Election 2021

Elections to the Scottish Parliament were held on 6 May.  We will update the website with the results of the election as they become available.   

Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Loading…

Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 09 March 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Climate Change Plan, Budget (Scotland) (No 5) Bill: Stage 3, Budget (Scotland) (No 5) Bill, Committee Announcement, Business Motion, Decision Time, Early Education


Contents


Climate Change Plan

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Lewis Macdonald)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-24300, in the name of Gillian Martin, on the climate change plan. I call her to speak to and move the motion on behalf of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

15:20  

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

As convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, I welcome the opportunity to highlight the committee’s recent report on the updated climate change plan and to move the motion on behalf of the four committees that jointly considered the plan. That collaborative scrutiny and the need for immediate action across a broad range of cabinet secretary portfolios and committee remits demonstrate the cross-cutting and integrated nature of effective climate policy action and scrutiny. That approach must continue if we are to realise our ambitions.

The scrutiny process has been informed by the invaluable contributions of experts, stakeholders and communities from across Scotland and has been underpinned by our committee’s work on a green recovery. I thank everyone who contributed to our inquiry.

The debate represents an important opportunity to reflect on the strengths of the updated plan and to highlight improvements that are needed to turn it into a credible and ambitious blueprint for Scotland’s future. Our unanimously agreed report contains several action-focused recommendations, and we expect the Scottish Government to progress them, together with the other committees’ recommendations, to deliver a final plan that we can all have confidence in.

Sir David Attenborough recently told a virtual gathering of the United Nations Security Council that climate change is the

“biggest threat ... modern humans have ever faced.”

How we respond now will determine the world that our children and our grandchildren inherit.

Parliament recognised the urgency of the situation in passing legislation that set new and ambitious targets, and it is clear that we need to increase and accelerate our action in the near term to meet them. Doing so offers clear potential for innovation, jobs, the economy, the environment and the wellbeing of the people of Scotland and beyond. We want Scotland to be at the forefront in exploring, developing and investing in those opportunities and in the technology that will help us to reach our ambitious targets. That is why the updated plan must set out the foundation and pathways for increased action across society.

The committee recognises that we have challenging targets and that the plan update has been prepared in challenging times. There is significant support for the scale of the proposed emissions reductions and for the overall ambition that the updated plan sets out.

In particular, we welcome the strengthened focus on cross-sectoral working and the inclusion of the co-ordinated approach, which our committee has for many years called for. However, we heard from our correspondents that detail on how to reach the ambition was lacking, and concerns were raised about the achievability of the plan as set out.

Major action and transformational change across all sectors and all parts of society are urgently required to reflect the nature of the climate emergency, meet our Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 ambition and capture the immediate opportunities of a green recovery. We need to tackle the implementation gap that arises when solutions have been identified but not so far applied. We must capture and lock in positive behaviours and build resilience through valuing nature more.

To underpin all that, we must focus on people, innovation, skills and jobs. The pandemic has shown that we can act boldly and quickly in the face of a crisis. As David Attenborough said, climate change is the biggest crisis that faces humanity today and our response must reflect that.

I will move on to our recommendations, including those on the modelling and evidence used; the balance of effort across sectors; sectoral plans and governance arrangements; and behaviour change.

The committee has called on the Scottish Government to

“Demonstrate how the policies and proposals will deliver the envelopes that are presented for each sector. Understanding the relative emissions abatement significance of the policies and proposals is key to supporting implementation of the plan, by enabling potential risks and deficiencies to be identified and corrected.”

We have also called for

“greater clarity on the timescales associated with the policy and proposal commitments in the plan to develop, consult on, research or explore particular measures”.

The timescales should

“reflect the urgent nature of the climate emergency and the immediate opportunities to progress a green recovery.”

We would like a review to be carried out of the assumptions that underpin the plan and, in particular, of the

“abatement attributed to Negative Emission Technologies”—

or NETs. Given the uncertainties that are associated with that, we have called on the Scottish Government to set out an alternative plan

“for how equivalent abatement could be achieved.”

We have asked for

“greater detail about how the policies and proposals across all sectors reflect the opportunities and implications associated with just transition and green recovery”,

taking into account regional considerations.

We have also recommended that the final updated plan

“must take a more integrated approach to cutting emissions across agriculture and land use ... recognising that both depend on the management of a single resource and that these sectors are expected to become more closely aligned in policy and practice.”

Our report makes clear and detailed recommendations across a range of other areas, including waste and the circular economy, nature-based solutions and blue carbon.

