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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistics 2022

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The next item of business is a statement by Màiri McAllan on 2022 greenhouse gas emissions. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy (Màiri McAllan)

The First Minister has made tackling the climate crisis one of his top priorities. The reasons are well rehearsed, but we must always remind ourselves why that is so critical. The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are among the greatest global challenges of our time. Action to address the scale and pace of the emergency is an environmental imperative, a moral necessity, an economic opportunity and a top priority for the Government. It is against that background that I update Parliament on the latest progress on Scotland’s statutory climate targets.

Official statistics that were published yesterday show that Scottish emissions in 2022 have reduced by 50.0 per cent since 1990. That is a reduction of 0.1 per cent on our position in 2021 and means that we are exactly halfway to net zero. Using comparable metrics, we can see that Scotland has made the largest emissions reduction in the United Kingdom between the 1990 baseline and 2022, with a reduction of 50.1 per cent, while emissions in England fell by 49 per cent, followed by Wales at 36.5 per cent and Northern Ireland at 25.9 per cent. Scotland has also decarbonised much faster than the European Union 27 average, using comparable EU statistics.

Despite that, today’s statistics mean that we have not met the 2022 target of a 53.8 per cent reduction from baseline. Some sectors saw significant reductions in 2022, including buildings, and there were more modest reductions in agriculture and industry. However, there was a rise in transport emissions, particularly from international aviation and shipping, resulting from a rebound following Covid-19. The 2022 data from the UK reflects a similar picture. Once UK data is adjusted to include international travel, which is routinely included in Scottish but not UK data, the UK also showed a 0.1 per cent decrease in 2022, and Scotland still outperforms the UK.

Certain sectors have led that decarbonisation in Scotland. Electricity supply emissions have fallen by 88.1 per cent on baseline, with industrial emissions falling by 56.8 per cent and waste emissions falling by 75.4 per cent. We were among the first to take early bold action, and we are continuing to lead in responding to the climate crisis. Indeed, 63 per cent of new woodland in the UK was created here in Scotland between 2022 and 2023—more than the other UK nations combined—and Scotland is becoming a renewables powerhouse, with more of our electricity generation coming from zero-carbon sources than ever in 2022.

We are now in the second half of our journey to net zero. It is more challenging, and we are abundantly clear on the need to empower individuals, communities and businesses in that journey. Indeed, in Scotland, we have enshrined in law both the need to achieve net zero by 2045 and the need to do so in a way that is fair.

Reaching net zero is mission critical—there is no doubt of that—but we must guard against underplaying the magnitude of what is required to achieve it. Regrettably, in political discourse, some voices underplay the necessity of tackling climate change, while others underplay the complexity of doing so. Neither of those serves us well. For me, Scotland will always have a whole-hearted commitment to delivering what we need to do to address the emergencies, and a determination that the transition will be planned and well managed and that our people will benefit.

I must make it clear that, in Scotland, our task is more difficult because we lack the full powers. For example, we know that, although our economy will ultimately benefit from decarbonisation, the up-front cost of net zero is significant. Independent analysis by the Scottish Fiscal Commission tells us that the cost is particularly high in Scotland. Despite that, the UK Government has instituted a real-terms cut to our capital funding of almost 9 per cent over five years. That is utterly wrong headed and it must be reversed. Similarly, there are critical areas where the UK Government holds the power over Scotland and where only it can act but where, at this critical moment, it is failing to do so—in relation to technologies such as carbon capture and storage and in decarbonising buildings or transport—at the pace that is required.

I hope that the new Government at Westminster will show greater commitment to climate change. I will work with ministerial counterparts to achieve progress, but we will not settle on hope alone. That is why, despite the exceptional budgetary pressures on Scotland, in this financial year alone, we are committing £4.7 billion for activities that will positively impact delivery of our climate goals. It is why legislation that is completing its parliamentary passage this week will drive forward climate progress. That includes, of course, the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill, which passed at stage 3 yesterday. Scotland’s farmers, crofters and land managers already play a critical role in cutting emissions, and the bill will allow them to increase their contribution while continuing to produce world-renowned food sustainably.

