- The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-05186, in the name of Paul Wheelhouse, on the United Nations climate change negotiations. Members who wish to take part in the debate should press their request-to-speak buttons. At this point, I warn members that we are a bit tight for time and that the Presiding Officers will keep members very much to their time limits. As a result, if members can save a few seconds, we would be extremely grateful.
- The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse):
In rising to speak to and move my motion, I want first to signal that I intend to accept Claudia Beamish’s amendment in the constructive spirit in which it was made. However, for the record, I do not agree with its use of “remedial”.
Although we can all be proud of progress that we are making on tackling climate change in Scotland, I accept that we can and must do more. Early next year, we will present to the Parliament our second report on proposals and policies, which will look forward to our targets for 2023 to 2027 and will refresh the actions that we identified in our first report to address our emissions, to compensate for excess residential emissions that occurred in 2010 and—obviously—to keep us on track.
I assure members that we are working closely with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—a point that Ms Beamish makes in her motion—and local authorities on climate change issues. Indeed, I have already met and next week will meet again Councillor Stephen Hagan, COSLA’s spokesperson, to discuss how we can best work together on this most important challenge.
I move to the substance of the debate. Against a recent background of stark reports on climate change from the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Energy Agency, and Lord Nicholas Stern, around 200 nations, which are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—UNFCCC—met during the past two weeks to continue negotiations on international action to tackle global climate change. Many will say that not enough was achieved at this year’s conference, and I certainly share those frustrations in some areas. However, there was some positive progress that lays the foundations for more concerted action in the years to come.
I acknowledge the positive leadership that the European Union displayed at the conference because many of its member states were key players. I was pleased to be able to join UK ministers Ed Davey and Greg Barker alongside John Griffiths from Wales on the ministerial team as part of a highly effective UK delegation, which was ably supported by the UK ambassador.
The EU showed leadership by pledging with some other countries to a vital second period of commitment to the Kyoto protocol to run from 2013 to 2020. Keeping the Kyoto protocol’s architecture in place is a crucial part of the transition to a new global treaty that will take effect in 2020. That second period of commitment by the EU and others will account for only 14 per cent of global emissions, and might cover only 10 per cent by 2020, which shows how important it is for the new global treaty to cover all parties.
The EU has promised to deliver a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2020, but it will pass that target, perhaps to the extent of delivering a 27 per cent cut. In any event, the EU’s offer to increase its 2020 target to 30 per cent still stands if other countries show equivalent ambition. It is time for other countries to match the EU’s offer. We welcome the opportunity to review levels of ambition in 2014 and we will push for higher ambition. Not enough international action to limit global warming to 2°C has been pledged, and there are concerns that global warming will reach 4°C or higher. Lives are already being lost and the impact of a 4°C rise in global temperatures does not bear thinking about.
I turn to Scotland’s contribution to the UN climate change agenda. Scotland’s high level of ambition on climate change, our promotion of the jobs, investment, trade and growth opportunities of a low-carbon economy, and our commitment to championing climate justice all mean that Scotland has a strong and positive message for the international community. With Scotland’s £3 million climate justice fund—hailed as a world first by Mary Robinson—climate justice is an area in which we can lead world thinking and action. Our approach truly illustrates Scotland striving to be a model of international best practice on climate change. It also helps to establish trust between developed and developing nations.
On 28 November, I was delighted to announce the first five successful projects under the climate justice fund. The successful projects will be based in Malawi and Zambia and will deliver a range of climate adaptation outcomes, with an emphasis this round on water management. They will particularly help the women of Malawi and Zambia.
I met Mary Robinson at the conference last week and, after a useful discussion, I was able to announce that Scotland will host an international climate justice conference next autumn. That was warmly welcomed by Mrs Robinson and non-governmental organisations.
Having met the Malawian minister at last week’s conference, I know that Scotland’s work on international development is making a real difference to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Scotland has a real opportunity to bring together our leadership on climate change and renewable energy, and our expertise in research and development to assist developing countries.
The UN has been impressed with Scotland’s leadership in the low-carbon economy, and, earlier this year, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited the First Minister to contribute to the UN sustainable energy for all initiative. My predecessor as minister met the UN’s Assistant Secretary General in June and, last week, I met the director of the UN development programme’s environment and energy group to forge an agreement on the next steps in Scotland’s partnership with the UN on its sustainable energy for all initiative.
The Scottish Government has committed to developing a toolkit that will draw upon Scotland’s experience in Malawi and in other countries to allow communities to develop community-based renewable energy schemes on-grid and, crucially, off-grid. For example, just 7 per cent of Malawi’s population have access to electricity. Our partnership with the UN will help to empower communities, improve access to education and employment, and lead to a better quality of life. Those values are at the core of the UN sustainable energy for all initiative, and we are pleased to support the work.
While I was at the UN conference, I spoke on a panel with the Qatari energy minister at the world climate summit. As well as Mary Robinson, I met representatives of international NGOs including Christian Aid, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, the Third World Network, CIDSE—Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité—which is a group of Catholic development agencies that includes the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, and the UK Youth Climate Coalition. The response to Scotland’s messages on domestic action, pushing for higher ambition from other countries and supporting developing countries through the climate justice fund was positive.
I met with the European Investment Bank and global Scots and heard of the opportunities for Scotland to strengthen links with the region. I also had bilateral meetings with ministers from Europe and around the world to share good practice from Scotland and encourage other countries in their efforts to tackle climate change. With Ed Davey, I attended EU ministers’ co-ordination meetings and kept in touch with the other UK ministers on the delegation, Greg Barker and John Griffiths.
I represented the UK at the launch of a solar power project by the Qatari Government and at the embassy at an event that focused on carbon capture and storage. The Gulf states made a positive presentation at the conference on their progress on carbon capture and storage initiatives, which was of considerable interest to me.
I have talked about the compelling moral, environmental, and economic reasons for acting on climate change. In fact, the low-carbon economy and, in particular, our renewable energy sector, has shown that it can deliver countercyclical growth, with a pipeline of £9 billion of future projects during these hard economic times. We can show countries that are not investing in low-carbon that they are missing out on valuable economic growth at the time when they probably most need it.
However, we must continue to try to persuade political leaders and the public to look beyond the economic rationale. The moral case for acting on climate change overrides narrow economic self-interest, and it is the moral case that is at the heart of climate justice.
Global emissions are at an all-time high and time is very short to agree actions to limit global temperature rises to 2°C, which politicians from around the world have pledged to do.
Domestically, Scotland is providing a strong case study of the potential of sustainable, low-carbon growth. By leading technology development, regulation and finance we are attracting major investment from leading international and Scottish companies. The low-carbon economy, which cuts across all sectors, could rise to 10 per cent of gross domestic product and 5 per cent of jobs by 2020. As the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee concluded, we can achieve our target of being able to meet 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables by 2020, and in 2011 we were ahead of schedule to achieve that.
We must not forget that we are already more than halfway to achieving our target to cut emissions by 42 per cent by 2020. Between 1990 and 2010, emissions in Scotland fell by 24.3 per cent.
It is clear that climate change and the need to adapt to our changing climate is not just an issue for developing countries, although they suffer disproportionate effects. At home, regular land slips and flooding cause massive and traumatic disruption to people’s domestic and working lives, as I have seen in Comrie and Jedburgh. We must ensure that we adapt to our changing climate at home and that our vulnerable communities have the support that they need in order to deal with the consequences of climate change.
