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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 1, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 01 November 2018

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Outdoor Classroom Day, Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Annual Target Report), Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, Asylum Seekers, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Presiding Officer’s Ruling, Decision Time


Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Annual Target Report)

Good afternoon. The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on “The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2016” and setting Scotland’s future direction on the low-carbon transition. The cabinet secretary will take questions after her statement.

Today gives me an opportunity to update Parliament on Scotland’s contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change.

The need for rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented global change in response to the challenge of climate change has been clearly set out in the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I welcome the report, and I am pleased that we have moved away from debating whether climate change is real or not. The evidence that the IPCC has set out is the culmination of a comprehensive global assessment of the science that underpins the Paris agreement aim of limiting warming to 1.5°C. The report makes it clear that achieving that, as opposed to allowing warming of 2° or more, would significantly reduce the negative impacts for humans and the environment.

All countries, as well as businesses and individuals, need to act now if the Paris agreement aims are to be met. We can be proud that Scotland has been among the first countries to respond to the agreement, with proposals for strengthened, legally binding emissions reduction targets. That is the purpose of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced in May.

The IPCC report says that we must act quickly. Scotland has already reduced its emissions by almost half, and our climate change plan sets out a credible package of immediate, on-the-ground delivery measures to continue to drive emissions down. The new bill sets targets for 2020 and 2030 that are the most stretching statutory goals of any country in the world. The IPCC report says that the world needs to be carbon neutral—which means net zero CO2 emissions—by 2050. With our current bill targets, that is exactly where Scotland will be.

The bill not only sets new targets; it builds on the world-leading approach that was established by the Parliament’s Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. That is recognised by representatives of other leading countries. For example, Anders Wijkman, chair of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology Climate-KIC think tank and a former Swedish lawmaker, said in evidence to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee earlier this week that he very much applauds the Scottish approach of including a fair share of the emissions from international aviation and shipping in our targets. I suspect that that is because Sweden does not do so.

The transition to a carbon-neutral Scotland will fundamentally reshape our economy and society over the coming decades. There will be many opportunities, but also some challenges, and we must ensure that no one is left behind. That is why the Scottish Government is establishing a just transition commission to provide expert advice on adjusting to a low-carbon economy in a fair way. Professor Jim Skea has already been named as chair of the commission. Together, we will ensure that further commission appointments give the breadth of experience that is needed.

The independent expert advice of the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change plays a key role in setting emissions reduction targets that are both stretching and credible. Credibility is vital. Without it, there is a risk of committing future Governments to actions that are, in any practical sense, unachievable. However, the Scottish Government wants to achieve net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases as soon as possible. It is our intention to get there, and we will set a target date for that as soon as that can be done credibly and responsibly. In light of the IPCC’s report, I have joined the UK Government and the Welsh Government in writing to the CCC to ask that it provide updated advice on national target levels. We have asked that committee to provide its advice no later than March next year. If it advises that even more ambitious Scottish targets are now credible, we will adopt them.

Other countries around the world certainly need to step up and match Scotland’s ambition and action if the Paris agreement is to be delivered. However, closer to home, Scotland will reach net zero emissions sooner if all parts of the UK work together. Many of the key levers, such as decarbonising the gas grid, remain reserved to the UK Government, and that is why it is important that the CCC’s advice considers what is feasible across all parts of the UK.

The risk of a no-deal Brexit and what that means for our environment is also very real, and I call on the UK Government to ensure that its approach does not jeopardise the delivery of emissions reductions. The Scottish Government supports continued participation in the European Union emissions trading system as the most cost effective route to decarbonising energy-intensive industry. The UK Government’s approach to a no-deal Brexit would mean our losing access to the EU emissions trading scheme, and we are deeply concerned that the UK Government intends to introduce a carbon tax in its place. As such a tax would be reserved, that would remove any accountability to the Scottish Parliament for emissions reduction from key sectors of the Scottish economy. Such a reduction in devolved powers and accountability is unacceptable to the Scottish Government, and we have written jointly, with the Welsh Government, to express our concerns and to request urgent ministerial meetings involving all four Administrations.

On a more positive note, I turn to Scotland’s progress to date in reducing emissions. The statutory Scottish greenhouse gas emissions annual target report was laid before Parliament yesterday, and it confirms that Scotland’s annual emissions reduction target for 2016 was met. That means that we have reached our target for the third year in a row. Most important, Scotland’s actual emissions are now down by almost half in the long term—a 49 per cent reduction since the 1990 baseline. We continue to outperform the UK as well as western European countries; in fact, only Sweden has done better.