Likewise, the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill, which is currently at stage 3, will provide the legislative framework to develop a circular economy alongside powers to set local recycling targets and a new code of practice for waste and recycling service. That builds on Scotland’s strong record in reducing waste emissions, where the total amount of waste going to landfill has nearly halved over the past decade and the overall recycling rate is at its highest level since records began in 2011.

Those bills, which are passing now, demonstrate that the Government is acting now to make the change necessary. However, we know that continual challenge and progress is what the climate emergency demands of us. Therefore, we are always looking forward, including to the complex matter of heat in buildings. Our new-build heat standard currently means that no buildings constructed under a building warrant from 1 April 2024 will have polluting heating systems. We recently consulted on bold proposals to end the use of polluting heating systems after 2045 and to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard for all homes. Responses to our plans for a heat in buildings bill, which the Climate Change Committee said could be a template for the rest of the UK, are currently being analysed ahead of confirming next steps.

Climate change requiring

“everything, everywhere, all at once”,

as Antonio Guterres put it, is why, on top of all that work, on 18 April I also announced a new package of climate policies. That includes that we will publish a new route map for delivery of approximately 24,000 additional electric vehicle charge points by 2030, with support for rural areas and low-income groups, and plan an integrated ticketing system for all modes of public transport. In agriculture, we will take forward a pilot on methane-suppressing feed products and additives and, this autumn, we will publish our route map to a 20 per cent reduction in car use, supporting local authorities to take appropriate action in their area.

That is just some of what the Government is doing, and it is not to mention our biodiversity delivery plan, marine protected areas, Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, onshore wind sector deal and hydrogen action plan and the strategic investment in offshore wind that we are currently making, which is worth up to £500 million over five years.

As I have previously said in the chamber, the Scottish Government recognises the Climate Change Committee’s analysis this year and in 2019 that the interim 2030 target, set by Parliament on a cross-party basis, is beyond what can be achieved. I was not in Parliament at the time, but I share the view, expressed by all parties then, that setting an interim target beyond what was believed to be achievable has emphasised the importance of the journey and has helped to accelerate action in the meantime. It has certainly done that.

Since 2019, we have launched the world’s largest floating offshore wind leasing round and moved to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastics. We have restored around 75,000 hectares of degraded peatland, created four low-emission zones, deployed the most comprehensive network of public EV charging infrastructure in the UK outside of London, designated 37 per cent of our waters as marine protected areas and, internationally, helped to break a 30-year impasse on funding for loss and damage.

However, just as any good climber will not be fixed on one route to a summit, we must be prepared to try new paths if experience demands it. The summit remains our goal; I will not allow it to be jeopardised by committing to a pathway that is not feasible. That is why I confirmed on 18 April that the Government would bring forward legislation as soon as practicable to ensure that our emissions pathway takes us to 2045 on the basis of the latest advice from the committee.

Today’s statistics reinforce what the CCC has confirmed to us in recent correspondence, namely that annual emissions and targets are highly susceptible to unexpected events. Our route to 2045 needs to be receptive to the non-linear realities of long-term decarbonisation. Consequently, our legislative proposals on a new emissions reduction framework will include establishing five-yearly carbon budgets. As the CCC recently set out to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, annual fluctuations are smoothed within multiyear budgets, which, therefore, provide a more reliable indicator of progress.

We are working with the parliamentary authorities to ensure that the bill is introduced as soon as possible after recess, and we have begun engaging with the convener of the NZET Committee to support its scrutiny of the bill. Thereafter, we will work towards our next climate change plan, founded on the CCC’s advice on a revised pathway to 2045 for Scotland.