My ministerial colleagues and I are clear about the scale of the challenge ahead. We are acting collectively across all areas of Government to deliver the emissions reductions within our powers. However, action does not rest with the Government alone, and I hope that we will continue to have the Parliament’s support for this vital agenda at home, where I recognise that we too need to accelerate action, and in our efforts on climate justice and on moving the international community towards higher ambition.
That the Parliament welcomes Scotland’s participation in the 18th Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha; notes that participation at the conference was used as an opportunity to join other nations of high ambition in making the case for stronger global action on climate change; acknowledges that this case was made through promoting the evidence from Scotland on the jobs, investment and trade opportunities of the low-carbon economy and that it set out Scotland’s commitment to clean energy, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, climate justice and international cooperation on climate change; values the cross-party commitment to Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, and recognises that in order to meet stretching targets and maximise Scotland’s contribution to this most important global challenge, the people, communities and the public and private sectors of Scotland must accelerate action to reduce domestic emissions and speed the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
I welcome the opportunity that the debate gives us to explore the long view, and welcome the minister back from the Doha deliberations.
I hope that the Labour amendment challenges us all to ask ourselves what we need to do by 2020 and by 2050, and how we can do it in a way that is inclusive and fair for the people of Scotland. This debate enables us to share views and work together to develop them beyond today. I am glad that the minister has accepted our amendment in that spirit.
The protracted Doha negotiations gave some grounds for optimism, tempered by the bitter sense of foreboding on many of the critical issues. As the minister said, there was agreement on the renewal of the Kyoto protocols, which were set to expire this month. As the only legally binding treaty on emissions reductions, it is welcome news that 194 countries have signed up. However, one cannot help but be disappointed by the omission of significant potential signatories.
Although the EU and a few additional countries, such as Switzerland, have reaffirmed their commitment, it is disappointing that previous signatories, such as Canada and Japan, have decided to opt out at this stage. Although one can understand the reasoning behind this stance, considering that the largest emitters, such as the USA and China, have failed once again to ratify the treaty, the fact remains that the agreement of all of those nations is essential. It is also disappointing that the developing countries are exempt from the protocols.
I recognise—as we all do—that the emissions reduction demands must seem a bit rich to countries such as China and India, which have not enjoyed the historical benefits of industrialisation. However, the world is in a new technological age of renewable energy and other technologies, and developed countries must support those who are utilising those options. Omitting such vast and emissions-heavy nations from international accords is surely a dangerous game to play. Like the minister, I welcome the news coming from Doha that the developed countries, including the UK, have reaffirmed their commitment to the provision of long-term financial support to those countries that are still developing.
Also like the minister, I will mention the climate justice fund. The Scotland Malawi Partnership
“applauds the Scottish Government’s commitment to climate justice in Malawi”
“The rural poor are most at risk of food insecurity due to climate change in Malawi. ... it is the poorest and the least complicit in causing such climatic shifts, that face the greatest challenge.”
My colleague John Finnie and I have just returned from a trip to Gaza. I ask the minister to consider Gaza City in any future climate justice fund round, to enable residents to put the power in their own hands with the support of small-scale renewables such as household solar technology.
I am sure that members will welcome the news coming out of Doha that, in the period leading up to the talks in Durban, governments will undertake a “robust process” to review the long-term 2°C goal. According to the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, approximately 20 to 30 per cent of species assessed will face extinction if the increase in global warming exceeds the 2°C target.
Too regularly, people ask me what they can do individually. Some ask whether there is any point and cannot see how their contribution could make a difference to the seemingly intractable problem—a problem that is occurring by land, sea and air. We can all make a difference in simple ways: by walking children to school, turning down the heat and wearing a jumper or switching off lights in empty rooms. I commend the contributions of individuals, families, communities and businesses throughout Scotland and emphasise the necessity for the Scottish Government to continue to support their efforts—indeed, to develop further opportunities to help, both financially and with advice.
I am reassured that it is rarely a young person or a child who asks that question from a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the issue. As a former eco-schools co-ordinator, I might be tempted to say that the green flags that are flying over so many of our schools in Scotland might be the reason. It is in part about a culture change and a confidence issue, although I do not think that it is that simple. I believe that it is also about the sense of solidarity that comes from collective action and the sharing of information, which happens in each eco-school as projects such as energy and water assessments move forward and the children see the results of their actions.
Beyond the school context, Scottish Government support provides a very valuable seedcorn and kick-start mechanism for projects. Like-minded people in a wide range of groups from eco-congregations, small rural communities and ethnic minority groups to small towns and many more have been helped through the climate challenge fund to raise awareness and to develop strategies. I hope that the minister will consider the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s request in its budget report to enable economic activity, which would enable so many projects to continue beyond their funding.
- Paul Wheelhouse:
I am due to write to the committee in response to its report to point out that, in my recent refresh of the climate challenge fund, we have extended the opportunity for people to generate an income through climate challenge fund projects within de minimis rules. I hope that the member welcomes that.
- Claudia Beamish:
I do welcome that and thank the minister for that comment.
Business is also of vital importance. The minister recently visited a climate monitor farm in the Borders, near Jedburgh. The Scotch Whisky Association’s actions and the green tourism business scheme also help. The Scottish Government missed the first annual emissions targets, and those must be put into the second report on proposals and policies if we are to have any chance of playing catch-up and retaining our position in the world’s respect. That has been highlighted by many people in non-governmental organisations.
Today, I ask us all to reflect on how we can bring about the structural reforms needed to help hasten, at all levels of Government here in Scotland, the changes that we need if we are to continue to be global leaders.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee took a significant step in the mainstreaming of climate change by asking all committees to report on climate change as part of the budget scrutiny process. How valuable that exercise is in reality remains to be seen. The committee also asked that the downstream spending of projects be assessed through the carbon assessment tool, so that we include, for example, not only the building of a road but the traffic that will travel on it. I know that the minister has agreed to look at that difficult assessment process.
All political parties, whether in or out of Government and whether at parliamentary or local government level, need to find a shift in spending, which is a challenge in straitened times when every penny is committed. At its simplest, few would say no to safe, segregated cycle routes, but how do we cut something else in a strategic way?
Given the challenges faced by local government and the need to meet the duties signed up to in the climate change declaration, it is imperative that we work together at local level, so I am glad to hear that the minister is in dialogue with COSLA.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott):
You should be drawing to a close, please.
- Claudia Beamish:
Perhaps the collective community action that I highlighted earlier can help us all to bring about an incremental change in the process across departments through the land use strategy, the national marine plan and—perhaps most important—the national performance framework, which will give us ways into policy that will be profoundly significant.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
You must close, please.
- Claudia Beamish:
Lastly, I hope that the possibility of a complement to GDP that reflects the environmental damage that can happen in Scotland will also lead to a way forward.
I move amendment S4M-05186.2, to insert at end:
“; commends the actions taken so far by many in this regard; calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that sufficient remedial action is taken in the next report on proposals and policies to compensate for missing its first annual emissions reduction targets under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and calls on the Scottish Government to work closely with local authorities to help them translate Scotland’s Climate Change Declaration into robust and accountable action.”
- Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con):
I welcome the opportunity that the debate gives me and my party to reinforce the commitments that we made during the passage of the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. We are determined to participate in the process of working towards a low-carbon Scotland. Although we had a number of serious concerns about the targets that were set in the bill, by voting for the bill we ultimately committed ourselves to that process.