Scotland’s excellent progress has been recognised by the CCC in its recent annual progress report, and it also found that our current climate change plan represents an “ambitious statement of intent” and a stretching and credible pathway to delivering further reductions.

One of the key features of Scotland’s current climate change plan is the inclusion of a monitoring framework to help us keep track of where changes in approach might become necessary. We published the first annual monitoring report from that framework yesterday, and the information in it complements the annual emissions statistics and independent overviews of progress from the CCC by providing more detail on the on-the-ground implementation of the policies in the plan.

I appreciate that expectations around the monitoring framework will, quite rightly, be high. However, it has been less than a year since the plan itself was published, and it is simply too early to assess whether the plan as a whole is on track. For example, quality-assured data for 2018 is not yet available for many of the indicators. However, this first year’s reporting provides a baseline for future assessments of progress, as well as the foundation on which we will continue to develop and improve the monitoring framework. The new bill proposes that the framework be placed on a statutory footing for future years, with individual sector-by-sector monitoring reports being laid before the Parliament.

Most of my statement so far has been about climate change mitigation, but I also want to take the opportunity to raise Parliament’s awareness of our work on adaptation, which featured strongly in this year’s programme for government.

Next year, the second Scottish climate change adaptation programme will be published. An outcomes-based approach, derived from the UN sustainable development goals and Scotland’s national performance framework, is being developed and, over the course of the next few months, the Scottish Government will be engaging with stakeholders and consulting widely on how we can secure the right outcomes for Scotland from our approach to adaptation.

I have been pleased to update Parliament on Scotland’s excellent progress in tackling climate change. That success has been founded on an evidence-based approach, and we are committed to maintaining that. We recognise the global importance of the new report from the IPCC, and we have joined the UK and Welsh Governments in commissioning updated independent expert advice from the Committee on Climate Change on what it means for our own targets.

I will also be proud to take Scotland’s positive messages to the UN climate change conference in Poland in December. The meeting—the 24th conference of the parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change, or COP24—will take stock of global efforts through the culmination of the Talanoa dialogue process and will seek to agree the rule book for how the Paris agreement will be implemented. Scotland has a very strong message to share with the rest of the world. Our low-carbon transition demonstrates that deep emissions reductions are achievable and can be delivered in a way that promotes sustainable and fair economic growth.

This statement has been delivered in keeping with the statutory responsibility laid out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. If the new Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill comes into force before this time next year, this will turn out to have been the last such statement.

We move now to questions.

I thank the cabinet secretary for an advance copy of the statement. A low-carbon transition is a vital component of reducing Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieving our climate change targets. The recent IPCC report on global warming states that, if urgent action is not taken to cut emissions, global warming could reach 1.5°C as early as 2030.

Scotland has already made good progress in transitioning to a low-carbon economy by decarbonising our electricity and waste sectors. However, it is imperative that we look to other sectors, in particular transport, to meet our future targets, specifically post-2032. Both the UK and the Scottish Governments have sought expert advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change on an achievable pathway to net zero by 2050. If the UKCCC identifies a pathway, will the cabinet secretary adopt it in full?

Yes, that is the commitment that I and the Government have made. What has held us back until now is that the UKCCC has been unable to outline that credible pathway. In the absence of that, we felt that it would be unwise to draft the bill in any other way than we have at the moment, but we want to get there. If the newly commissioned advice comes forward with that credible pathway, we absolutely will adopt it and ensure that the bill reflects that.

I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of the statement. Scottish Labour welcomes the success of a 49 per cent emissions reduction between 1990 and 2016, which proves to this chamber that seemingly ambitious targets can drive innovation and bolster climate action. The IPCC report was the strongest warning yet that we all know about.

Has the Scottish Government assessed its Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill in terms of Scotland’s carbon budget and its contribution to global temperature rise? We must heed the IPCC’s call for “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the sectors that we are talking about today. That is why Scottish Labour calls for a target of 77 per cent emissions reduction by 2030. Will the cabinet secretary act on that now, given that we have the information to set a pathway for that?

Finally, given the discrepancies in sectoral ambitions in the climate change plan, what is the cabinet secretary doing to address that and has she considered sectoral targets to ensure that all sectors play their fair part to adapt by 2030 and beyond?

Very finally, Scottish Labour wishes the cabinet secretary very good luck for Poland. That was not a question.

I thank Claudia Beamish for her good luck wishes for Katowice in December. I hope that by December the weather in Poland will be amenable to travel in a reasonable amount of time.

To take on board the member’s points on the IPCC, I have made it clear that we are looking very closely at and heeding the advice that we are getting. We have asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to give us some of the detail and advice on a credible pathway that it was unable to give us in its last advice. That is because of what the IPCC has said—we have acted as a result of what we have seen in the IPCC report.