We have now reduced our emissions by 50 per cent from the 1990 baseline, and the Government is resolutely focused on the next 50 per cent and achieving net zero.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues that were raised in her statement. I intend to allow around 20 minutes for questions, after which we will move on to the next item of business. I ask those members who wish to ask a question to please press their request-to-speak button.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I thank the cabinet secretary for giving us plenty of advance notice of what she was going to say today, but what an embarrassment this is for this Government. The cabinet secretary has tried to put a positive spin on this, but it is fooling no one. The Government has failed yet again to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets, and SNP ministers have now missed nine of the past 13 annual targets for tackling climate change. That is shocking. You can see why they want to do away with such inconveniences.

The cabinet secretary obviously has a sense of humour. She mentions trying to find new routes to the summit, but she is not even in the foothills. If she thinks that the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill is going to make any difference, she has not been following its progress. She has a cheek to mention woodlands when the budget for woodland planting has been cut. Domestic transport is the largest source of greenhouse gas, and emissions have gone up.

Let us have a look at some of the things that she mentions in the statement. First, there is a new route map for EV chargers. The Climate Change Committee has suggested that we need 280,000 of those across the UK by 2030, which would amount to roughly 30,000 in Scotland—not 24,000. When are we going to see that route map?

She has a cheek to mention an integrated ticketing system, which was first promised in 2012.

In 2012!

In 2012. When exactly are we going to see that? How can we have any confidence at all that this Government will hit the new 2045 target when it has failed so miserably?

Màiri McAllan

Sadly, that was a typically cynical take on an important issue on which Graham Simpson’s party has absolutely zero credibility. I remind him that Scotland is halfway to net zero, ahead of the UK average and ahead of the EU27 average when we use comparable statistics. I am extremely proud of that record. In my statement, I spoke about some of the interventions that the Government has led that have taken us to this point.

I will pick up on one aspect that Graham Simpson highlighted: woodland creation. In the past five years, Scotland has created around 75 per cent of all new forests in the UK. Seventy five per cent of all trees going into the ground across the UK and Scotland have been planted in Scotland. They are sequestering carbon, supporting jobs in rural communities and feeding in to our construction sector.

However, the funds that the Government has been able to invest in woodland creation in this financial year have been curtailed because of the up to 9 per cent cut in our capital budget that Graham Simpson’s party at Westminster oversaw. If he is concerned about the funding that the Government has at its disposal for investment in important projects such as woodland creation, I ask him to have a word with his colleagues in Whitehall. [Interruption.]

When a member is speaking, we do not need a lot of muttering from other members from sedentary positions. I am not looking at anybody in particular.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance notice of her statement.

For years, the UK Climate Change Committee has been warning that the Scottish Government has not been ramping up the action that is urgently needed to tackle our climate emergency. Today’s statement is, as ever, highly selective in greenwashing the SNP’s achievements. It did not mention that the SNP Government failed to deliver the £133 million that it budgeted to retrofit homes, bring down people’s bills and reduce their emissions. Since the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 was passed, the Government has failed to deliver the transformation in bus services that we need, which means that many people are forced to use cars, as there are simply no affordable bus services available. We have been waiting months for the energy strategy, the green industrial strategy and the climate change action plan.

Given that this is the ninth time in 13 years that the Scottish Government has failed to deliver, when will climate activists—who are angry, disappointed and worried that this continual failure leaves Scotland’s credibility in serious jeopardy—see the radical action that we urgently need?

Màiri McAllan

In overseeing the Government’s work to tackle climate change, I have always been proud of what we have managed to deliver. I spoke about a number of the key deliverables in my statement, and I will continue to do so, because those things do not just happen—they require exceptionally hard policy development and the use of scarce resources.

However, I have also always said that I will never say that that is enough, because the twin crises of the climate emergency and biodiversity decline mean that no Government, no organisation, no business and, really, no individual can say that they are doing enough until, as a community of nations, we have reached net zero and turned the tide on the issue.