That process has never been more vital. Although there are some among us, including within my own party, who are climate change sceptics, those of us who have ever tried to farm for a living—there are a few of us in the chamber—will realise that our climate is changing rapidly. Looking at the weather that we have experienced, we have seen radical change from one year to the next, with one year producing record rainfall after a previous year’s record cold winter. In fact, those cold winters may have put us on the slightly depressed note that we are on today, given that the emissions in 2010, from the domestic sector at least, were significantly higher as a result of the demand from ordinary people trying to heat their homes. When the figures are fully available, I hope that they will demonstrate that the milder winter of 2011 has put us close to at least getting back on track.
Like the previous speaker, I commend the work that is going on in our schools, and at every level in Scotland, to ensure that our young people can understand and work with the demands that will be put on them in the future. Having visited a number of eco-schools, I am well aware of the eco-schools programme, but I would particularly like to commend the work that is done with the primary schools in the Montrose area. Over a period of several years, at the beginning of each February I have been lucky enough to be invited to Montrose Academy to address the primary 7 pupils about the cross-party determination that exists in the Scottish Parliament to achieve the objectives that we have set out.
However, those objectives are not easy to achieve, and I continue to have a number of concerns about how we will achieve them in the current environment. It is only right that, as a developed nation, we should take the lead in demonstrating how those achievements can be made. However, with so many of the world’s biggest industrial countries outside the process, I worry that our objectives may not be achieved.
What can we do to ensure that we deal with these problems? I think that the Government needs to address some very difficult decisions. First, this country and others have demonstrated that gradually changing the fuel that we use from coal to gas has a significant part to play, perhaps not in the longer term, but certainly in the interim period when we need to try to cut the carbon cost of our energy.
That is why, at this difficult crossroads, the Governments in Scotland and the UK must make difficult decisions about novel gas extraction techniques that may allow us to make significant steps towards achieving our interim objectives, if not our long-term objectives.
I make no apologies for repeating something that I have said many times in the chamber: the figures that are to be achieved before 2050 are very demanding indeed. I find it difficult to reconcile the pursuit of those targets with the idea that we should close down our nuclear power stations and not replace them. The Scottish Government has missed an opportunity to ensure that our low-carbon energy production is achieved within the timescale that we want it to be by failing to use appropriate technologies in the long term.
I will say a few words about what the minister said about the Doha conference. First, I back up what he said. I am pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm with which he spoke of the UK delegates at the conference. In fact, I am tempted to say that perhaps the union is safe in Paul Wheelhouse’s hands. [Interruption.] Perhaps not. Scotland should be proud of the international work that he described in Malawi and Zambia.
We have a great many challenges in front of us; we must address them systematically. I look forward to the next available set of figures, which I hope will put us back on target to achieve our objectives. I close as I opened: I am delighted to give my commitment, on behalf of my party, to the challenging targets, which we will work to achieve with other parties.
- Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):
When we passed our Climate Change (Scotland) Bill in 2009 we did so unanimously. I am delighted to have heard excellent speeches from Claudia Beamish and, with the exception of his nuclear obsession, Alex Johnstone. I am pleased that we still seem to have a common view on where we should be going, because it is our ambition, engagement and contribution to this vital debate that will book our place in worldwide discussions.
Our attendance at various conferences of the parties predated this Government, with Ross Finnie previously attending. COP14 was my first conference of the parties, which was held in Poznan. I found such huge conferences an immensely puzzling experience—the Copenhagen conference was attended by more than 40,000 people—and they are initially quite intimidating. I congratulate the minister on the engagement that he achieved at his first COP.
- Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab):
Will Mr Stevenson advise us how the 40,000 people got to the conference?
- Stewart Stevenson:
Neil Findlay’s Labour colleague, the Welsh environment minister, went by train, which took two days each way. Unfortunately the parliamentary arithmetic in Scotland meant that I was not allowed by the whips to make that same choice and I had to fly. I regret that, but that is the honest truth of the matter.
In 2009, the convener in Copenhagen said:
“This is the time to deliver. This is the place to commit.”
Delivery and commitment remain bafflingly elusive; progress is snail-like, but it is being made. COP17, when we were in Durban, reached agreement on the timeline for a global climate treaty. How has Doha COP18 progressed matters? I am delighted that the damaging effects of climate change on gender issues, in particular on women, moved up the agenda. I am delighted that the Government has worked with Mary Robinson on the broader climate justice agenda, in particular how that affects women. I very much welcome the minister’s announcement that we will host a climate justice conference.
We know that climate change is damaging farming in Africa and reducing access to water and firewood. That is no mere inconvenience to people in faraway countries. They are paying the price for what we have created for them through our emissions, so it is a moral issue for us all. However, it also represents a genuine economic, and perhaps wider, threat. Mass migration from areas of aridity to areas with water is inevitable. There is also the prospect of family dislocations and real conflict.
When the Kyoto protocol was first introduced, countries such as Russia and Poland signed up in good faith, expecting that the accounting units that they were allocated would lead to their having money to invest in dealing with the problem. The failure of the US, and Canada’s subsequent withdrawal, have undercut that. If it is difficult to get those countries to re-engage, I understand that.
If the United States needs a warning, hurricane Sandy is one. The same thing will happen again and it will happen more frequently. There are states in the United States, such as California, that are engaged on the matter, but we need the big boys in the big pond to make a real commitment to real change.
I congratulate the minister on his work at Doha. I hope that we all support him.
- Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab):
It is a great pleasure to follow Stewart Stevenson on the subject of climate change, as he clearly deserves a great deal of credit for steering our historic legislation through the Parliament, albeit with our collective support and, sometimes, amendment.
His successor also deserves credit, in particular for his announcement about the climate justice fund two weeks or so ago. I am pleased that the Doha conference also agreed to establish an international mechanism on loss and damage. The details of that have still to be worked out, but it seemed to be one of the most significant achievements of the conference.
The Scottish Government collectively also deserves a great deal of credit for many of its actions on climate change. I highlight its drive on renewable energy, of which I am always a strong supporter. I was pleased about the First Minister’s most recent announcement on marine energy, and I welcome all the developments in that regard.
However, we cannot afford to have a debate in which we just pat ourselves on the back. Over the past couple of weeks, two Government statements and documents have given me cause for serious concern.
The first was an official presentation that was posted online last week by the Scottish Government’s director of energy and climate change, David Wilson. The presentation exposes a large gap between Scotland’s planned and legally required carbon reductions. A graph shows a gap opening up between polluting business as usual and the statutory reduction target of about 18 million tonnes by 2027. The presentation has various scenarios, but even in the best-case scenarios, in which all the pollution-reduction policies are adopted, there is still a gap of 8 million tonnes. As Wilson himself says:
“Some of the scenarios we have been developing just show quite how difficult it is … The longer you go out, the more and more challenging it gets.”
The second document that recently gave me cause for concern was the Scottish Government’s carbon account for transport, which revealed that the net impact of all Scottish measures on transport was an increase of 71,000 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions. The report says:
“This estimated increase in emissions is largely driven by a net increase in vehicle kilometres, which are anticipated to increase by 1.2% above a business as usual scenario in 2022 as a result of Scottish transport interventions.”
In case anyone doubts what those interventions are, the report refers in particular to massive vehicle kilometre increases in Strathclyde and Aberdeen because of “large infrastructure projects”. In other words, the 40 per cent increase in the roads budget over the past five years is the key problem when it comes to transport emissions.
We should compare that with the advice given to Stewart Stevenson by the chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change in a letter of 31 January this year, in which he said that it was
“essential for the Scottish Government to ensure full roll-out of measures in devolved policy areas, such as demand-side transport”.
