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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 11, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 11 November 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Glasgow Climate Dialogues Communiqué, Portfolio Question Time, Veterans and Armed Forces Community (Remembrance and Support), Motion without Notice, Decision Time


Contents


Glasgow Climate Dialogues Communiqué

I remind members of the Covid-related measures that are in place and that face coverings should be worn when moving around the chamber and across the Holyrood campus.

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-01490, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on publication of the communiqué setting out the conclusions of the Glasgow climate dialogues. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the communiqué setting out the conclusions of the Glasgow Climate Dialogues, hosted by the Scottish Government and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland; understands that these dialogues were a series of online discussions, which took place between 6 and 9 September 2021, providing a forum for civil society and Government departments from impacted countries in the Global South to discuss and share their positions on some of the key priorities for action at and beyond COP26, while developing a shared understanding of these key issues and identifying where collective action can advance United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) goals and objectives; notes that the communiqué includes recommendations related to ensuring equitable access, participation and voice at the talks, the need for developed countries to significantly increase the financial support available to help impacted communities adapt to spiralling climate impacts, the need to address the losses and damages created by climate impacts that go beyond the limits of adaptation, and the need to ensure a global Just Transition based on the UNFCCC principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and the right to development; commends the Scottish Government and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland for facilitating these dialogues, and notes the calls for ministers to respond positively, including by placing these priorities at the heart of the Scottish Government’s own activities for COP26 and encouraging support for them from other UNFCCC participants.

12:49  

It is a privilege to bring this incredibly important debate to the chamber. Now is such a timely moment for this debate, as the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—draws to a conclusion and the gaping absence of a deal for vulnerable countries still urgently needs to be addressed. I thank all colleagues who have supported the motion and those who will speak in the debate.

The effects of climate change are not equal, fair or just. The publication of the communiqué setting out the conclusions of the Glasgow climate dialogues is a positive step in the right direction by amplifying the voices of the global south. Those who caused the least damage are those who suffer the most from the climate emergency.

The dialogues were co-convened by the Scottish Government and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, which is an alliance of Scottish civil society. The dialogues were a series of online discussions that took place between 6 and 9 September 2021. They provided a forum in which civil society and Government departments from impacted countries in the global south could discuss and share their positions on some of the key priorities for action at and beyond COP26.

The communiqué covered four key areas: access, participation and voice; adaptation; loss and damage; and a just transition. In line with what the dialogues set out to do, I want to use my speech to further highlight and amplify the voices of the global south. To do that, we must hear their stories.

During a Stop Climate Chaos Scotland event, I met Marinel Ubbo, a youth climate justice advocate from the Philippines who wants justice for the lives that were lost in her community because of climate change. Marinel sadly lost relatives and friends because of super typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest and deadliest typhoons ever recorded. She was a graduating high school student when super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing thousands of families. She told me that they lost their houses and their livelihoods. She said:

“We have seen death. We were eating what we could find on the water, we were just all wet and cold without any water or food.”

Even now, Marinel told me, heavy rains bring back the fears and anxieties that she felt eight years ago during the onslaught of the super typhoon. She told me that she still does not know what happened to members of her family.

At the code red for parliamentarians event in the Scottish Parliament, I also spoke with Hassan Hulufo, member of Parliament from Kenya, who sat in this very chair on Saturday morning. He told me that in his constituency of Isiolo North, water sources have completely dried up, pasture and browse for livestock have depleted, and more 100,000 people face starvation and rely on food relief and cash transfers from the national Government. He said:

“This in turn means livestock markets have collapsed, that children are missing schools because of hunger and lack of water and the burden on women had increased as distance to water points has increased. It means local health facilities cannot function because of a lack of water despite an upsurge in diseases associated with poor hygiene due to compromised immunity caused by hunger.”

The suffering and desperation in the global south are real, now and present, and COP26 must deliver.

When the Scottish climate justice fund was introduced in 2012, as a minister I insisted that it be separate from our international development fund. The introduction of the climate justice fund followed a call by the UN for such funds to be created, and it was the first in the world. From this morning, it has been further increased, trebling support from Scotland to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities in their efforts to tackle climate change.