I commit to Sarah Boyack that the Government is, as I set out in my statement, continuing to work across the piece, using every lever that we have at our disposal, to reduce emissions at the pace that is required. I also said in my statement how keen I am to work with the incoming Westminster Government to ensure that we collaborate across the United Kingdom. I say sincerely that, when Labour forms the next Government in England, as I think it will, I hope that it will think very seriously about the commitment that it made to invest £28 billion in green activities. That commitment appears to have been dropped, but the consequences of such investment would make a big difference to the work that we could do in Scotland.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

The UK Government has continually failed to take urgent action on reserved matters, including carbon capture, utilisation and storage; hydrogen; electricity grid infrastructure; and the decarbonisation of gas. We are not only dealing with the continuing constraints of devolution but facing severe budgetary restrictions that are imposed by the UK Government. Does the cabinet secretary agree that Scotland would be better positioned to fight climate change if it had the full powers and financial levers of an independent nation?

Màiri McAllan

I absolutely do. That goes back to the point that I made in my statement. Although tackling climate change is critical, we do no one any favours by underplaying the scale of what is required to meet our targets. There needs to be transformation in every aspect of our economy and society, and when we, as a devolved Government, try to deliver that, it is like having one hand tied behind our back, particularly when, in recent years, the UK Government has backtracked on some critical interventions and, as I said, has cut our capital budget by failing to inflation proof it.

Carbon capture and storage is a critical example of that. It is inexplicable that the Scottish cluster was not supported in track 1, and it is unacceptable that, now that it is included in track 2, we are all left wondering what progress is being made. I urge the UK Government to reverse the cut to Scotland’s capital budget and to get a move on with the delivery of CCUS, particularly in relation to the Scottish cluster.

Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

Going back to the Scottish Parliament, the repeated failure to meet emissions targets risks eroding public trust in climate action, as does the mounting list of other failed policies, from recycling to renewable heat to biodiversity, all of which are the responsibility of the Scottish Government. Watching ministers trying to blame those failures on others instead of taking responsibility only compounds the problem. To ensure responsible environmental governance and restore public trust in climate action, is it not time that we had an independent environmental court in Scotland?

Màiri McAllan

I refer Maurice Golden to the papers that the Scottish Government recently published on the question of an environmental court. As we are required to do under the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021, we explored whether environmental governance would be improved or otherwise by the presence of an environmental court, and the Government’s evidence on that is set out in the papers.

I remind the member that what erodes public trust in climate progress—something that is very important to the public at large—is people such as Rishi Sunak, his party leader, failing to deploy onshore wind in England while, at the same time, fighting to open new coal mines and create culture wars. We all remember when the Prime Minister stood outside Downing Street and, while dropping a raft of really important commitments on transport and heating buildings, talked about ludicrous things such as removing recycling bins and protecting people from having six or seven recycling bins. That is just nonsensical. It creates culture wars and does absolutely nothing for the progress that we all have to work hard towards collectively, which I think the public want to see us do.

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

In her statement, the cabinet secretary referred to shipping emissions. Earlier this year, Scottish Enterprise was a key stakeholder in supporting Smart Green Shipping, which is a developer of an innovative retractable wingsail that is estimated to save commercial shipping companies up to 30 per cent fuel per year. Does the cabinet secretary agree with the founder of Smart Green Shipping, Diane Gilpin, who said:

“There are no other countries that support innovative climate technology companies at an early stage like Scotland.”?

Màiri McAllan

Before I come on to the substance of Audrey Nicoll’s question, I should say that it is a really important one for her to have asked, given that the 2022 statistics demonstrate that some of the bounce-back in transport emissions was from shipping in particular. It is worth reminding members that Scotland includes international aviation and shipping in our inventory whereas England does not.

I agree that Smart Green Shipping’s work is typical of the type of economic opportunity that our just transition to net zero affords Scotland as the ideal test bed for new green technology. Investment and such new technology will enable companies that are based here to seize those opportunities and help innovative businesses to grow and thrive here at home and across the world.

Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Despite the positive spin, the statement is a statement about failure, and it should be acknowledged as such.

In the early days, the Scottish National Party Government went for the low-hanging fruit, as it would be described. Indeed, the decarbonisation of electricity had more to do with Scottish Power shutting down Longannet than any decisions that the Government made.