Of course, demand-side transport measures were removed in the late stages of the last RPP, so I hope that action will be taken on transport in particular in the forthcoming RPP.
Time is short, but I would like to mention briefly concerns about the change to the energy rating of new domestic and non-domestic buildings, which was announced this week. It is clear that the built environment and transport are the two biggest emitters in the areas of Scottish Government responsibility.
Our amendment refers to duties on local authorities. It took rather a long time for local authority action plans to be produced. Perhaps the minister could say more about that.
Fracking is very topical. Many experts say that it will increase climate change. We must take that into account, and I hope that there will be guidance on it, with a presumption against.
Finally, I was very struck by advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change that said that household energy bills would be about £600 higher per year by 2050 if the UK relies increasingly on gas, and only £100 higher if the country concentrates on renewable power generation, including wind. I am glad that the Scottish Government is strong in those areas and am pleased to end on that positive note.
- Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP):
I was interested to read in the Financial Times an independent view of what happened at Doha. In an article entitled “Sleepless nights ahead on way to a binding climate treaty”, Pilita Clark said:
“Doha’s achievement was closing down older negotiations so work could start on this 2015 treaty. But Doha also agreed”—
as Malcolm Chisholm hinted—
“to look at compensating poorer countries for loss and damage from climate change, something wealthy countries have long resisted.”
We are making the moral case here for climate justice, and we must work harder on that. However, I hope that our minister did not sleep on the floor with his head propped up by crumpled photocopier paper as a pillow, as one European Commission official was spotted doing at Doha.
On the domestic effort, RPP2 certainly challenges us, but it is also notable that, in respect of meeting our targets, the way in which the world measures carbon includes one of our major carbon sinks. It would be unusual for me not to mention that the measurement of and means to include emissions from peatlands, which leach greenhouse gases as they decay, is now included. Our Scottish Government budget investment of £1.7 million in rewetting and in calibrating the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, and the savings that we can make to mitigate greenhouse gases, will help. Through our peatland programme, Scotland is leading an international effort, with international scientists geared up with ours to achieve it.
People in my constituency are questioning what they should do. Tackling climate change and developing renewable energy are two sides of the same coin. The Government in London’s approach to future energy needs seems to ignore the warning of experts such as Nicholas Stern, author of the report “The Economics of Climate Change”, that reductions of carbon emissions are “recklessly slow” in the rich countries. I need point no further than the fast track for conventional and shale gas extraction and use to replace ageing nuclear and coal power stations in England, which is a signal to investors that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition favours short-term and inefficient gas-fired, carbon-emitting electricity production as opposed to long-term, clean, green and sustainable alternatives. Why do I think that? The UK Government’s latest positioning behind old technologies will harm the renewables revolution in Scotland and hit the economy of my constituency, which offers much of the great potential for renewable energy.
George Osborne’s dash for gas is backed to some extent by Vince Cable, who sees UK competitiveness as being impaired by strict carbon reduction targets. The argument on that has taken place in the coalition Government in the past year and put back the UK targets to a later date.
Those things affect us hugely, and we must get over them, because the huge potential of cutting-edge tidal, offshore wind and wave power development needs the boost of steady backing from the Government. The uncertainty stems from London decisions; the clarity of purpose in creating a low-carbon economy is rooted in Holyrood.
Those things cannot be ignored in the debate. Indeed, Doha points us to the moral argument about why the development of renewable energy and the tackling of the emissions that we create are central to our way forward and our being in the lead in the world in finding ways to tackle the biggest scourge of our times.
- Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD):
I reassure Rob Gibson that the Scottish minister, far from being asleep,
“worked tirelessly, including several times through the night, professionally and expertly across the range of issues, ensuring the UK played a leading role in delivering the outcome.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 11 December 2012; Vol 555, c 27WS.]
Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, sent me his statement last night. I pay tribute to Paul Wheelhouse for playing what was clearly a constructive role.
I hope that Mr Gibson will give credit to the Green Investment Bank, which is already making investments in Scotland and across the UK and which is a massively important commitment to the renewables industry across the entire country. I hope that it will be a powerful body that can achieve much for that industry, which Malcolm Chisholm rightly mentioned as being one of the few economic growth points, not just in Scotland but across the UK. As Stewart Stevenson rightly observed in his 448th speech in Parliament—
- Stewart Stevenson:
It was my 443rd.
- Tavish Scott:
I apologise—I got mixed up between yesterday and today. He mentioned the issue in his most recent speech in Parliament. I join in the tributes to Stewart Stevenson for taking through the climate change legislation and ensuring that it was fit for purpose.
I have two points on the overall climate change approach. Rob Gibson rightly mentioned the Nicholas Stern report. For me, that was one of the most pioneering bits of work. I absolutely accept what the minister and Claudia Beamish said about climate justice and phraseology and how we present the arguments at school level and to other audiences—Alex Johnstone talked about the different audiences to which we present. However, at the crux of the way in which the world tackles the issues is ensuring that the argument on the economics of tackling climate change is understood and therefore accepted by policymakers and legislators in our Parliament and in Parliaments around the world. No doubt Mr Wheelhouse encountered some of them in his ministerial role in Doha. For me, the case that the Stern report makes for Governments of all political persuasions and none to ensure that changes to programmes are made to deliver sustainable economic growth while tackling emissions still has enormous power.
My second broad point is on the importance of education at school level. Members have rightly referred to the eco-schools programme and the awarding of flags. That programme is just about one of the best things in schools. I take Alex Johnstone’s point about going back to schools that have been awarded a first flag and are then awarded a second one and so on. I hope that the Scottish Government plays an increasing role in encouraging that to happen through the curriculum for excellence. The programme ensures that the younger generation, who have an understanding of the environmental arguments and are intensely committed to them—frankly, they sometimes make them better than we do—never lose sight of them.
Malcolm Chisholm talked about requirements on the minister. The gap that we must all deal with is between the climate change legislation that we all agreed to and passed, and making it happen. It is all very well passing legislation, but what are we doing to make it happen? Malcolm Chisholm’s fundamental point about transport is right. I speak as a former transport minister, so I know that we all dash for more roads and that kind of thing. The minister and his colleagues need to get the right approach to what we put on the roads. Some in the environmental movement rightly have a target of there being 100,000 green cars—for want of a better expression—on Scottish roads by 2020, and I hope that that target can be achieved. Perhaps the policy mechanisms that are talked about in the RPP could be taken up in that area.
- Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP):
I will focus on one specific aspect of the Government motion, where it talks about people, communities and the public and private sectors having to
“accelerate action to reduce domestic emissions and speed the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
I acknowledge entirely the big picture, which is that nations must come together to combat climate change and must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I do not duck the fact that we in Scotland missed our 2010 climate change targets. As a member of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, I, along with Rob Gibson and Claudia Beamish, look forward to scrutinising RPP2 and examining how robust it is. However, we cannot and should not leave it to Government alone to tackle climate change. The private sector and the rest of the public sector must play a part. Just as important, we as individuals must take on responsibility.
That was acknowledged in evidence to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee in September 2011, when Dr Andy Kerr, from the Edinburgh centre on climate change, said:
“we have moved beyond the stage at which a Government can simply say that it will spend money on the problem. We must get individuals, communities and businesses to buy into and invest in the measures.”—[Official Report, Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, 21 September 2011; c 156.]
