement—is not due until 2030. That is another eight years away, which will be far too late to prevent climate breakdown. Analysis of such pledges shows that rich historical polluters are not doing anywhere near their fair share in taking climate action, based on remaining carbon budgets and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility, while many global south countries are committed to taking their fair share—or more—of action.

Rich historical polluters are gambling with the highest stakes imaginable in running down the clock on 1.5°C. By failing to cut their own emissions in line with their obligations, and by failing to deliver their financial obligations, they are once more shifting responsibility on to the shoulders of countries that have done least to cause the problem, but which are on the front line in terms of impacts.

Around two weeks ago, I spoke in a debate on the Fraser of Allander Institute’s report entitled “The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Renewable Energy Sector”. Scotland’s renewable energy industry and its supply chain supported more than 27,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generated £5.6 billion of output in 2020. Onshore wind had the largest output—it generated nearly £2.5 billion—with offshore wind and hydro power each supporting more than £1.1 billion of output.

The Scottish Government will soon be unveiling its energy strategy and just transition strategy, which will be ambitious and will move us towards net zero. Scotland needs to continue to develop the existing renewables revolution that is under way. The supply chain needs to increase capacity to what is required to deliver the skills and manufacturing that will service all our renewable energy projects. With a short-term offshore wind pipeline of 6.9GW and potentially more than 10GW of onshore wind, the existing pipeline of renewable energy projects to be delivered in Scotland is extensive.

I will close with two more quotes from COP27. William Ruto, the President of Kenya, said:

“In the face of impending catastrophe, whose warning signs are already unbearably disastrous, weak action is unwise. No action is dangerous.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said:

“The global fossil fuel crisis must be a game-changer. So let us not take the ‘highway to hell’ but let’s earn the clean ticket to heaven.”

Presiding Officer, the stakes could not be any higher.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I am pleased to have the opportunity to close the debate on COP27 outcomes for Labour, because climate change is an issue that I am passionate about tackling. As poverty is, climate change is an issue of inequality and injustice that hits working-class people hardest and is caused by political choices that have benefited the super-rich.

Closing the debate gives me the opportunity to summarise and reiterate Scottish Labour’s position. However, before I do so I would like to spend some time commenting on the Scottish Government’s motion and the amendment that was lodged by the Conservative Party. Although I have to say that I think that it is a stretch too far to claim—as Gillian Martin seemed to claim—that there would have been no outcomes from COP27 had Scotland’s First Minister not been there, there is much in the Government motion that Labour will support.

It is fair to say that establishing the loss and damage fund is an important step forward in tackling climate change and challenging its injustices. My colleague Foysol Choudhury highlighted the global inequality that we see in how those whose economies have benefited most from fossil fuels have experienced relatively little impact in comparison with those whose resources have been exploited not just in the recent past but throughout the long history of colonialism. We see time and again——as my colleague Katy Clark highlighted—that those who are most acutely affected by the climate emergency have contributed the least to climate change, so it is right that we tackle that injustice and seek to address it through the loss and damage fund.

Labour supports the sentiment in the Government’s motion on the need for

“a phasedown of unabated coal-use” and

“other fossil fuels”, as well as on the need

“to ensure that human rights ... are fully respected”—

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

Can I get the time back, Presiding Officer?

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I am afraid that I am unable to take the intervention. I am sorry.

Labour also supports the ambition that is highlighted in the motion of

“protecting 30% of land and seas by 2030”.

However, targets are not enough to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. As the Labour amendment highlights, we need to see “action and delivery”.

We will not support the Tory amendment, because it seeks to remove from the motion crucial lines on the transition away from fossil fuels. That is not to say, however, that we do not support the amendment’s sentiment—which is also in the Scottish Government’s motion—on protecting

“human rights across the world”.

I was pleased to see that in the Conservative Party’s amendment.

We heard from Liam Kerr that the Conservatives want a just transition, as we all do. However, whenever I hear Conservative members speak about a just transition, I have the same question: a just transition for whom? Will it be for ordinary workers and householders, through a green industrial strategy that invests in public services, or are they talking about a just transition for private corporations and oil multinationals that are seeking to protect their profits?