I welcome the announcement at COP that the Scottish Government is also the first Government in the world to introduce a loss and damage fund. Today it has been increased to a total of £2 million, using a portion of the additional funding that I mentioned. The loss and damage fund is small in amount, but its introduction is recognised by the UN as showing significant leadership.

However, in all aspects of the climate emergency we must do more, we must go further and we must move faster. Innovation and green technologies are critical, but we need finance, climate justice and, above all, global leadership, commitment and action.

The Bangladeshi poet Shehzar Doja, who studies at the University of Glasgow, has seen the devastating impacts of climate change on his home country at first hand. We also heard from the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, when she addressed members of the Scottish Parliament in a historic moment.

Shehzar Doja’s poem “No Fresh Soil Left to Plant”, which marked the start of COP26, warns us:

“When seasons quiver together in subservience
assortments which once grew in temperate calm
repeals any further invitations.”

It is not enough to make plans to tackle climate change in the future. It is not enough to create ambitious goals to help the planet. It is not enough for Governments at COP26 to promise help for the global south but offer no financial means to fulfil those promises.

We must listen to the people of Scotland. They want climate justice now, as shown during the global day of action last Saturday. From Glasgow to smaller towns and cities, people took to the streets to support global action for climate justice. They included people in my own constituency, who gathered in the rain at Linlithgow Cross to peacefully demonstrate for quicker change. The Scottish people want to end the era of injustice, and the leaders must listen.

We must act now, decisively and in partnership with the global south. We are one world with one chance. I call on the Scottish Government, the United Kingdom Government and all the leaders in the global north to listen to and understand the voices of people in the global south who are living with the impact of climate change now.

I end by quoting what the Prime Minister of Barbados said in her outstanding global leader speech last week:

“For those who have eyes to see, for those who have ears to listen, and for those who have a heart to feel, 1.5 is what we need to survive; 2 degrees ... is a death sentence”.

We must try harder, we must go further and we must get there faster. Our one world, and our one people who need to survive on that one world, depend on it.

12:56  

I am glad that Fiona Hyslop’s motion is being debated and welcome the publication of the communiqué following the Glasgow climate dialogues, which were hosted by the Scottish Government and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. Keeping the 1.5°C target alive is crucial. If the world can contain global temperature rises to 1.5°C, we can avert catastrophic and possibly irreversible storms, wildfires, floods and droughts.

The draft COP agreement states that the parties note

“the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice’ when taking action to address climate change”.

Every Government in the world must recognise climate justice as a key consideration. Many of the countries that will experience the worst of climate change are those that have done little to cause it.

In co-hosting the Glasgow climate dialogues, the Scottish Government recognises the need and responsibility to learn from, listen to and engage with citizens from the global south. Their voices must be heard, at COP26 and all future COPs, particularly given that they are currently experiencing severe climate change-related loss and damage. Leaders must listen to those voices and take action to support countries in the global south.

The Paris agreement requires that developed countries provide financial resources to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation. The promised $100 billion per year has not yet been achieved. However, that amount, as a minimum, must be delivered if we want to achieve our global ambition to minimise temperature rises. As the communiqué sets out, it is important that the funding should be a grant, rather than a loan.

Scotland’s targets are world leading and our commitments to a just transition and to drastically cutting transport emissions are so important. As we are the host country, I hope that politicians from across the world will take some inspiration from what we are doing in Scotland. The Scottish Government launched its climate justice fund in 2012. The fund has delivered £20 million to support Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda, protecting communities from the worst effects of climate change. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government committed to doubling that fund, but just this morning the First Minister confirmed that we will treble it.

Scotland is showing leadership and I hope that a Glasgow agreement will secure commitment from other countries on that front. A good system of climate-related funding can help to build resilience while supporting adaptation and creating opportunities in the global south—if the larger developed countries step up to the mark. For example, financial support could help developing countries to expand renewable energy capacity, which would create jobs, reduce energy poverty and increase energy independence.

I hope that negotiators will come to an agreement tomorrow that accelerates global action to cut emissions and reach net zero. We must keep 1.5°C alive. We must also ensure that climate justice is considered an essential.

I thank everyone who participated in the Glasgow climate dialogues and I hope that the communiqué and associated work will demonstrate to world leaders their responsibility for, and the importance and urgency of, delivering climate justice as we collectively work to safeguard our planet. These global challenges require a global response.