Dr Kerr was right. We need to ask ourselves, as individuals, how our behaviour impacts on the environment. Sometimes that is not easy to quantify. Two years ago, when I was buying a car, three things influenced my thinking: the mileage that I would be doing; the environment; and the fact that my son, who is something of a petrol-head, had a list of cool cars and a clear idea of the type of vehicle that he would be embarrassed to see his father driving. I plumped for a diesel vehicle that had my son’s approval, which has proved reliable.
The diesel vehicle is also kinder on the environment than a petrol alternative—or so I thought until earlier this year, when the World Health Organization reported that when the filters in modern diesel vehicles were trialled over long distances, in stop-start urban driving, modern diesels are less environmentally friendly than older models and might be spitting out particulates that cause lung cancer and increase the risk of contracting bladder cancer. Our understanding of how what we do as we go about our daily business impacts on the environment and contributes to climate change is evolving. We need the science to get better, so that we can be better informed.
That said, it is incumbent on all of us to take personal responsibility. Surprising results can be derived from the smallest of measures, as is illustrated by what I learned in a conversation with a fellow MSP yesterday. His regular commute to the Parliament is 171 miles, and he decided to see how much difference could be made to fuel consumption and emissions if he set the cruise control to cap his top speed at 5mph less than usual. That simple move, which added only six minutes to his journey, reduced his fuel usage and carbon dioxide emissions by 10 per cent. On an individual level, it can be as easy as that to make a meaningful contribution to tackling climate change.
Claudia Beamish and Tavish Scott were right to draw attention to work that involves younger people, but we need behaviour change across all age groups. I will be interested to hear from the minister how he thinks that the Parliament and the Government can get the message over. If, as a society and a nation, we are to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change, we need people to understand how they can participate in meeting the challenges as they go about their daily lives—and we need people to feel inspired to participate.
There might be a role in that regard for organisations such as Stop Climate Chaos and WWF, given their membership networks and interest in the subject. If such organisations work with Government, the public and the private sector to explain to people how easy-to-implement behaviour changes, which do not impact greatly on our lives, can ensure that we leave a less damaging footprint on the environment, that will make a positive contribution to a cause that we all share.
- Margaret McDougall (West Scotland) (Lab):
Last week, the climate change talks in Doha came to a close, with 194 countries agreeing to implement a second phase of the Kyoto protocol from 2013 to 2020. I congratulate the minister on his role in the talks.
The talks should have led to an historic agreement to tackle climate change, but many organisations argue that they fell short of what was needed. Tasneem Essop, head of low-carbon frameworks at WWF, said afterwards:
“These talks have failed the climate and they have failed developing nations ... The Doha decision has delivered no real cuts in emissions, it has delivered no concrete finance, and it has not delivered on equity.”
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland called the outcome of the talks disappointing and said that it fails to deliver the cuts to carbon emissions that are needed and does not commit enough money to helping the poorest countries to adapt to climate change.
However, I welcome the climate justice fund, which will provide £1 million per year for the next three years to support water projects in Malawi and Zambia, thus increasing communities’ resilience to the impact of climate change. The fund will go a little way towards tackling issues that developing countries face as a result of climate change. It is such countries that will be hit the hardest if we do not tackle the issue effectively now.
As well as the destruction of landscape and ecosystems, there will be a high social and human cost from climate change. As the minister has said, that is why we need the whole world to play its part in tackling climate change. There is a suggestion that in some major developed countries there is no political will to tackle climate change. We are already seeing the effects of that. Christian Aid Scotland estimated in 2011 that just a 2°C rise in average temperature by 2050 would lead to 250 million more people being forced to leave their homes, while 30 million people would go hungry and a further 3 billion would suffer water shortages.
We need to ensure that Scotland has a robust climate change policy. We are not off to a good start, having missed the first annual emissions reduction target. What remedial action is the Scottish Government taking to compensate for missing that target?
According to reports, we are likely to miss nearly every legally binding target from 2014 onwards. What is the Scottish Government doing to ensure that that does not happen? It is all very well to set ambitious targets, but we have to be prepared to take positive action to meet them.
For example, as several members have mentioned, the roads budget has risen by 40 per cent in the past five years, while the funds available for investment in sustainable transport have remained flat. This does not seem like a Government that is serious about tackling climate change. We should be investing in alternative means of transport and encouraging individuals either to take the bus or train or to car share.
Locally, we need to do more to ensure that councils are meeting their recycling targets, given that more than half of councils missed the 40 per cent target in 2010.
Our actions must match up to our words. While some sacrifices may need to be made now—our budgets need to reflect that—it will save our world resources in the long term. There is no quick fix to climate change, but time is running out and we must commit for the long term and develop a realistic climate change policy for the future. We must also have the political will and commitment to make that change happen.
- Mike MacKenzie (Highlands and Islands) (SNP):
I think that everyone in Scotland was proud when the Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 was passed—here was another area in which Scotland could be a world leader. The targets are ambitious and achievable and, most important, they are set at a level at which unintended consequences can be minimised.
Although some members might like us to make even faster progress, we must always exercise caution rather than force change too quickly, as change can bring hardships on people who least deserve hardship. We must practise climate justice at home as well as abroad. Nevertheless, it is no small achievement that we are already ahead of most of Europe in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, despite a small setback last year. The trend in carbon reduction is downwards and showing every indication that we will achieve and perhaps even exceed our targets.
Although achieving the targets presents challenges, we are demonstrating in Scotland that those same challenges offer opportunities, not least of which are the significant economic opportunities in our renewable energy sector. Once again, Scotland is leading the world, for instance in the field of marine renewables, with requests to the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney from the US, Japan and Korea to show them how to do it. What an amazing contribution to the rest of the world a small country such as Scotland can make in pioneering those exciting developments.
The great thing about Scotland’s significant renewable energy opportunity—with 25 per cent of Europe’s wind and tidal resource and 10 per cent of its wave energy capability—is that it will solve both our energy problem and our climate change problem. When we solve both of those problems, we do so not for a decade or even for a century—we solve them for ever.
In looking at the obstacles to achieving those targets, once again I have to confess to further frustration with the Westminster Government: with UK energy ministers squabbling among themselves about their energy policy and sowing doubt and uncertainty throughout the industry; with Ed Davey peddling patent nonsense about energy costs rising with Scottish independence; with the rapid decrease of the feed-in tariff for solar photovoltaics, ensuring that Scotland will not benefit nearly as well as it should from that technology; with the prevarication over the domestic renewable heat incentive; and with hugely excessive transmission charges for Scotland’s islands, where much of the renewable resource is.
I suggest to the Opposition parties in the chamber that the UK Government is so terrified of—and so preoccupied with—the prospect of Scottish independence that it is taking its eye off the ball with regard to energy policy and other areas. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the single biggest impediment to Scotland achieving its climate change targets is the UK Government.
- Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green):
Climate change compels us to act globally, in a unified manner. We must act locally too and grasp the opportunities that we have to create healthy, resilient and truly sustainable communities.
It is important to recognise where we are. The international negotiating process is deathly slow and even the most mainstream NGO networks are branding Doha as a failure. What was achieved was to prevent the process from breaking down, but no new emissions cuts were committed to—not even by Qatar, which was hosting the talks and which has the highest per capita emissions in the world.
PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released analysis showing that a massive six-fold increase in our rate of decarbonisation is needed to give ourselves a more than 50 per cent chance of avoiding a rise of 2°C in global temperatures. This week, the US National Intelligence Council identified climate change and its impact on food, water and natural resource supplies as a mega trend that will define the coming decade. Closer to home, thousands of people are facing the prospect of having no house insurance as climate change increases the risk of floods in the UK.