The committee recognises that we are debating an updated plan. Time for scrutiny has been tight, and updates will never be as comprehensive or detailed as a complete new plan.

I would now like to look forward to the fourth climate change plan. Stakeholders and the Parliament need ample time to consider the detail in a new climate change plan, so the committee calls on the Government to lay the next full climate change plan in Parliament by the end of 2023. That will ensure that there is sufficient time for full stakeholder and parliamentary consideration before finalisation and publication of the fourth climate change plan in 2024.

This will be the last debate to be led by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in the current parliamentary session, and it is fair to say that our report on the climate change plan update is the culmination of a very heavy work schedule in this session. It has been a privilege to convene a committee that deals with such vital work. I would like to pay tribute to the extremely hard work of the committee clerks and our Scottish Parliament information centre research colleagues. Two long-serving members of the committee are retiring and making their last speeches today—Stewart Stevenson and Angus MacDonald—so I record my best wishes and thanks to them, and to all the members who have served with such dedication on the committee during the session.

It is sad that this afternoon’s debate might potentially have been the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform’s last debate as well. She is unable to be here, but I wish her a speedy recovery and thank her for the constructive way in which she has worked with our committee, and for her many years of public service—not least in her stewardship in protecting the environment and tackling climate change.

Our committee members and the cabinet secretary know that there is no precedent in human history for the speed and scale of the change that is needed to tackle climate change and reduce harmful emissions. The changes that have been highlighted by the four parliamentary committees that have come together today will help to ensure that the final updated climate change plan provides an effective response to the current challenges. Our recommendations should help to provide a springboard for the swift action that is needed to tackle climate change and to deliver a truly green recovery for Scotland—a recovery in which no one is left behind. It is only by committing to significant action today that we can build a better Scotland for tomorrow.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the reports of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, the Local Government and Communities Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on the Scottish Government document, Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan 2018—2032.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Edward Mountain to speak on behalf of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

15:28  

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

As convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, I am pleased to contribute to the debate.

The committee took evidence on the climate change plan update during January and February of this year, and the committee’s call for written evidence produced a good level of responses. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the scrutiny process.

On 4 March, we wrote to the Scottish ministers to set out a series of specific recommendations for improvement of the plan in the areas that are covered by the committee’s remit. Our work has been particularly important, given that the transport and agriculture sectors are the highest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.

The objective of reducing transport emissions by 41 per cent between 2020 and 2032 is certainly ambitious, especially given that such emissions have not fallen during the past decade. Indeed, many stakeholders expressed doubt that that objective was achievable.

To address those concerns, the committee has called on the Scottish Government to introduce enhanced monitoring, increased interim targets and much greater clarity regarding the alignment of specific transport policy measures with the timescale for achieving the reduction in transport emissions.

Probably the most significant transport-related element of the CCPU is the target to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030. The UK Climate Change Committee told us that, even in its most ambitious assessment, it could not identify a set of policy measures that would achieve that level of reduction. Furthermore, the committee has emphasised the particular challenges that are faced in remote and rural areas of Scotland in reducing car kilometres, given the limited availability of public transport and the slow roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in those areas. Policy measures in the forthcoming route map for meeting that target will need to be extremely ambitious and realistic in addressing those specific challenges.

On electric vehicles, I note that in order for the planned phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be achieved, it is critical that we address the current grid capacity constraints. The committee also urges the Scottish Government to set out a timescale for the complete phase-out of hybrid vehicles.

We have heard evidence about the huge opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from freight transport by shifting from road to rail. We are therefore disappointed by the lack of emphasis in the plan on addressing freight transport and harnessing that opportunity.

The increasing need to encourage active travel must be a key future priority, although I note that certain previous targets on active travel have been missed by significant amounts. We must ensure that the growth in active travel during the Covid-19 pandemic is embedded in the long-term psyche of the people of Scotland.

Agricultural stakeholders have highlighted the lack of urgency in the timetable for bringing forward a new rural policy for Scotland and rolling out regional land use partnerships. For planned reductions in carbon emissions from the agriculture sector to be achieved, those timescales must be significantly accelerated.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con)

I declare an interest as a farmer. Does Edward Mountain agree that there is huge willingness across Scotland to meet those challenges in the transport and agriculture sectors? Does he also agree, however, that there is a huge need for knowledge transfer from those who know how to make that work to those who will have to make it work? The gap in provision that exists in that regard needs to be filled.