All the statements that have been made by me and the First Minister make it very clear that our intention in the bill as drafted is to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, when it is credible and the pathway is clear. If that pathway is made clear to us in the next few months, that is absolutely how we will approach it; my response to Maurice Golden made that clear as well.

I guess that the discussion about sectoral targets is kind of old. We take a whole-economy approach; we set sectoral envelopes, but we do not fix statutory sectoral targets. That is for a good reason. As I have said before in the chamber, it is difficult to assign measures to particular sectors when they cut across sectors. A lot of work is being done on energy efficiency; do energy efficiency measures contribute to reducing emissions from the energy supply or from residential and public sector buildings? How do we decide on that? If a target is set for one sector but not another, we end up not really achieving what we are trying to achieve, but we have done incredibly well.

Sectoral targets can be highly uncertain, because data revisions can have a disproportionate effect on specific sectors. It would have been extremely difficult to set sectoral targets for land use and forestry in the past few years, because of data revisions. The science has changed so significantly that any attempt to set sectoral targets would have come apart.

It is not just Scotland that does not have sectoral emissions targets; my understanding of the evidence that Swedish representatives gave at the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s meeting on Tuesday is that Sweden does not set sectoral targets for much the same reason as we have chosen not to have them.

Our view is that the whole-economy approach is still the most sensible way to proceed, and that sectoral emissions targets would create an unnecessarily inflexible approach and would not be particularly helpful in the long run.

The cabinet secretary mentioned the urgent warning in the IPCC report that we must act quickly, but she did not mention the authors’ warning that the actions that we take between now and 2030 will be the most crucial for delivering low-carbon transport, warm homes and greener farming.

Scotland’s proposed target for 2030 sets the bar too low—it would need barely any extra action to be taken beyond what has already been discussed. If Scotland is to stand any chance of meeting a future net zero emissions target, the Scottish Government must commit to more ambition on our next milestone target for 2030. Why is it not committing to that? Why is it not considering the benefits that strong technical innovation can bring? Estimates have been based on conservative thinking about what is technically possible.

Basing our plans on technical innovations that we have no idea about would create a difficulty. I suppose that we could set targets, shrug our shoulders and hope for the best—that appears to happen in some places—but that is not the approach that we in Scotland have taken. I would rather stick to the dogged and continued success of the approach that we in Scotland have taken, which has been shown to be successful in achieving our ends. That is how we will achieve the outcomes that we are looking for.

I remind members that the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill was introduced in Parliament before the IPCC published its report. We were already looking at increasing our targets and our ambition. The IPCC report brings more urgency, which is exactly why we asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to reassess what we are doing. We will wait for our statutory advisers’ advice and act accordingly.

I thank the cabinet secretary for early sight of her statement and I welcome the confirmation that further advice has been sought from the UK Committee on Climate Change. The latest advice from the IPCC could not be more stark, and the case for upping our efforts to combat climate change could not be more compelling.

The cabinet secretary referred to the appointment of Professor Jim Skea as the chair of the just transition commission. What is the timetable for appointing other members of the commission? When does she expect it to make recommendations?

In 2015, the energy efficiency of Scotland’s buildings was set as a national infrastructure priority. Since then, residential emissions have risen in 2015 and 2016. When does the cabinet secretary expect that trend to begin to be reversed?

As the member said, I have appointed Jim Skea as the chair of the just transition commission. We must now ensure that the commission’s members reflect the range of issues that will need to be discussed. Our intention is that the commission will initially run for approximately two years; therefore, I would hope that we will have the commission up and running early in the new year. I do not want to put a specific time on that, because it depends on our ensuring that we populate the commission with the right people.

The member asked about specific issues in respect of buildings. As he knows, a lot of work that will change building emissions is being done. The energy efficient Scotland programme will help to remove poor energy efficiency, which will have a positive impact on fuel poverty and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the member knows, an enormous amount of work is going on in the Parliament on energy efficiency. We want to make a number of commitments in respect of Scotland’s homes and buildings. If the member is looking for more specific responses, I will ask my colleague Kevin Stewart to write to him on the particular areas.

We are on track to deliver our 2016 programme for government commitment on energy efficiency, and we believe that we will be able to make really good progress in the area.

I appreciate that there have been detailed questions and detailed answers, but we now have eight minutes for the remaining nine questions and answers.

When he appeared in front of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recently, John Gummer, the chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, said that it would be challenging to deliver an answer for the UK—with reference to both Scotland and Wales—by March next year. Is the cabinet secretary satisfied that it was correct to jointly commission advice, and will Scotland get particular advice that will be useful for us?