13:01  

I thank Fiona Hyslop for bringing the debate to the chamber. I welcome the opportunity to speak on such a motion while COP26 is still in full flow. Like many of my colleagues, I have been immersed in COP26 through attending meetings and speaking on panels, and using this historic event to gather as much information as I can on the approach to the climate emergency that is being taken around the world.

It is obvious that our concern is mirrored around most of the world, which is a good starting point, but I note that some countries intend to go on regardless, and it is incumbent on us all to persuade them that we need to move forward collaboratively and globally. That is the only way in which we can achieve the outcomes that the world so desperately needs.

Putting differences aside and working together has been a theme of the COP so far. Who would have thought that the two main global polluters—the USA and China—would be able to make such a significant joint announcement? Two countries, poles apart politically and ideologically, are setting aside their differences and looking for a commonality of approach.

The conclusions from the Glasgow dialogues are undoubtedly welcome. They have certainly helped to set the agenda on some of the main issues on which the economy will depend, such as ensuring that, in our drive to develop greener policies, we do not leave anyone behind and in doing so, create greater inequality. That theme has been prevalent in many of the presentations and meetings that I have been to so far. Social justice, the need to develop community involvement, a just transition—those are all buzzwords and phrases that have done the rounds.

It is Government’s responsibility to create that opportunity and the framework to encourage individuals, communities and businesses to move towards a lower-carbon way of living. We need to ensure that everyone understands that the decisions that we make as individuals, as communities, as businesses and as Governments impact every other person on the planet. It is almost as though we need a public relations or marketing exercise here. Too many are looking only to politicians to solve the crisis when the reality is that it will take all of us.

Talking and setting lofty and necessary goals is hugely important but, unless those goals are realised, the outcomes that are required will not be achieved. Just so that we understand the consequences of falling short, I note that early work on the impact of the agreement that has been reached so far would still result in a global temperature rise of between 1.8°C and 1.9°C.

The $100 billion of investment from Governments around the world does not touch the trillions of dollars that will be required to tackle a crisis on such a global scale. However, that investment should leverage private investment towards that trillions of dollars. We need to work with the private sector, not against it, as some politicians seem hellbent on doing.

An increase of 1.8°C or 1.9°C is, of course, way above the 1.5°C target, so not only do we need to achieve the goals that we have set, we need to go further. Scotland has set ambitious targets, but it has missed them three years in a row, and we cannot afford to miss any more. Scotland can and should highlight what can be done. If we are serious about achieving the outcomes rather than just having ambitious targets, we need to have a workable route map to those targets.

I welcome Fiona Hyslop’s motion, and I welcome the Glasgow climate dialogues and the publication of the conclusions of those dialogues. However, it is the actions that are taken following those conclusions on which we should all be judged. Members across the chamber have a duty to ensure that our actions lead to the outcomes that are essential in tackling the climate crisis.

13:05  

Unfortunately, on reflection, what has been achieved at the COP so far has been far from the rate of progress that our country and the planet as a whole needed to see, and it pains me to say that.

The agreements that have been made thus far, as is outlined in the communiqué, are predominantly ambiguously worded and full of platitudes, and they contain lofty ambitions with little to no concrete commitments. That said, there have been slivers of light. Last night’s agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the United States is the most important development that we have seen so far. Combined, those two countries emit more than half the world’s carbon. It is of crucial importance that they work together on the issue.

That development begs the question whether we should wrap up the conference in the next 24 hours. With the fate of the planet hanging in the balance and the diplomacy between the two biggest global emitters at a high point, should we not seek to extend the conference to see what other areas of co-operation might be possible as we go into the weekend?

Along with other MSPs, I was at yesterday’s plenary stock-taking session, at which the president of the conference, Alok Sharma, said that it was the “intention to finish” on 12 November. I think that that was an indication that, if the deal does not get to where it needs to get to, it is possible that the conference might have to be extended, precisely for the reasons that the member has set out.