Edward Mountain

I thank Mr Scott for that intervention and for his timely reminder that, as a farmer, I should also declare my interest. I want to see farming move forward. Mr Scott is entirely right. Farmers need to be supported through an appropriately funded expansion of the Farm Advisory Service. In particular, we need to look at how we can quickly and significantly increase the take-up of carbon audits.

The UK Climate Change Committee gave notable praise to the targets and accompanying action plan for forestry. Our committee concluded that, to maximise the environmental benefits of planting new woodlands, a 50:50 split between native and commercial species must be sustained in the long term. Beyond the current target of planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland annually by 2025, there is scope to achieve a longer-term target of 24,000 hectares per year, and the Scottish Government should develop a workable plan to achieve that goal.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

I wonder what England is doing. I note that Scotland planted 80 per cent of the total and England planted only 20 per cent.

Edward Mountain

Mr Lyle’s intervention would have been an important intervention if we were in the United Kingdom Parliament. We are in the Scottish Parliament, and I will concentrate on the Scottish climate change plan.

I turn to food. Stakeholders emphasised the importance of taking a whole-food-system approach to cutting emissions in the agriculture sector. The delayed good food nation bill would have provided an important framework for such an integrated approach, and the bill now needs to be brought forward urgently, and no later than the end of 2021.

That was a brief summary of the key recommendations of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, and I hope that the Scottish Government will give careful consideration to them all.

I will finish on this subject. The convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee said that she was losing members of her committee. I will be losing Angus MacDonald and Stewart Stevenson, but I will also be sad to see Maureen Watt, Richard Lyle and John Finnie go, as well as Peter Chapman. It would be remiss of me not to say that I am losing more members than the convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call James Dornan to speak on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee.

15:36  

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

I welcome the opportunity to talk on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee about the climate change plan update.

Initially, we agreed to focus on the buildings chapter in the updated plan, which centres around planning and building. Our scrutiny also looked at how local government plays a role in helping to achieve the net zero target.

I would like to take this opportunity to give my thanks to the committee’s clerking team and those who gave us written and oral evidence. I also pay tribute to the work of the fellow committees that scrutinised the updated plan, whom we are hearing from today. I hope that I have not forgotten any committee members who are leaving and whom I have forgotten to wish well for the future.

The committee took evidence before the Scottish Government published its draft heat in buildings strategy in February. The strategy sheds light on some of the issues that are raised by the updated plan. I note that the on-going pandemic contributed to the delay in its publication.

Although it is recognised as challenging, the breadth of ambition that is set out in the proposals is one of the update’s main strengths. The proposals were well received and supported by our witnesses. However, we heard that the updated plan lacked detail. Stakeholders and the public need to understand the stepping stones that are required to guide them towards the outcomes.

Bringing down heat emissions from buildings is a challenging task, and the public play a vital role in tackling it. Clear, effective communication will help to drive the behavioural change that we need to see home by home. The Committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to implement a public engagement strategy for heat decarbonisation. We believe that people should feel informed and empowered, and that they can be part of the solution.

The update states the Scottish Government will introduce

“a standard requiring all new homes consented from 2024 to use zero emission heating”.

However, we heard of the existence of a time lag between when new regulations are introduced and when they start to have effect on the ground. We have asked the Scottish Government to respond to views that we heard that the date of implementation of the standard should be brought forward to 2022.

We understand that a high percentage of modern buildings are failing to meet the minimum building standards regulations and that the current design life of a new home build is approximately 60 years. Past generations built homes to last 100 or 200 years. We heard a proposal for a buildings MOT for new builds, with emissions monitored at least every five years. The committee asks the Scottish Government to clarify what other opportunities are available to tighten up building standards and ensure that we build durable buildings.

We understand that the updated plan does not consider embodied energy, which is the total carbon footprint involved in construction or refurbishment, adding up the impact of labour, cement, steel, wood or other materials used, and all related transport impacts measured in carbon. The committee would be interested to know whether the updated plan takes account of embodied energy costs.

Witnesses agreed that reducing the carbon footprint of existing homes is one of the biggest challenges under the plan. Scotland has a diverse range of homes and much of it is older housing stock.

Houses in rural areas bring particular challenges. We heard that rural buildings are often seen as too difficult, too expensive, too hard or too complicated. With that challenge comes the need for increased financial support, and we therefore welcome proposals to extend financial support in rural areas. We ask for more detail on how home owners will be incentivised and persuaded that improvements are in their interests. The committee also believes that more detail is needed on the practicalities of rolling out improvements across Scotland’s diverse housing stock.