Is the problem that the Government does not have joined-up policy and joined-up thinking? For example, we will cut car kilometres by 20 per cent while, at the same time, halting the £500 million bus partnership fund. There is that kind of failure. Do we not need to see more joined-up government if we are ever going to have a chance of achieving the targets?

Màiri McAllan

Alex Rowley mentioned the capital funding for the bus partnership fund. I am afraid that, much like other capital funds with which cabinet secretaries had to wrestle in this year’s financial settlement, it has suffered from the up to 9 per cent capital cut that we face in our budgets, thanks to the UK Government.

With all due respect to Alex Rowley, I do not consider the work that the Government and the Scottish Parliament have undertaken in the past number of years since declaring an emergency as “low-hanging fruit”. I do not consider the world’s largest floating offshore wind commercial leasing round to be low-hanging fruit, and nor do I consider the UK’s most generous concessionary bus travel scheme, the new low-emission zones or having the most comprehensive network of EV charging in the UK outside London as low-hanging fruit.

What I do accept is that the climate emergency is such that it requires continual challenge and continual work across the board, and the Government is determined to do that. In particular, some of the actions that we will take forward in the climate bill will allow us to continue to deliver as we have been doing over a number of years.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I have a number of members still to call, and I would like to do so, so I ask members to pick up the pace just a little bit.

I also ask members to have the courtesy not to have all this muttering going on when somebody has the floor. Thank you.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

The Opposition parties claim that they are interested in climate change, and yet, when we come up with practical examples, as the cabinet secretary mentioned in her statement—around transport, for example—they oppose those. They oppose the workplace parking levy and low-emission zones and, on recycling, they oppose the deposit return scheme. Does the cabinet secretary find the Opposition parties’ attitude hypocritical or helpful?

Màiri McAllan

In the spirit of constructive working across the chamber, I would say that there are a number of examples of where cross-party working has been very successful, but there are other examples of where it has not been, and John Mason is right to highlight them.

When the Parliament, in 2019, set the 75 per cent target for 2030—one which advice told us at the time was beyond any of the five scenarios that the UK CCC could pull together—my predecessor, Roseanna Cunningham, said to members that that would require close cross-party working and a real commitment across the chamber to pull every lever that we would have to use in order to meet those targets. Unfortunately, that has not always happened, and even modest measures that the Scottish Government has sought to bring forward have not been supported—John Mason listed some of them. I hope that the new climate bill can be a point at which to reset.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I will give the cabinet secretary another practical example. In 2005, the Parliament’s first inquiry into climate change proposed the introduction of road user charging, with a target date of 2015. We are now 10 years on from that, and there is still no fair way to raise revenue to invest in public transport while at the same time managing down demand for private car usage.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the year 2022, to which her statement refers, when we were coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic and private car usage was so low, was a missed opportunity for us to start to break our dependency on car usage? We cannot afford any more missed opportunities. All the ideas and policies are there; what is lacking is action from councils and from the Scottish Government to bring in demand management and drive down emissions while driving up investment in public transport.

Cabinet secretary, I think that there was a question there.

Màiri McAllan

Mark Ruskell raises an important point. Transport remains the highest emitter in Scotland. I mentioned in my statement that we will publish in autumn this year a route map to achieving a 20 per cent reduction in car kilometres driven. The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, who is sitting beside me, is currently taking that forward.

The only point that I would add is that it is very important that, as we seek to reduce car kilometres driven, we do so in a way that is locally appropriate. Suitable solutions for inner-city areas, for example, will be very different from those for our rural areas, where private cars, and EV private cars, will remain an important facet of life.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Despite the spin, the statement confirms that Scotland’s progress to net zero is at a standstill. The cabinet secretary is right in her criticism of some for denying the necessity and others for denying the complexity of achieving net zero. However, given the UK CCC’s repeated warnings of the need for both of Scotland’s Governments to work together, does she believe that our chances of getting back on track are enhanced by her and her SNP colleagues making climate policy yet another constitutional battleground?