I thank the member for that important intervention. Alok Sharma’s somewhat diplomatically worded phrase opens the door to such an extension. If we can see the light of a potential breakthrough over the weekend, we should press for that. I hope that the Scottish Government, although it is not formally represented at the talks, will press for the UK Government to extend the event, and I hope that the Scottish Conservatives and their colleagues in the British Government will do so if necessary.

A key area in which what has been achieved has been quite disappointing is deforestation. The commitments that have been made at the conference are welcome, but are they ambitious enough? The agreement gives a date of 2030 for stopping and reversing deforestation, but that is nine years away. The ink on the paper was not even dry before the Brazilian Government started backtracking. Indeed, the president of Brazil’s Federal Senate told the media that the focus of the Brazilian Government would be on curbing illegal deforestation, rather than deforestation that is sanctioned by the Government. Therefore, the indigenous people of Brazil, on whom deforestation has a devastating impact, just as it does on the lungs of the planet, are still in jeopardy.

Between August last year and July this year alone, the Amazon rainforest lost more than 10,000km2, which is an area that is seven times bigger than London and 13 times the size of New York. If that amount of damage can be done in the space of a mere nine months, how much damage can be done in the next nine years?

Does the member agree that the issue is not just about the deforestation of the rainforests and that we must provide a replacement way of earning a living for the people who would have to give up that way of doing so?

I absolutely agree that economic justice goes hand in hand with the physical changes that we need to make in key industries.

Even after the agreement on deforestation was reached in 2014, no progress was made in physically stopping the practice. We must tie the commitments that are made to real action on the ground to ensure that that does not happen again. I would like the Scottish and British Governments, through their diplomatic channels, to put greater effort into pushing for tighter commitments from those Governments that have a critical responsibility across the rainforest belts of the Amazon, central Africa and Indonesia.

COP also begs a question about what role the UK plays in the world. This week of all weeks, the UK Government has been embroiled in sleaze allegations. Last night, we had the unedifying spectacle of the Prime Minister having to defend his Government from allegations of corruption. How did we get to that point at the heart of a conference at which the UK is on the world stage? At this time of all times, why did the Prime Minister expunge the remaining shreds of his credibility by trying to save the reputation of one of his members of Parliament?

Perhaps we should not be surprised at the lack of timing on the part of the UK Government. After all, it announced a tax cut on domestic flights two days before the climate conference kicked off. There has been a complete absence of leadership in the run-up to and during the conference, which includes Boris Johnson travelling from Glasgow to London by private jet and his continued embarrassing behaviour, and the distraction of the sleaze allegations.

We need to go much further much faster, and with much greater commitments. We need to focus on climate reparations. Fiona Hyslop mentioned the climate justice fund and the Scottish Government’s related commitments, but they represent just 0.01 per cent of Scotland’s gross domestic product and 0.02 per cent of public expenditure.

Mr Sweeney, you have been generous with interventions, but you must close.

I recognise that and I will come to a conclusion.

We have to increase the scale of our ambition. The numbers sound impressive but, given the legacy of Scotland’s industrial pollution, we need to go much further in the share of our national wealth and be much more rigorous in order to meet our net zero carbon emission targets.

13:11  

I thank Fiona Hyslop for lodging the motion at this critical time, while a vital summit is on-going in our largest city on this most important issue.

The dual crises of climate change and nature loss are, put simply, the greatest long-term threats that we face. We know that inaction will impact us all, but we also know that it will not impact us equally. There are two great intolerable ironies at the heart of the climate crisis, which members such as Fiona Hyslop have set out. First, those who are being impacted first and worst by climate change, and who are suffering right now, have often done little or nothing to cause the problem. Secondly, the voices of those who are set to suffer most, including young people, women and girls, indigenous communities and those in the global south, are far too infrequently heard in decision-making fora.

Those anomalies cannot be allowed to continue, and it is incumbent on us to challenge them. When confronted by the scale of the climate challenge and the pace with which we need to act, amid the business of COP26, we have to stop and ask ourselves whose voices we are not hearing. We must find them and elevate them, which is exactly what Fiona Hyslop has done today, sharing harrowing stories of loss and damage. That is what the Scottish Government has been trying to do before, during and after COP26.