The voices calling for change have broadened—I have just cited a big four audit firm, the US intelligence community and the British insurance industry. They are all concerned about the impact of our continued reliance on a high-carbon economy. As more and more parts of the economy and society get behind change, the laggards, and those blocking international agreements, will become more isolated. I hope that we will see a workable, fair and enforceable deal agreed to replace the Kyoto protocol—one that actually works this time. In the meantime, it is our job as a country that has recognised the benefits of a low-carbon economy to help lead the way.
It is an exciting and challenging prospect. We must continue to show leadership, and I welcome the Government’s recognition in the motion that all sectors in Scotland
“must accelerate action to reduce domestic emissions and speed the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
The Green amendment that was not selected for debate is more explicit in its call for the Government to take extra steps after missing the first of our climate targets, which was relatively easy. The Greens will vote for the Government motion and the Labour amendment.
I started by speaking of opportunities, and it is important to remember why we are striving for change. A low-carbon, sustainable society means a healthy society. I recently hosted a talk with a speaker from the Danish cycle embassy. He described the transformation of Copenhagen into a capital city where 37 per cent of trips are by bike. Analysis showed that, for every 10 per cent increase in the number of kilometres cycled, Denmark saves €9 million on healthcare and gains something like 61,000 years of extra life expectancy annually.
A low-carbon society is one where people can heat their homes affordably. Fuel poverty statistics published today remind us of the need to implement and fund a retrofit programme and fix an energy market that is dominated by the big six companies. A low-carbon, sustainable society means a more equal society. If we tackle the shocking inequalities that we see in the world, there are enough resources and wealth to allow a meaningful and fulfilling life for so many more. We must remember that those are changes and ideals that we should be striving for anyway.
At Doha, we saw the first, important recognition from rich industrialised countries that they should pay for at least some of the loss and damage that is already being felt in more vulnerable nations. Spreading Scotland’s commitment to climate justice will be key to a fair international solution. To do that, Scotland must continue to fund projects overseas that target the most marginalised communities—for instance, the projects in Zambia and Malawi that the minister and other members have mentioned—and, as Stewart Stevenson acknowledged, projects that target women.
Most importantly, Scotland must demonstrate that it is seriously committed to delivering each and every one of our climate targets with domestic action here.
- Roderick Campbell (North East Fife) (SNP):
Scotland’s participation and the minister’s involvement—half asleep or otherwise—in the United Nations climate change negotiations are very welcome, and they cement Scotland’s importance and growing reputation in global action on climate change.
I am sure that we all welcome the news that, despite the problems that the Kyoto protocol has had and continues to face, it was rescued as a result of the negotiations in Doha, aided by the European Union’s work, to take on a new carbon-cutting target under the treaty that runs to 2020.
We now have a duty to ensure that the EU continues to press ahead with higher targets. Like other members, I welcome the grudging acceptance by richer, more developed nations of the need to provide funds to the smaller, poorer nations of the world for the losses and damage that have been incurred as a result of the ill effects of climate change. Although it is clear that further discussion is required, the acceptance builds on the agreement that was made in Durban, which adopted the green climate fund’s management framework to oversee the gathering and distribution of $100 billion of finance per year to help the small, poorer countries to develop and adapt to climate change and its impacts.
Like other members, I welcome the fact that the fund is still a work in progress. We should not forget that, while Scotland may be pioneering clean energy and a climate justice fund—which, as other members have mentioned, stems from the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world—other, far larger countries are not yet following that example.
Developed countries such as the United States, together with China, are contributing excessive amounts of carbon emissions annually. In contrast, smaller countries such as Singapore and Tuvalu, with populations of 5.3 million and 10,000 respectively and a historically a weak voice on the world stage, are now making a significant contribution. Those nations share membership of the Alliance of Small Island States, which served as a driving force behind the Durban negotiations and once again came to the fore in Doha.
The world’s smaller nations are tired of looking on as the world’s largest carbon emitters refuse to take action and responsibility. They are tired of a lack of action and of not being listened to. Those small nations have now proved that they will be listened to on the world stage and that they will hold their own and get what is just.
Despite the tens of thousands of miles between our shores, there are a number of similarities between Scotland and Singapore. Each country has approximately 5 million inhabitants, and although there are numerous differences between the two nations—not least in their climates—Singapore achieved its independence from the UK in 1963. Although Singapore has undeniably had problems since then, its average GDP per capita has now risen to be higher than that of the UK.
Singapore is now having its voice heard on the world stage, among other small independent nations, and it is driving action on climate change forward. That is what Scotland could do, too. I fully accept that the Scottish Government was represented at the latest round of meetings, and I recognise that environmental charities in this country have praised its work, but we must ensure that our ambitious climate targets are met.
As other members have said, talking about climate targets is simply not enough. I fully accept the disappointment of many on hearing the latest statistics for emissions in Scotland. It is clear that more needs to be done, but there will, I hope, be better things to come.
It is the responsibility of every nation to ensure that what has happened in Doha and Durban and in other places previously can be carried on in Warsaw next year, when I am sure that the smaller nations of the world will once again lead the way.
- Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab):
I am delighted to take part in this key debate on the outcomes of the UN climate change negotiations, and I welcome the opportunity for members in the chamber to consider carefully the impact of the international agreements in a distinctly Scottish context.
It is clear that the serious environmental challenges that we now face must be tackled by means of international co-operation, and that politicians must work together across borders in the interests of curtailing the devastating effects of climate change and global warming.
There is not a nation on earth that remains unaffected by those profound changes in our environments. It is therefore the responsibility of Governments to ensure the domestic implementation of international agreements, and the responsibility of Parliaments to hold their Governments to account for meeting those targets and delivering an effective climate change strategy.
It is therefore with regret that I acknowledge the Scottish Government’s failure to meet its own statutory targets in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which means that greenhouse gas emissions continue to exceed the levels necessary to achieve the overall aim of reducing emissions by 42 per cent by 2020. WWF Scotland has noted that emissions from homes and transport remain at a higher and more serious level than in 1990. That is not indicative of a successful climate change strategy, and it is now clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that the 2009 act does not become an uncomfortable reminder of an ambition long ago abandoned by the Scottish Government.
In October this year, I enjoyed meeting climate change activists for the get your act together mass lobby in the Scottish Parliament, which called on the Scottish Government to do more to meet the targets set out in the 2009 act. Many of the activists whom I met had been involved in the original campaign to introduce the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill and were committed to ensuring that the Scottish Government recognises the scale of the challenge and the urgency of the issues that climate change has brought to Scotland, the UK and the international community.
Many of those activists also felt that the outcomes of the UN negotiations in Doha were disappointing and did not respond sufficiently to the real and increasing human costs of climate change and global warming that are becoming increasingly evident across every nation and in every continent of the globe. Although I welcome the decision to extend the life of the Kyoto protocol until 2020, I share the concerns of many campaigners that, in isolation, that may not be enough to make the kind of impact that is now necessary and unavoidable if we are to respond effectively to the real human costs of global warming and climate change.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith):
We turn to the closing speeches. Jamie McGrigor has five minutes.
- Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
As we have heard, there are mixed views on what was achieved at the Doha talks. However, it was nice to hear the minister talk of an “effective UK delegation”, and I thank him for that. The UK Government described the outcome of the Doha talks as a “modest step forward”, with the main points of the deal focused on extending the Kyoto protocol and on compensation for poorer countries that are affected by climate change. The UK is to be commended for helping to forge agreement among other countries and for leading by example in making firm commitments of financial support to assist developing countries with the transition to low-carbon development and growth, and with adapting to climate change impacts that cannot be avoided.