Màiri McAllan

My colleagues and I have not, and will not, make climate policy a constitutional battleground. I am afraid that, from our experience in recent years—as the First Minister reflected on this morning, in particular during the Boris Johnson Government and in the years since then—there is no doubt that relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government have been poorer. The First Minister described it as a lack of respect—that is coming from a man with long experience of intergovernmental relations across the UK.

Regardless, I have made it very clear that I expect there to be a new UK Government. The Tories’ track record on climate change, among a plethora of issues, will see them removed from Downing Street. My colleagues and I will work with the incoming Government, and climate change will be one of our top priorities.

Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

We know that restoring damaged peatland is a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions in Scotland. Earlier this month, we celebrated over 10,000 hectares of damaged peatland restoration. However, although the UK Government continues to benefit from Scotland’s peatland and forestry potential, the weight of that work still falls on Scotland. Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is only right and fair that the UK Government should contribute towards a fair funding agreement in that area?

Màiri McAllan

I am a significant advocate of peatland restoration. That is one of the clearest win-win-wins of our journey to net zero, not only in sequestering significant amounts of carbon but in creating jobs in our rural communities. I am pleased that in, 2023-24, we restored over 10,000 hectares of degraded peatland. That was a 38 per cent increase on what we restored the year before.

Jackie Dunbar is absolutely right that the weight of the responsibility for payment for those areas of land use change and forestry falls disproportionately on Scotland. That is why the 9 per cent cut to our capital budget is so damaging and why I once again urge the UK Government to reverse Scotland’s capital budget cut.

I call Douglas Lumsden, who is joining us remotely.

Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

CCUS has been mentioned. The devolved Scottish National Party Government announced £80 million for CCUS in its budget over two years ago, but not a single penny has been spent. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the money that was pledged could be being spent now to allow business to get ready to decarbonise, or was that announcement of money another broken promise to the north-east of Scotland by the SNP?

Màiri McAllan

I am afraid that that is another example of the Conservatives’ brass neck. Douglas Lumsden has asked me a question about funding CCUS when it is his party in government in the UK that has the powers to deploy CCUS. Every observer, political and neutral alike, would say that the UK Government’s treatment of the Scottish cluster—not including it in track 1 and dragging its feet on track 2—has been utterly inexplicable. We will support the Scottish cluster and CCUS, including financially, once its track status is confirmed. I will probably have to wait for a new Government to take that forward.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Under the SNP, any transition to a climate-conscious Scotland will leave no one behind. Does the cabinet secretary agree that a just transition is of the utmost importance and that it must build on the voices of Scotland’s communities, workers, union representatives and businesses, along with the voices of agriculture, including those in Dumfries and Galloway?

Màiri McAllan

I absolutely agree with that. That is why I was keen to highlight in my statement that we have two legal obligations in Scotland: to reach net zero by 2045 and to ensure that we do so via a fair transition. That means that the transition is well managed, that our people benefit, and that the opportunities of the journey to net zero, of which there are many, are shared. My colleagues and I are determinedly pursuing that.

Paul Sweeney (Glasgow) (Lab)

The cabinet secretary talked about charting a new path. It is perverse that the biggest capital budget allocated to Glasgow in the next few years will be for rebuilding the M8 motorway while the public transport budget for the city has been cut to zero. Does she share my concern about that?

Màiri McAllan

There are very careful and balanced considerations to make about how we invest in transport infrastructure. I know that the Scottish Government, particularly in strategic transport projects review 2, has a framework through which decisions are made.

As I have said, the use of cars—I hope that they will be electric vehicles—will continue to be a facet of how we travel. We must balance that with the need for improved public transport. When funding is allocated for our roads, it is very often for safety, which remains of paramount importance to ministers.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That concludes questions on the ministerial statement. There will be a short pause before we move on to the next item of business to allow front-bench teams to change positions, should they so wish.