I will begin with a short formal statement on our annual progress, as required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
On 31 October, I laid before Parliament a statutory report on the status of the latest annual target under the 2009 act. The report shows that the annual target and domestic effort target for 2014 were both met. It reflects emissions statistics that were published in June, which showed progress so strong that Scotland exceeded the level of its world-leading 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut six years early. Scotland’s emissions in 2014 were 45.8 per cent lower than they had been in 1990. By any standards, that is excellent performance. For comparison, Scotland is among the top performers in the EU—European Union—15 and is second only to Sweden, since 1990.
While visiting Scotland in March, Christiana Figueres, who is the outgoing head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that Scotland’s actions are exemplary. Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has said:
“the Scottish Government’s policies and programmes have made a significant difference—you are meeting a target, and the target is tough.”—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 13 September 2016; c 3.]
Building on Scotland’s outstanding progress, and recognising that the Paris agreement—to which I will return in a moment—represents a call to action for all countries, we have committed to outlining proposals for a new climate change bill, including a new and more testing emissions reduction target for 2020. Our approach to setting the levels of future statutory targets will continue to be based on best evidence, including the independent expert advice of the Committee on Climate Change on the implications of the Paris agreement for Scotland. We will consult on the bill, based on the committee’s advice, early next year.
Although we anticipate new legislation, the Scottish Government remains committed to discharging the requirements of the 2009 act in a manner that is evidence based and high in ambition. In particular, my ministerial colleagues and I are working together in the Cabinet sub-committee on climate change to agree the package of policies and proposals for our climate change plan. The plan will set out policies and proposals to deliver Scotland’s statutory emissions reduction targets out to 2032, under the 2009 act. As requested by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, we will bring a draft of the plan for parliamentary scrutiny in January.
That is the initial formal statement that I am required to make to Parliament. I will follow it by talking a little more about the new international context that the historic Paris agreement represents. The agreement is the first truly global action plan to tackle climate change. The 196 countries of the UNFCCC have agreed, in the words of the treaty, that
“climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and … requires … the widest possible co-operation by all countries”.
The agreed international aim is to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, with rapid reductions in emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.
The agreement was the first big challenge for the UN sustainable development framework—the international set of goals to fight poverty and transform the world economy. In July 2015, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would adopt the framework, which makes Scotland one of the first nations to commit to the goals.
The Paris agreement followed calls from the G7 leaders of industrialised countries for urgent and concrete action, deep cuts in emissions and decarbonisation of the global economy this century. There have, of course, also been strong calls for action from world faith leaders. I draw members’ attention to the global interfaith message that has been issued today to the UN climate conference in Marrakech, which has been signed by Scottish faith leaders.
Tackling major global issues like climate change usually requires leadership from the USA. EU climate diplomacy kept the UNFCCC process moving forward during the years following the Copenhagen summit, but it was the partnership between the USA and China in 2014 that finally enabled a level of ambition at Paris that was at the top end of expectations. The US presidential election this week undoubtedly means a tougher job for progressive US states, so it makes it all the more important that we promote very strongly the economic case for action on climate change—the massive investment and future jobs that will flow from the low-carbon transition.
How is Scotland contributing to the international agenda? We have significantly scaled up renewable electricity capacity; in 2015 it accounted for 56.7 per cent of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. Scaling up existing technologies is very important in the international context. The fact that we have delivered a 45.8 per cent cut in emissions and exceeded our 2020 target level six years early shows other countries that deep emissions cuts are possible. We have also delivered five years ahead of schedule our 2020 target to provide 500MW of community and locally owned renewables. Incidentally, we have set new and more testing targets of there being 1GW by 2020 and 2GW by 2030. In addition, we have achieved a 15.2 per cent cut in total energy consumption, which means that we have passed our 2020 target of 12 per cent six years early.