I acknowledge the Scottish Government’s commitment to climate justice. However, more progress will be required in order to secure continuation of international funding after 2015. Although most Governments remain optimistic that momentum has been maintained towards achieving a new legally binding agreement for 2020 after the Kyoto protocol has expired, further agreement will need to be reached on that.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced in Doha that he would convene world leaders in 2014 to mobilise the political will that will be needed to ensure that deadlines are met. We know about the Scottish Government’s failure to meet its annual target for 2010.
As WWF argues in its briefing, if the Scottish Government is to seek to set an example to other countries that aspire to low-carbon development, it must step up its efforts to implement our Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. That will involve cutting emissions from all sectors of the Scottish economy, but particularly from homes and transport, on which there is real concern because emissions are higher now than they were in 1990. Housing and transport emissions make up almost 40 per cent of our total emissions.
Just how challenging cutting emissions is going to be was clearly demonstrated again this week when Scottish ministers dropped their target to reduce emissions from newly built residential properties by 30 per cent and replaced it with a 20 per cent reduction target. That is a clear example of how the ambition to reduce emissions can be tempered by the reality of challenging economic conditions, and it illustrates the challenges that all governments face in striking a balance between achieving aims such as making our buildings greener and increasing the burden that is placed on industries such as construction.
As a Highlands and Islands MSP, I once again flag up the importance of Scotland’s peatlands, which are of international significance. Healthy peatlands act as a sink for greenhouse gases. Ministers need to look continually at how they can help Scotland’s land managers to preserve those vital assets.
We recognise the tough tests that lie ahead in building on some of the intentions that were agreed to at Doha. We are also aware of the challenges that the Scottish Government faces in reducing our own emissions, which is important if we are to influence other countries. I agree with Claudia Beamish’s point that it is the poorest and least complicit who face the greatest challenge, and it is important that those who are more fortunate help with that.
I cannot remember who suggested walking children to school; I think that it was Claudia Beamish, again. That is okay in urban areas, but it is more difficult in the country. However, I note that the wearing of good Harris tweed that is woven in the islands provides me with heating that is most sustainable.
- Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab):
This has been an important debate about the recent international talks. We have attempted to cover many issues, but it is surely impossible to address in such a short debate the significant challenges that the world faces in climate change, climate justice and global poverty, and it is disappointing that today’s debate had to be shortened and MSPs who wanted to speak have not been able to take part. Climate change is important to many members from all parties, and the quality of the debate has reflected that.
It is 50 years since Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring”—a seminal text on the environment that was a game changer that not only inspired a movement, but resonated with the wider public. In many respects, we have come a long way since then, but although the pollution and harmful substances that Rachel Carson highlighted have largely gone from our economies, workers and environments in developing countries around the world are still being damaged by lack of regulation, protection and political leadership.
This year’s UN framework convention on climate change conference was disappointing because it failed to deliver the necessary cuts to carbon emissions and did not commit enough to help the poorest countries to adapt to climate change. We can point to some positive initiatives, and the minister highlighted some of the announcements that were made, but that is not really what we hope for when it comes to international talks.
As some members highlighted, one of the biggest disappointments is surely the role of some of the big players. We know that the US is one of the richest and most advanced countries in the world. In the recent US elections, those who supported Obama—many of us from afar—recognised that US engagement with and co-operation in international action on climate change would be far more likely with an Obama presidency, but I also recognise the continuing disappointment with his Administration’s work in the area. The US and other big emitters really must start to play their part.
We know that the negative impacts of climate change fall heaviest on the poorer countries, as Stewart Stevenson highlighted. Those countries are less equipped to adapt, they lack the resources and infrastructure that they need to recover, and in many cases they contribute least to the problem but feel the impact the hardest.
Even news from Doha that had at first looked encouraging, such as extension of the Kyoto protocol, failed to stand up to scrutiny. Without the commitment of countries including Russia, China and the United States, the limit on greenhouse gas emissions in the agreement will cover only 15 per cent of global emissions.
In one of the many commentaries on Doha, the human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger—I know who she was previously, but she is now better known as a human rights campaigner—summed up the frustrations of many when she said:
“Theoretically, the aims of the UN Conferences of Parties or COP are: to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, limit the global temperature rise to below 2ºC, and avert catastrophic climate change.
What was accomplished at COP18? Perilously close to nothing. The talks limped ‘listlessly’ to the finish line.”
The same sentiments were reflected in some of the quotations that Margaret McDougall used this afternoon.
Huge challenges remain after Doha. A great deal of disappointment is increasingly being expressed over what international talks can achieve. Of course, formal international negotiations will always remain vital, but there has been more and more discussion about the view that national Government policy is the key to the accelerated action that is needed.
Although we are rightly critical about the lack of international agreement, we can point to more positive examples at national or subnational level; indeed, Alison Johnstone identified the increasing number of voices around the world that are recognising the need for action. South Africa has proposed a carbon tax, Mexico has passed a general climate change law and, in October, legislation to tackle climate change—the first such legislation in China—was passed in Shenzhen. Although such developments are not perfect, they might indicate a move towards nation-level action and responsibility.
Scotland’s ambition has been recognised and the role of leadership should not be underestimated. However, it is easy to set targets but hard to meet them. The climate change legislation that was unanimously passed by Parliament has been hailed as a positive example to countries around the world, but unless we meet our targets our example risks losing its credibility.
The necessary change takes commitment and often courage. Alex Johnstone made the same point, although I have to say that I do not agree with many of his remedies. Our approach to public policy and resources will certainly need to change. As Anne McTaggart reminded us, it is only a matter of months since constituents from across Scotland lobbied Parliament and delivered the strong message that we had unanimously passed historic climate change legislation. We must work hard to ensure that those targets are met.
It is hugely disappointing to have failed to meet the first emissions target. If we fall behind now, it will be much more difficult to achieve future targets. As Malcolm Chisholm pointed out, the Scottish Government’s director of energy and climate change recently admitted that the Government will fail to meet its targets even if it fully implements its own plan. The campaigners who have contacted us in advance of the debate have always been supportive of our targets, the Government’s ambition and its international promotion of those targets. As a result, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland says,
“However, with one target already missed, and emissions from our housing and transport sectors higher now than they were in 1990, Scotland’s climate leadership is in doubt”
and WWF says,
“the international standing of Scotland’s Climate Act is being placed in doubt against the background of a missed 2010 target for domestic emissions reductions and an apparent reluctance to implement world leading policies to match our targets”.
Those are calls for the rhetoric to match the reality.
- Rob Gibson:
How far short did Scotland fall and was not the shortfall much greater in neighbouring countries? Are the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland people overstating their fears about our meeting future targets?
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Ms Baker, you can have time back for the intervention.
- Claire Baker:
The minister put forward the same argument in his statement, but even though he recognised that the target has not been achieved and suggested that there will be spikes in some years, the point is that if we fall back now we will find it much harder to recover ground. It just adds to the challenge in future years.
We recognise that it will not be easy for the Scottish Government to produce an RPP that meets those challenges, but if it does it will have the Scottish Parliament’s broad and full support. However, if it continues to fail on targets because it is not taking the necessary action, it will face the criticism and scrutiny of the Parliament—and increasingly, I imagine, the public—as we continue to see the impact of climate change on our everyday lives.
- Paul Wheelhouse:
This has been a good debate. I appreciate Claire Baker’s point about it being a short debate, but the quality has certainly not suffered.
