– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd March 2023.
4. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to the AR6 synthesis report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (S6F-01959)
The evidence has never been clearer than it is now. We are fast running out of time to secure a liveable and sustainable future for the generations to come. The IPCC report must lead to an acceleration of global action to tackle the climate emergency.
Scotland is making long-term progress towards net zero, but we are now entering the most challenging part of that journey, which requires truly transformational action across society and our economy. That cannot and will not happen without all of us, including everyone across this Parliament, supporting bold steps as part of a national effort to tackle the climate emergency.
At the 27th UN climate change conference of the parties—COP27—Scotland pledged an additional £5 million to address loss and damage, and we will continue to advocate for practical action and finance to support the global south, where the effects of climate change are already being experienced.
Following the publication of the report, UN secretary general António Guterres made a plea to all Governments. He said:
“humanity is on thin ice—and that ice is melting fast ... This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts—everything, everywhere, all at once.”
I know how serious and ambitious the First Minister has been in leading on the climate emergency agenda, and I appreciate that. Does she agree that this stark assessment must lead to transformational and accelerated action by all Governments—local government, the United Kingdom Government and her successor here in this Parliament—to combat climate change?
I agree whole-heartedly with Fiona Hyslop and I agree whole-heartedly with the comments earlier this week of the United Nations secretary general. There is no doubt that we need concerted and accelerated action on all fronts.
I am proud that Scotland is, and is recognised as being, at the forefront of the global journey to reach net zero emissions and a climate-resilient future. This Parliament’s ambitious climate change legislation requires all of us—Governments, individuals, communities and businesses—to take lasting action to drive our emissions down in a way that is just and fair for all.
However, we also need to see action and much higher ambition from the UK Government on the solutions for net zero that are currently reserved to Westminster, and, of course, we need other countries across the world to match those ambitions, too.
While Scotland’s emissions reduction targets are in line with the global 1.5°C pathway, it is vital that other countries revisit and strengthen the ambition of their 2030 emissions pledges and long-term strategies to align with the 1.5°C pathway ahead of COP28.
The Presiding Officer:
We will suspend business.
12:28 Meeting suspended.
12:29 On resuming—
W e will resume business. I ask Liam Kerr to begin his question.
The IPCC report gave stark warnings about how, if we are to have any hope of tackling the climate emergency, we must look at all green generation technologies. Given that countries such as Japan, Germany and France are swinging behind nuclear-generated energy, which is a zero-emission clean energy source, is it not now imperative that the First Minister’s Government undertakes an evidence-based and science-led assessment of its knee-jerk banning of new nuclear in Scotland?
I agree with the sentiment behind that question. We all have to up our action on this issue, and green energy generation is a vital part of that. However, I do not agree on the question of nuclear. Nuclear energy is very expensive and we still do not know what to do with the waste in the long term. Further, of course, not all other countries have Scotland’s potential for offshore wind, green hydrogen and other renewable sources of energy. Right now, ScotWind gives us the potential to generate up to 28GW of renewable energy. That is massive, and it will enable us to export as well as meet our own needs. I think that we should focus on renewable, clean, green renewable energy. Not only is that right for the environment, but it gives us the opportunity to boost industry and the economy and create tens of thousands of jobs. That is where the focus of this and future Scottish Governments should be.
The IPCC report is the starkest warning yet that, while our world leaders fiddle, the world burns, and that we are not on track to hold global warming at 1.5°C. Does the First Minister accept that, as she leaves office, Scotland is also failing to meet our climate targets? As the Climate Change Committee warns, Scotland is missing so many of those targets that they are
“in danger of becoming meaningless”.
Given that transport remains the biggest source of emissions, does the First Minister regret the fact that the savage cuts that have been made, on her watch, to our rail and bus services means that, while the dip in car use since 2016 is 12.5 per cent, rail numbers have collapsed by more than 50 per cent and bus passenger numbers by more than 40 per cent? Does she agree that it is a priority for her successor to reverse the cuts that she has made to those services?
I do not regret public ownership of our railways, I do not regret the changes to bus franchising and I certainly do not regret the free bus travel for pensioners and all young people under 22, which encourages people to use public transport.
However, I agree that Scotland, like all other countries, must do more. Scotland is doing more to cut emissions and to tackle climate change than almost any other country in the world. I have been privileged to attend climate change COP summits over many years now, and I know that there is a recognition of Scotland’s leadership—if not here, in this Parliament, then certainly among countries overseas. However, the bar for world leadership is set too low. Every country needs to do more, and to do it with urgency, and Scotland must continue to lead by example.
The IPCC report is also a reminder that extracting every last drop of oil and gas today will condemn future generations to climate breakdown. Independent research commissioned through the Bute house agreement has shown that North Sea oil and gas output will continue to fall, while a just transition can deliver an increase in jobs in the years ahead. Can the First Minister say what kind of leadership we need from the Scottish Government to ensure a future for workers and the climate?
We need to continue the kind of leadership that we have been showing on this issue. I have the greatest respect for all who work in oil and gas sector—they have contributed hugely to Scotland and we cannot make the switch overnight—but we must accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. As Mark Ruskell rightly says, even if we were not facing the climate emergency, the maturity of the North Sea fields means that we have to accelerate that transition there. We must do that in a fair and a just way, but we have the potential to do that and we should grab that potential with both hands.