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I am afraid that I do not have time in hand.

As I said, we support the element of the Conservative amendment that refers to protecting

“human rights across the world”, and we also support elements of Tory members’ contributions to the debate. I am thinking, for example, of Graham Simpson’s comments on lower bus fares for all and on dualling of train tracks. I think that I also heard him propose—I am sure that he will correct me if I am wrong—provision of free ferry travel to under-22s who live on the islands. Labour supports those kinds of investments in our communities and public services and would like to see more of them. However, I would be interested to see whether Graham Simpson’s colleagues in Westminster support such proposals.

In my final minute, I turn to Labour’s amendment. We have decided to support the Government’s motion and to add our amendment at the end. I hope that the Government will be able to support our amendment, because it is important that we have on the record an acknowledgement that we in Scotland are not currently meeting our own annual targets to cut emissions, despite the fact that we are well placed to do so.

If we had a socialist green new deal that used every lever to redistribute wealth through job creation in a suite of new public services, we could drastically reduce emissions in Scotland. A public energy company that would generate renewable energy would provide lower costs for consumers and sectoral collective bargaining for workers. Likewise, council-run bus companies would lower the cost to consumers and improve workers’ rights for the workers involved.

We have often heard from the Government that those kinds of policies are not possible because the budget is fixed, but we heard that argument crumble—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Miss Villalba, you have five seconds left.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

It is not good enough for the Government to say that we do not have the power, the wealth or the skills. We have all those things. The only thing that we do not have is a Government that has the socialist ambition to redistribute wealth and power. That is why we need a workers’ economy, which only Labour in Government can deliver—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Ms Villalba. You are over your time.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

This is a welcome opportunity for Parliament to discuss climate change, which in my opinion, it does not do nearly enough. I begin by highlighting some of the important contributions that we have heard this afternoon.

There is consensus about tackling climate change more quickly. The cabinet secretary highlighted that this is a global challenge that we need to work on with a shared sense of urgency as a global community, and described the COP27 agreement as “a watershed agreement”.

Liam Kerr pointed to a lot of domestic talk, and said that we all agree that we want a just transition, but that there had not been enough action.

Graham Simpson talked primarily about transport, and described how moving people from petrol and diesel cars requires infrastructure. He said, in relation to the target for moving to electric cars, that only eight out of the target of 4,000 chargers had been put in place, which is a considerable shortfall.

Colin Smyth described the possibility of a catastrophic 2.8°C rise, and flagged the major sectors in which we need to take action. I should say at this point that we will support the Labour amendment.

Alex Cole-Hamilton described the need for radical and credible policies, but unfortunately he was not able to take my intervention as I was going to ask him whether he thought that the Scottish Government’s policies are in that category. He also mentioned that insulating the homes of Scotland’s fuel-poor households could take up to 300 years.

Audrey Nicoll highlighted that COP27 was the beginning of a difficult process, and we had further contributions along those lines from Rona Mackay, Jackie Dunbar and Collette Stevenson. Finally, Mark Ruskell said that the odds are stacked against the world keeping to 1.5°C and that we need some revolutionary thinking.

The threat posed by climate change is more pressing than ever. According to the IPCC, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. In Pakistan, catastrophic floods submerged a third of the country, killed over 1,700 people and damaged or destroyed two million homes. A similar point was made by Foysol Choudhury, who also referenced Bangladesh. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 15,000 deaths in Europe were caused by heatwaves this year. According to the World Weather Attribution group, those heatwaves would be

“virtually impossible without climate change”.

In Scotland, heat-related deaths could rise to more than 100 per year by 2050 according to the Climate Change Committee. It also says that we can expect homes and businesses to be damaged more frequently as a result of severe flooding. Failing to limit global warming to 1.5°C concerns everyone—to keep that goal viable, there must be a 43 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 versus 2019 levels.