Climate change remains one of the greatest threats of our time, and that has been reflected in the comments that members have made today. Forward-thinking nations such as Scotland must show leadership if we are to tackle it.
As Alison Johnstone stated, although the progress of the UN’s process appears to be slow, it also appears to be the best means of achieving a legally binding and global emissions reduction deal in the longer term. Scotland has an important role to play in that and there are economic, environmental and moral reasons for acting, which a number of members have recognised.
The Durban platform agreement kept the major emitter nations at the negotiating table with a deadline to agree a global deal. There was agreement that all nations will be bound to reduce emissions, but there is still a gap to bridge between pledges on the table and the level of ambition that is needed to limit global temperature increases to 2°C. We went to Doha wanting to see clear progress towards a global legally binding agreement by 2015, with all countries playing their part to the extent to which they are able, and there was strong interest in Scotland’s low-carbon economy model and our work on climate justice. Scotland can have an influential role in encouraging other nations to match our ambition and in providing the evidence that low-carbon economies can make sound economic sense.
On the Doha outcomes, the EU and other countries that made further commitments under the Kyoto protocol are showing leadership on climate change and I will again be adding my voice to calls for a 30 per cent target for the EU. A number of speakers mentioned the other major emitters, and it is important to recognise that although the conference might have been somewhat disappointing in certain respects, the fact that that deal is now in place moves the spotlight away from the EU and points it at other major emitters. It puts the pressure on them to match the kind of ambition that the EU has shown. We should not lose sight of that point when we look at the conference outcomes.
- Claudia Beamish:
What Scottish and UK plans are in place to encourage and keep the pressure up on those other nations in the interim?
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Minister, before you continue, I ask members whether they would mind ceasing their conversations.
- Paul Wheelhouse:
Between now and the next COP, the UK will take the lead role in negotiations, and we will play our part at the European level in the Council of Ministers to ensure that we secure a higher level of ambition from the EU, which will set a higher standard for other nations. The EU clearly has the prerogative to say that it wants other countries to match it. We will continue to do what we are doing in Scotland by putting forward a positive image and saying that moving to a low-carbon economy will be a positive thing for our country, which will set an example for other countries that might be fearful of the cost of doing so.
Tavish Scott made a point about the Stern report. He was absolutely correct that if we delay action now, the cost will be dramatically higher in future. We need to get that message across to countries that are holding back. They are doing themselves a disservice, as it will only cost them more in the long term to achieve emissions reductions in the future.
Another outcome that we have not reflected on is the timetable towards a global deal in 2015. That timetable maintains the momentum that was gained in Durban last year, and it will be vital to maintain that momentum in the coming years. Scotland remains committed to the UN process and to achieving an ambitious deal. Developing countries must be assured that developed countries such as Scotland will provide financial and practical support as they adapt to the impacts of climate change. I certainly welcome the support from across the chamber for what we are doing, albeit on a limited scale and within our resources. We are showing the best commitment that we can to that objective.
The Scottish Government is providing additional resources for developing countries and I encourage all developed nations to scale up their financial support to those countries that have done the least to cause the problem but which are definitely suffering the most from the effects of climate change.
The low-carbon economy in Scotland is now growing strongly—
- The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick):
Excuse me, minister. Could members please stop having conversations at the back of the chamber?
- Paul Wheelhouse:
Scotland has a wealth of natural resources and expertise in developing renewable energy technology, and the low-carbon economy is worth up to £23 billion per annum in Scotland. That is something else that we can cite to encourage other nations.
I want to move on, because I want to leave enough time to address some of the points that members have raised in the debate. Scotland is, we hope, acting as an international model through the example of our world-leading climate change target of a 42 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. Our targets go further than those of many other nations, including the UK, and even further than those of Germany and Denmark, which are widely regarded as being extremely ambitious. That should be recognised in the discussion on missing the annual target.
The reporting of targets is key to the UN process, and we are committed to setting a strong example for other nations. Exceptional weather conditions meant that our target for 2010 was not met. However, it is easy to meet unambitious targets. We have set stretching targets and are learning lessons as we strive to achieve them. In April 2013, we will launch our £200 million-a-year national retrofit programme to tackle fuel poverty, reduce emissions and support jobs.
In Doha, I learned of innovative action that is being taken elsewhere—that is one of the benefits of attending these events—including an electric vehicle programme in Quebec and the encouraging progress on carbon capture and storage in the Gulf. Of course, Scotland has huge potential to store CO2 from across Europe in the North Sea.
As well as taking an active role in the UK delegation, I took part in a number of other engagements to highlight Scotland’s low-carbon economy and support for developing countries. The strength of the renewables industry in Scotland attracted significant attention when I spoke at the world climate summit, and the agreement to partner with the UN development programme on the sustainable energy for all initiative highlights the value of Scotland’s expertise and our commitment to climate justice.
The evidence is clear that global action is needed now and, in the crucial years leading up to a global deal in 2015, Scotland has an important role to play as an exemplar in encouraging other nations to raise their ambition. The evidence is compelling and we hope that we can persuade others to make the same commitment that we have to this vital agenda.
In the time that is remaining to me, I will turn to some of the points that members have made. Alex Johnstone and Claudia Beamish made important points regarding links to eco-schools and the need to empower our schoolchildren to take forward these messages. I believe that that was picked up by other speakers. I encourage members to direct schools—particularly secondary schools—towards the junior climate challenge fund, which has just been launched. That is an important opportunity for people to learn team-building skills for work and to contribute to an environmental outcome. That should be beyond party politics and we should get all our schools—in Montrose and elsewhere—to engage in it.
Alex Johnstone was right to say that residential emissions were one of the reasons why we missed the 2010 target. I do not share his view about nuclear power—I am sure that he will forgive me for saying that. On my being a defender of the union, I merely point out that I was showing courtesy to the UK delegation. However, it was remiss of me not to highlight the fact that small countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Finland all played a substantial role in the negotiations at Doha. The UK had a lot of influence, but so did a number of small, independent countries.
I agree with much of what Malcolm Chisholm said. When he spoke about the “business as usual” figures, he was referring to a chart that David Wilson presented to the sustainable Scotland network conference. That was a work in progress, and I assure Malcolm Chisholm that we have made a lot of progress since then. That set of figures was shared with stakeholders to inform the discussions and get ideas from them. We have picked up a lot of those messages.
It is worth highlighting that the new building regulations will result in a 75 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from buildings in comparison with 1990 benchmarks. Although the increment has been more modest than the Sullivan report initially suggested, we are still getting a 75 per cent reduction, which should be welcomed across the chamber.
Rob Gibson is a strong advocate of peatlands and I recognise his contribution to that debate. He is absolutely right that the projects at Forsinard and elsewhere will help us to calibrate the impact that peatlands can have in addressing carbon dioxide emissions. The Scottish Government agrees with him about the dash for gas as well, which is why it is right to pursue renewable energy as a main plank of our energy strategy.
Graeme Dey was correct to highlight that we rely to a great extent on the impact of individuals’ behaviour. I commend him for raising that point. I direct members to the climate challenge fund, the junior climate challenge fund and the work that the Carbon Trust can do for businesses. There are many ways in which we can support individuals, communities and businesses to make the right kind of decisions.
The Government has had a successful advertising campaign to address the 10 key green behaviours that all of us can follow in order to make an impact on the agenda.
- The Presiding Officer:
Could you bring your remarks to a close?
- Paul Wheelhouse:
I will leave it there, Presiding Officer.
- The Presiding Officer:
You had another 15 seconds.