We have contributed to achievements at Europe level—the EU is currently ahead of schedule, having achieved a 24 per cent cut in emissions against the 20 per cent target for 2020. Based on Scottish and EU experience, progress is likely to be faster than we expected. That is important, because the existing pledges under the Paris agreement are only enough to limit global temperature rise to perhaps around 3°C. It is clear that more will need to be done.
Scotland and the EU have both been cutting emissions while growing the economy. As I said, that is a very important international message now. Low-carbon and renewable energy employs more than 21,000 people in Scotland. Speaking at Edinburgh castle in September, Laurent Fabius, the French minister who presided over the success at Paris, emphasised the huge support from devolved, region and state governments, and from local government, cities, businesses, non-governmental organisations, faith groups, trades unions and civic society that helped to make the Paris agreement. That echoes the Scottish experience of strong cross-party and cross-society support for climate action. We believe that non-state actors will help to drive a strongly progressive agenda faster than expected.
The Climate Group brings together Governments and businesses on the international stage to promote high ambition. Scotland has been a very active member of the Climate Group’s states and regions alliance for more than a decade. The alliance has provided an excellent platform for Scottish ministers to get our important messages across. We have also signed what is known as the under 2 MOU—the subnational global climate leadership memorandum of understanding—which involves setting targets for 2050 by a huge coalition representing more than 800 million people. Importantly, we now report annually on our progress directly to the international community under the initiative called the compact of states and regions.
Scotland is continuing to champion climate justice, because the worst impacts of climate change are falling on the poor and vulnerable. Following the Parliament’s debate on climate justice in 2012 and Scotland’s international climate justice conference in October 2013, the Scottish national action plan on human rights commits us to continue to champion climate justice.
Scotland’s innovative climate justice fund, which was initially supported through the provision of £6 million from our hydro nation programme, has supported 11 projects in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Voluntary Service Overseas, Tearfund, the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University, Oxfam Scotland, Christian Aid Scotland and Water Witness International. The First Minister announced that Scotland will invest £3 million a year in the fund over the next five years. In March, we announced that £2 million would be provided from hydro nation to help to improve more lives in Malawi through the University of Strathclyde’s water futures programme.
The fund has provided additional support to the humanitarian crisis in Malawi. Last month, £240,000 was provided on a match-funding basis to Oxfam, Christian Aid, SCIAF and EMMS International, thereby doubling the Scottish Government’s contribution. That money will help to provide at least 35,000 people with basic food supplies over the coming months. In a further diversification of the fund’s activities, the First Minister announced a £1 million contribution to the capacity-building initiative for transparency, which is an important foundation for the success of the Paris agreement that supports developing countries’ engagement with the treaty.
Although the worst impacts of climate change will fall on developing countries and areas such as the Arctic, we should not assume that Scotland will be immune. An independent assessment of Scotland’s adaptation programme in 2016 highlighted the good start that we have made on our adaptation programme, but cautioned of the challenges ahead.
Peatland restoration is a valuable investment in climate adaptation because it reduces emissions from degraded areas and creates carbon sequestration opportunities. It provides significant co-benefits such as biodiversity, water quality and natural flood management, which I expect will be recognised in the forthcoming climate change plan. I confirm that we have made £400,000 available to Scottish Natural Heritage to bring forward further action this financial year.
To return to the Paris agreement, I attended the extraordinary environment council in Brussels on 30 September to lend Scotland’s very strong support for early ratification by the EU. We were delighted last week to welcome the coming into force of the agreement four years early, on 4 November. The EU, which currently pledges to make at least 40 per cent emissions cuts by 2030, is working to deliver that pledge. The EU has committed to playing a full part in the mechanisms under the Paris agreement that are designed to raise global ambition over time.
In conclusion, we cut our emissions by 45.8 per cent between 1990 and 2014, thereby meeting our 2014 annual target and exceeding our 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut six years early. We will continue to rise to the challenge. In 2017, the Scottish Government will publish a new energy strategy that will be fully integrated with a new climate change plan and a new climate change bill, and will establish a new and more testing 2020 target. Other countries must now match Scotland’s ambition and actions.