It was welcome to see COP27 reaffirm the commitment to the 1.5°C limit, but frustrating that global ambitions to reduce emissions made only “limited progress” according to the Climate Change Committee. Nevertheless, COP27 gave us a glimmer of hope, especially at the national level. More countries signed the global methane pledge, taking the total to 150. India formalised its COP26 pledges, Britain strengthened plans for delivering on its 2030 emissions targets, and Mexico, Turkey and Australia increased their 2030 targets. It is also worth noting that Australia followed Britain’s lead by setting its net zero target in law.

At COP27, Britain announced more than £100 million to support developing countries that are dealing with climate change impacts. That includes a more than £65 million investment in green tech and clean energy in Kenya and Egypt.

I will say a bit more about adaptation funding, since it was a key issue at COP27.

It has been estimated that climate change measures could cost developing countries anywhere up to £340 billion a year, so it is significant that there was an agreement to establish a loss and damage fund to address those impacts. There is still much to decide—who will pay for the fund, how much, and who will benefit have to be decided—but that should not distract from the significance of the agreement.

COP27 also saw an endorsement of nature-based solutions. Such measures can play an important role in both mitigation and adaption efforts. For example, the Bahamas is allowing marine conservation projects to sell blue carbon credits. It is offering an adaption mechanism, generating new revenue, and helping to protect local ecosystems.

Nature-based solutions are important in Scotland, too, but progress is poor. Let us consider peatland. The SNP-Green coalition has a target of restoring 20,000 hectares of degraded peatland each year. Peatland is an excellent carbon sink, so we all want that to succeed, but the SNP-Green coalition did not even manage to restore a quarter of that target last year.

Let us consider forestry. The Woodland Trust has estimated that around £500 million is needed to restore and expand Scotland’s rainforest. The SNP and the Greens have stumped up less than 1 per cent of that and, of course, they have missed their own emissions targets three years running—in 2017, 2018 and 2019. If we add to that the failure to make legal clean air targets, international biodiversity targets, green jobs targets, recycling targets, and cycling targets that will not be met for 680 years, there is a catalogue of failures.

If Scotland is to meet its climate goals, the SNP and the Greens must start to deliver not just for them but for all of us, and they must work with the UK Government. The lesson from COP is that there must be consensus and co-operation.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I thank all members who have contributed to the debate.

I think that there is recognition across the chamber that COP27 was the first COP at which the impact of climate change on vulnerable nations finally received its long-overdue recognition. Although much remains to be decided about the how and the who, the establishment of the loss and damage fund was a genuine success and a rare positive news story.

There were undeniable disappointments—in particular, the failure to agree and deliver on the action that is needed. That is unavoidable if the goal of 1.5°C is to remain within reach. There is one area on which all parties agreed: the need for urgency of action. In 2022, we have seen growing climate-induced extreme weather and disasters. That emphasises the immediacy of the threat not just in Pakistan and east Africa but to all of us. We are code red on climate.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Will the minister provide members with her assessment of the SNP Government’s ability to meet its targets prior to 2021, when she took office?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am not sure whether Maurice Golden is asking for historical data or about our progress this year. The Government is certainly working very hard on concrete actions to deliver. The examples on the table include the half a billion pounds just transition fund in the north-east, which is going to projects to create new jobs and to support new technology; free bus travel for under-22s; our nature restoration fund; and the recycling improvement fund. Our commitments to tackling the climate crisis go on and on.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Does the minister think that cutting the budget for Marine Scotland will help us to meet our climate targets?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

We all know that we have to ensure that our budget stretches, and that sometimes means difficult decisions. We have to ensure that we get the best impact for every pound that is spent. Each pound can be spent only once. Douglas Lumsden will know about our need to balance our budgets.

I will comment on the amendments. There are some positive contributions in Scottish Labour’s amendment. We absolutely agree that there is a need to realise Scotland’s renewables potential and to secure as much benefit as possible for Scotland from that industry.

However, as usual, Labour is ignoring what powers the Scottish Government actually has. Realising our renewables potential must be a joint endeavour, with the UK Government doing its bit, too. For example, it must ensure that proper support is in place for emerging technologies in which Scotland could lead, such as tidal power and reducing connection and transmission costs.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

The minister will be aware of Common Weal and its important policy work on democratising energy. The SNP and the Greens made a commitment around the public ownership of electricity generation. There has been progress in Wales. Are ministers speaking to their counterparts in Wales to see where we can learn from their work to try to get the action that many of us want to see?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am absolutely aware of what is going on in Wales. Although that is an interesting project, the scale is so small that it would do very little to tackle our renewable energy challenges in Scotland.

