I recognise the significance of the draft climate change plan, which builds on the work done by all parties, from the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and through the first two reports on proposals and policies to our proposed new climate change bill.
The debate is an essential contribution to focusing the Scottish Government’s collective mind on the changes that are recommended in the four committee reports. The fact that there is direct reporting to our Parliament is testament to the mainstreaming of climate change.
Scottish Labour recognises the robust advice and support that the UK Committee on Climate Change has given to our Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. Our committee’s responsibility for scrutinising the governance and future monitoring and evaluation of the plan is weighty. I thank our clerks and the Scottish Parliament information centre for fulfilling the challenging role of supporting us so effectively. I thank all those who gave us written submissions and contributed to oral evidence sessions, which helped the committee to hone its thoughts.
If the final CCP is to be truly at the core of all policies and proposals across the Government, our committee’s recommendation that it should
“state explicitly how the results of the draft Energy Strategy consultation will contribute to the final Plan”
must be acted on.
There are synergies between the plan and the energy strategy—there is also my proposed member’s bill to place a ban, for climate change reasons, on onshore fracking. Job opportunities in renewables and energy efficiency, related manufacturing and the circular economy must be underpinned by a just transition for workers and communities.
The committee recommends that
“the Scottish Government make the relationship between the Climate Change Plan and other strategies, such as the National Planning Framework, the Infrastructure Investment Plan and the Land Use Strategy, more explicit.”
The committee has serious concerns and there are unanswered questions about the TIMES model. Only after persistent questioning of the Scottish Government did it emerge that as much as 40 per cent—if not more—of the sectoral assessment was not done through the whole system model.
As our convener, Graeme Dey, highlighted, the committee also states that
“There is a lack of clarity and transparency in the draft Plan surrounding the information that was fed into and produced by the TIMES Model”,
which has meant that carrying out scrutiny has been challenging.
The committee recommends that
“the Scottish Government revise the carbon envelopes for transport and agriculture to show greater ambition”,
given that those sectors are two of our heaviest emitters.
As I understand it, whatever policy is put into the TIMES model, the model pushes out the costings for it. I ask the cabinet secretary to consider carefully whether social inclusion and the pathway that is, to use her words,
“most beneficial to the people of Scotland”
have been adequately accounted for in the assessment of every sector.
In transport, a stark example of a techie approach being fed in is from the shift to low-emission vehicles, and the arguments for it, to tackle projected increases in road traffic of 27 per cent by 2030. Why is there no complementary modelling to assess the costs of planning more infrastructure for walking and cycling, with the associated support for behaviour change? That would produce healthy options and cut congestion, so there would be multiple benefits. While of course we need to shift to low-carbon vehicles for commercial reasons and for the economy, we also need a modal shift to active travel, and I ask the cabinet secretary to rethink that approach.
Our committee also has a sectoral focus on land use, peatlands, marine issues, the public sector and waste. Graeme Dey emphasised the importance of peatlands to the picture and we now have an understanding of that, which has developed since the marker in RPP1 through international and domestic research collaborations, which have led to specific funded policies from the Scottish Government.
That is in stark contrast to the failure to push forward on the contribution of blue carbon, which was in RPP2 and is—shockingly—omitted from the draft plan. Under questioning, Scottish Government officials acknowledged that that would be remedied in the final plan, and that is one of the committee’s recommendations.
We stress the importance of the circular economy. In contrast to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, we recommend a staged move to compulsory soil testing on improved land, which must be supported by clear criteria and must follow the advice to be incremental. That is a means to an end.
I highlight the importance of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s calls for consideration of organic farming, and I strongly support that as a biological contribution.
The public sector’s contribution is also vital. With mandatory reporting duties, leadership and peer support will be key, and the contribution that part of the sector already makes is to be lauded. The letter from Stephen Hagan of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to the cabinet secretary is most encouraging.
Children who are now in primary 1 will be in their early 20s when the final policies and proposals under the plan are actioned. The vision that we create now for the way forward will need to be checked regularly against the development of technologies that have not even been invented yet. As those children move towards and settle down into adult life in an utterly changed world of work and leisure, the plan must prove to be just for our society here in Scotland. If those people are to live in a Scotland in which our communities are protected from flooding, with warm housing, good green surroundings and connectivity, there must be robust monitoring and evaluation.
The framework has been eight years in the making. I listened to what the cabinet secretary said, but the CCP must be the foundation of policy making, and it is vital to have clarity in the pathways to delivery as we go forward with it.