Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
Meeting date: Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme, Subordinate Legislation
- Decision on Taking Business in Private
- Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme
- Subordinate Legislation
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2016 [Draft]
Agenda item 3 is evidence on the draft order. I welcome from the Scottish Government Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform; John Ireland, deputy director of the low-carbon economy division; and Tom Russon, climate change policy adviser. I ask the cabinet secretary to speak to the instrument.
I will briefly give the background to the draft order. It sets annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for 2028 to 2032 in a manner that is evidence based and consistent with the Scottish Government’s commitment to a high ambition on climate change.
The proposed annual targets match the more ambitious of the two options that were recommended to the Scottish ministers by the Committee on Climate Change, which provides independent statutory advice. The targets represent a reduction from baseline levels of 64 per cent in 2030, which will keep Scotland on track to meet our 2050 reduction target of 80 per cent.
The committee will be aware of the recent announcement that proposals for a new climate change bill will be outlined in early 2017. Although we expect new legislation, the Scottish Government remains fully committed to discharging the obligations of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, including the setting of annual targets for 2028 to 2032. The draft order arises out of the 2009 legislation and not from whatever targets the new bill might set.
Setting the targets at the proposed ambitious levels will provide an appropriate stepping stone towards future legislation. It will also reaffirm our long-term commitment to the low-carbon economy, which will send important signals to investors and stakeholders at a time when UK Government policy and the whole Brexit scenario are causing a bit of uncertainty.
The proposed targets are ambitious, but they are achievable, given Scotland’s strong progress to date and in the context of the transformative changes that are associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
I am happy to answer members’ questions but, if you ask very technical questions, the officials will probably need to respond.
Thank you. I will kick off the discussion. Was it purely the fact that the chosen option was the more ambitious of the two recommended options that prompted the Scottish Government to go for it or did practical considerations lead to the decision?
There were two issues. First, we are setting ourselves ambitious targets. In the long run, it is better to be ambitious and fall slightly short than to achieve unambitious targets but not feel that we have really achieved anything. We wanted to stick to the more ambitious of the two targets, although it is fair to say that the other target would have been a perfectly acceptable way to have gone and that the Committee on Climate Change would have been perfectly content had we chosen that option.
That committee gave us two options. We chose the harder one because it matched the sense that we were being more ambitious. In any case, because we had already signalled a new climate change bill, it seemed to fit that movement. The two approaches came together to make it obvious that we were going to go for the harder option. The softer option would have been acceptable—I do not think that anyone could have criticised us for taking it—but pushing that bit harder is the best way to proceed.
The approach is welcome. Do other members have any questions?
Am I allowed to make a one-sentence point or do I have to put a question to the cabinet secretary?
You can absolutely make a point.
Thank you, convener—I could not remember the rules. Good morning, cabinet secretary. I simply highlight that I welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to go for the more robust option.
That is welcome. There are no other questions or points to be made.
We move to agenda item 4, which is consideration of motion S5M-01520. I invite the cabinet secretary to move the motion.
That the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recommends that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2016 [draft] be approved.—[Roseanna Cunningham]
Motion agreed to.
Are members content to delegate to me the signing off of the report?
Members indicated agreement.
Climate Change (Limit on Use of Carbon Units) (Scotland) Order 2016 [Draft]
Item 5 is evidence on the draft order. The cabinet secretary and her team are still here. I ask the cabinet secretary to speak to the instrument.
I will provide a little background to the draft order. It sets a limit on the use of carbon units from 2018 to 2022, so we are talking about a different—and more imminent—period than that for the instrument under the previous agenda item. This instrument concerns a technical matter that relates to the carbon accounting that underpins the 2009 act.
The 2009 act allows emissions reduction targets to be met through two basic mechanisms. The first is through domestic effort to reduce emissions, which includes the operation of the European Union emissions trading system in Scotland, and the second is through the purchase by Scottish ministers of international carbon credits to offset domestic emissions.
The order that we are considering proposes a zero limit on the extent of the latter mechanism—the use of offsetting credits to meet targets—over the period 2018 to 2022. By setting such a limit, the Scottish ministers are committed to meeting emissions reduction targets over the period entirely through domestic effort. The proposed zero limit is consistent with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change and with the Scottish Government’s on-going commitment to a strong focus on domestic action to tackle climate change.
I am happy to answer questions.
I have a specific question about Brexit—that dreaded word. How does the EU emissions trading system relate to the current negotiations? I am not asking for detail, but I highlight the need to be aware of what will happen if we reach that point, given the commitment that you described.
At the moment, the scheme continues to operate, and we have to operate within the current structure. You are correct to flag up the longer-term uncertainty in respect of the EU ETS.
There are—I have to say that it was rather prescient and that the legal draftsmen must have spotted something coming that we did not spot—provisions in section 22 of the 2009 act that allow the amendment of orders such as we are considering, should circumstances regarding the EU ETS change. We do not know how circumstances will change—if they change—and whether there will be a mechanism for signing up as an external party. I cannot answer that question. There is a legislative mechanism for dealing with the situation but, until we know what we are dealing with, it will be impossible to guess what will happen. There is not an enormous timescale on which to begin to think about the issue; the clock is ticking.
If there are no more questions for the cabinet secretary, we move to item 6, which is consideration of motion S5M-01712.
That the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recommends that the Climate Change (Limit on Use of Carbon Units) (Scotland) Order 2016 [draft] be approved.—[Roseanna Cunningham]
Motion agreed to.
The committee’s report will confirm the outcome of the debate. Are members content to delegate to me the signing off of the report?
Members indicated agreement.
I thank the cabinet secretary and her officials for their time.
Smoke Control Areas (Authorised Fuels) (Scotland) Revocation Regulations 2016 (SSI 2016/293)
Item 7 is consideration of two instruments that are subject to the negative procedure. I refer members to committee paper ECCLR/S5/16/7/4 and I invite comments.
I put on record the concern that has been expressed to me about coal fireplaces outside smokeless zones. It is important that we are aware that that raises an air pollution issue. I simply highlight the issue.
If there are no more comments, does the committee agree that it does not want to make any recommendation in relation to the instruments?
Members indicated agreement.
At our next meeting, on 25 October, following the Scottish Parliament’s recess, the committee will take evidence from the cabinet secretary on greenhouse gas emissions targets and climate change adaptation.
As we agreed earlier, we now move into private session. I ask that the public gallery be cleared, as the public part of the meeting is over.12:00 Meeting continued in private until 12:26.