Mr Kerr makes the important point in his amendment that meeting our targets requires working “collaboratively across borders”. However, that means that the UK Government has to do its bit, too.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

No, I need to carry on with my speech.

That means more support for the renewables sector in Scotland, for example through delivering a fair Great Britain-wide transmission charging regime that enables the rapid growth and deployment of renewables. It also means that the UK Government must stay true to its commitments. Is the Tory Government in Westminster really going to consent to a new coal mine in Cumbria?

Mr Kerr’s amendment also removes the references to the critical COP15 talks that start this week. Addressing the climate and nature crises must go hand in hand.

Difficult decisions lie ahead if we are to keep 1.5 alive. The knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, which is driven by energy prices in particular, and the lasting impacts of Covid-19 teach us that we should push forward with our energy transition ambitions if we are to be resilient to global shocks.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I respect the fact that the minister has taken four interventions. On a point of order, however, my amendment does not remove the reference to COP15.

Earlier in the debate, we heard about the importance of the Acorn project. The Green Party is on record as being opposed to carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Does the minister agree with her party or with the Government of which she is a member?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The Climate Change Committee accounts for the use of CCUS in its calculations. The Scottish Green Party and others are sceptical about the practical implementation of CCUS because some of that technology is untested.

Scotland’s participation in COP27 and the meetings that were held with leaders and ministers from multiple continents proved that we have a lot to offer to and learn from others. There is huge interest in our just transition to net zero in particular, and our expertise in offshore wind and green hydrogen shows that Scotland is seen as a world leader in those technologies.

There is no doubt that Scotland must move away from fossil fuels as quickly as a just transition will fairly and effectively allow. Our highly skilled oil and gas workforce has long been at the forefront of energy innovation. That is why we see a bright future for a revitalised North Sea economy.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am sorry, but I need to crack on.

That economy will drive a net zero energy system as well as providing huge employment opportunities for that innovative workforce in the energy transition. However, let us be clear: we are still talking about an end date. Unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is fundamentally incompatible with our climate obligations. Ultimately, oil and gas licensing, regulation and taxation are reserved to the UK Government. We need to see more investment in renewables and energy transition from our Westminster colleagues.

We have already shown that our actions can move the dial internationally. Loss and damage was a central issue in Egypt, and Scotland played a small but significant role in that space. The decision to establish a fund is the result of more than three decades of hard work by vulnerable nations and small island states. Scotland’s on-going commitment turned up the pressure on that decision in a way that had been done by no developed country before. We are acting on a world stage.

I will be attending COP15 this week, where I will emphasise the twin crises and the inextricable link between biodiversity loss and climate change. I will launch our new draft biodiversity strategy and, through the Edinburgh process and the Edinburgh declaration, promote adoption of the subnational plan of action. Those actions will showcase nature-based solutions in Scotland and how they contribute to reducing biodiversity loss and meeting our net zero target.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

No—I am sorry, but I am running out of time.

Our space on the world stage should encourage and motivate our ambitions at home. Scotland’s international presence is an opportunity to maximise our impact and to see the change that we effect at home multiplied elsewhere. We are a small country, but our efforts can and do influence great global change.

Liam Kerr asked about the allocation and spending of Scotland’s loss and damage fund. Of the £2 million fund, £1.7 million has been allocated. Those funds are currently in use in Malawi, the Pacific Islands and Bangladesh, where that money is being spent on the ground.

However, the £5 million will be allocated based on community-led needs assessment in consultation with stakeholders experiencing loss and damage, as will monitoring and evaluation.

The £5 million loss and damage commitment at COP27 is specifically to address non-economic and slow onset loss and damage, which, so far, has received insufficient global attention. The £5 million will be allocated and spent according to a four-stage methodology. The methodology has been tested extensively with the global community and was discussed at length at the loss and damage conference that Scotland hosted.