Climate change is a global issue and it requires a cross-border response; we are probably in the right place to do that. No one country will deliver the whole solution, so the joint letter that was signed was an appropriate way to make progress. Obviously, some of our activity is influenced by the ambitions and actions of neighbours. I referenced in my statement the issue with the gas grid. For those reasons, I think that joining the UK and Welsh Governments was the right thing to do.

I have asked that the advice be available in time for the Scottish Parliament both to consider it and to complete the passage of the climate change bill before the summer recess. However, the most important thing from the point of view of the bill is that our decisions are informed by the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change. I would not want the bill to proceed before we have that advice. The plan is to get that advice in a timely manner to allow us to take the bill forward, but let us see whether the UK Committee on Climate Change can do so in the timescale that we have asked for.

I declare an interest as a farmer.

The cabinet secretary rightly recognises that expectations surrounding the monitoring framework for the climate change plan are high. When can we expect an assessment to be made of whether the plan is on track and when will the individual sector-by-sector reports first be laid before Parliament? [Applause.]

That was interesting—I did not realise that the individual sector-by-sector reports were being awaited so enthusiastically.

This is the very first annual monitoring report. By its nature, it will not be complete. In future years, we expect the sector-by-sector monitoring reports to be published each October. That is the statutory footing to which I referred earlier.

On whether individual indicators are on track, for this first year’s reporting, the assessments have been based on the judgment of lead officials for that area. That will obviously not continue, because we are keen to explore ways in which to make the assessment process as consistent and transparent as possible for future reports. We are discussing with stakeholders how that will be progressed. I am conscious that no data is available for some indicators, but that is just a function of this being the first report to be published. Stakeholder engagement is on-going and we will ensure that Parliament and the committee are updated on the work that is being done.

Will the cabinet secretary expand further on adaptation, and will she confirm that stakeholder engagement will play a key role?

The Scottish Government is required to set out a climate change adaptation programme every five years, which has to include policies and proposals for action and research. I have said that we are taking an outcomes-based approach. We are not just identifying risks; we are working on the outcomes that we want for Scotland as we adapt to climate change with regard to our communities, infrastructure, natural environment and the economy. Those outcomes are closely linked to the national performance framework and the sustainable development goals.

Digital and face-to-face stakeholder engagement sessions will take place over the next few months to help to develop the programme prior to formal consultation early next year. As part of the process, we are developing adaptation-focused climate conversations to engage communities throughout Scotland from the Borders to Shetland.

People who engage on Twitter may already have seen two Twitter sessions that have taken place, on natural resources and infrastructure. The first face-to-face workshop was held yesterday in Inverness. Engagement has been lively so far—I look forward to that continuing and to the committee’s continued interest.

Some interesting outcomes for adaptation are seen in the climate ready Clyde initiative, which got quite a lot of coverage this morning, and in Edinburgh adapts. Those initiatives are often more regional, so I advise members to keep a look out for whether there is one in their area.

The textile sector accounts for 6 or 7 per cent of the world’s direct and indirect carbon emissions, and there are many examples of electronics that are designed deliberately for single use. What action is the Scottish Government taking to improve the sustainability of growing consumption in the fashion and electronics industries, for both consumers and the industries?

As it happens, I have flagged up to officials that the textile industry, in particular, is probably one of the coming big issues that will confront us. At the moment, we are quite limited in what we can do. A big issue will be concerns about just transition, because many textile products that we use are made a long way away by people who are not paid much but whose jobs are nevertheless important. It is quite a tricky issue, which should be dealt with globally.

Pauline McNeill can rest assured that I have already flagged up the issue and warned officials that we will start getting questions about it—Pauline McNeill’s is the first, and I congratulate her on that. Electronics sit in the same conversation, because none of us wants to be without the electronics that we use. Managing to produce them in a sustainable way will also need a very big global conversation.

The third, fourth and fifth carbon budgets are excluded from the scope of advice that has been requested from the UK Committee on Climate Change. As climate change is a devolved issue, was there ever a possibility that that would mean that Scotland’s targets up to 2032 would also be seen as out of scope?

No, there was not. The confusion arose from the fact that the letter was signed by three Administrations. I had presumed that people would see the carbon budget line and know that it was about Westminster. As that appears not to be the case, we have separately written to clear the matter up. We want all the targets that are proposed in the bill to be looked at and we have no difficulty with that whatsoever—we have made it absolutely clear. As I said, it was just an item of confusion that arose from three Administrations signing a letter.

I apologise to Finlay Carson, Fulton MacGregor, Alex Rowley and John Mason, but I am afraid that we have no time for their questions this afternoon. I would ask all members and ministers to reflect on the length of their questions and answers.