As Ms Hyslop detailed, in 2012 Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce a climate justice fund, which has empowered people in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to design and build resilience and equality in their communities. I had the great privilege in September of virtually joining the people of the village of Mangamba in Malawi, who told me how the fund had empowered and supported them to build the solutions that they needed in their communities.

I note the progress in establishing the climate justice fund, which we commend. However, to ratchet up the ambition, will the minister consider linking it to GDP as a key indicator? We should be distributing our wealth in the world as a way of making progress and scaling up our ambitions to what is needed.

I take that point on board, and I add that it is equally important that, as we scale up our support for climate justice, it is separate and additional to our international development funding, as Ms Hyslop mentioned earlier.

One of the local leaders I spoke to on my virtual visit to Mangamba was a young woman named Tapeewa. We agreed that we would try to meet in person, and I had the opportunity to sit down with her and her colleague Aaron this week as they visited Glasgow for COP26. During COP26, the First Minister and I and others have taken all opportunities to speak to leaders and delegates from the global south. Those conversations have increased our resolve to do everything that we can to support them.

That is why the First Minister announced today that, having committed to doubling our climate justice fund before COP26, in the light of those conversations and the need for action, we will now go even further and triple it. The Scottish Government has been embedding international justice in our climate action since 2012, and it is only growing. However, as well as being a chance to discuss funding, COP26 has been a vital opportunity to hear those voices from the global south. Scotland is not yet a state party to the COP, but we have been and we are determined to use our position as a bridge to elevate the voices of those who are too often unheard. That is why we funded the conference of youth, it is why we are backing international feminist policy and it is why we co-hosted the Glasgow climate dialogues with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland in September.

I have been honoured to be involved in the Glasgow climate dialogues and to launch the communiqué earlier this year and at COP26 last week. The communiqué represents the culmination of the views of experts from a range of countries and people who work and live on the front line of climate change right now. It is their collective call to action on key issues such as participation, adaptation, loss and damage and a just transition. The document that I am holding is the outcome: the communiqué. My copy is now a little tattered because I have spent the past week showing it to people and speaking about it to anyone who will listen. I encourage everybody to do the same.

Will the minister give way?

I will give way if the member will be quick. I have a lot to get through.

I pay tribute to the minister. It is a very impressive document and I would struggle to disagree with a single sentence. I also thank Fiona Hyslop for bringing her motion to the chamber for debate.

Does the minister agree that the subject of loss and damage should form part of the final communiqué from COP26? Would she echo the point that other speakers have made about the importance of providing grants rather than loans? Does she agree that conditions should be removed from developing countries, where many people are forced into energy insecurity in exchange for grants? That goes against the principles of social justice.

I absolutely agree that the subject must form part of the final decision. Part of what we have been trying to do is to raise its profile and lead by example in that regard. The point about loans is also very important. This must not be done in a way that saddles developing countries with debt.

COP26 must deliver ambitious action on mitigation that is capable of keeping 1.5°C alive. It must deliver fair financing in a way that does not saddle developing countries with debt. However, we also need COP26 to recognise that the impacts of climate change and nature loss are being felt right now in ways that it is not always possible to adapt to. People are suffering drought, floods, desertification, coastal erosion and, tragically, loss of life. That means that we need support that is separate from and additional to the climate finance that is currently supporting adaptation and mitigation. Climate change is an urgent human rights issue that is posing a serious threat to the rights to food, water, education and life. The Glasgow climate dialogues brought that to the fore.

The Scottish Government is very proud to stand in solidarity with those who are impacted by climate change. That is why, last week, we took the substantial step of becoming the first western country to pledge support specifically to address loss and damage. That is now backed by £2 million. We do so with humility—as has been discussed, £2 million is a small part of what is required globally, but we hope that other, large industrialised countries with borrowing powers that we do not have in Scotland will follow where we have led.

In our view, the issues of financing for loss and damage and climate justice more widely must be central to COP26 and the legacy of the conference, for two fundamental reasons. First, developed countries that have benefited from industrialisation, such as Scotland, have a moral obligation to those throughout the world who are suffering the consequences right now. Secondly, solutions to climate change that do not have fairness, justice and inclusivity at their heart will fail.

I take this opportunity to urge all those who are still taking part in the COP26 negotiations to have the greatest ambition. The world is watching and we must not fail.

13:19 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—