We heard evidence of improvements to homes that, in fact, made living conditions worse. We recognise that introducing improvements is a developing discipline. However, witnesses welcomed the emphasis on training and upskilling in the updated plan. The committee believes that sharing good practice is essential to progress in that area.

Scotland has about 800,000 tenement buildings, and we have noted that the Scottish Government is committed to those tenements reaching a good level of energy efficiency. However, we believe that the law on common repairs in tenements must be reformed to help to expedite interventions that will improve energy efficiency.

We were disappointed to note that the 255-page plan has only one page that is expressly dedicated to planning. We were told that the plan

“misses the point about the role of place”—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 27 January 2021; c 23.]

and that how people travel between and use buildings accounts for a larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions than is accounted for by the buildings themselves. The committee therefore supports calls for a national policy focus on place, wellbeing and the delivery of related policy goals.

We heard that the current planning system must be adapted so that it becomes more reactive and a mechanism for flexible dialogue between people, developers and the Government. We recommend that local authorities must be supported to provide effective public engagement in planning.

As the nation moves towards being a net zero society, the crucial role of local government in co-ordinating communities and public life must be recognised. We heard that there is a need to upskill staff across all local authorities. Meeting that challenge will require not only funding but increased organisational capacity. We have asked for a local government training strategy to upskill the workforce.

We welcome the commitment to working with local authorities to design solutions that are tailored to their circumstances. However, we also ask the Government to consider increasing the flexibility of funding so that each local authority can meet the unique needs of their area in relation to decarbonisation.

I look forward to hearing ministers and cabinet secretaries respond to the points that have been raised by all committees, and I hope that many of the challenges will be addressed in the next parliamentary session.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Willie Coffey to speak on behalf of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee.

15:42  

Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I am pleased to speak on behalf of my committee. We considered three aspects of the climate change plan update: electricity, industry and negative emissions technologies, which were mentioned earlier. I will highlight a handful of points under each of those headings.

First, I will say something about an earlier piece of work by the committee. Last summer, we reported on the findings of our energy inquiry, and the idea of the energy quadrilemma warrants repeating in this debate. We were told that it is crucial to strike a balance between a quartet of potentially competing factors: climate change, security of supply, affordability and public acceptability. That basically means that we should be asking ourselves where our energy comes from, how we use it, how responsible we are and what we consume.

The aim, of course, is to reduce carbon emissions and to choose the best available options to achieve that. Scotland has almost halved its greenhouse gas emissions in 30 years, which is pretty good going. Now, we just need to do that again in the next 11 years. That comes with challenges, but it brings opportunities, too.

The challenges relating to electricity take the form of planning, grid connection and charging. However, we also have a number of comparative advantages. We have the workforce in oil and gas and in renewables. We have natural assets to generate wind, hydroelectric, wave and tidal power. We also have policy momentum, with the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—taking place in Glasgow later in the year.

A key point from our evidence was the importance of alignment; without it, we will reduce the chances of renewable energy contributing to a green recovery. A year ago, three of our committee members visited Orkney for our energy inquiry and witnessed the integration of generation, use and storage in the form of the ReFLEX project.

We would like to see a tool for monitoring in the annual energy statement. We suggest that that statement should be a stand-alone document that can show progress made in a meaningful, prominent and accessible way for policy makers, parliamentarians and the public.

When we came to speak with industry, it was disappointing not to hear directly from Ineos, as the company is such a significant player in the sector. That was not to be, but we heard on its behalf from the Chemical Industries Association. We were told about the high operational costs of decarbonising, and the witnesses were blunt about the risks of carbon leakage—that does not mean leakage in the technical sense; it means the potential economic loss if businesses and jobs move elsewhere. We were reminded that that is the economics of it. We therefore recommend that the Scottish Government prioritise that aspect of its policy around incentive, support and competitiveness and that it continue to work in partnership with the industry. We also encourage our successor committee, in the next session, to focus on industrial decarbonisation.

The third and final strand of our work was on negative emissions technologies. Those are technologies that can permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere, and it is fair to say that expectations on that front are ambitious. Chris Stark reckoned that what is set out by the Scottish Government is entirely feasible, subject to significant investment and political and commercial will. He said that developments would have to happen at scale and that a Scottish site would need to be established by 2029.

We were told that Scotland has the geology, skills and infrastructure that make us well placed to lead. However, there was evidence from some people who voiced concern about what is seen as the lack of an alternative strategy.

The minister, Paul Wheelhouse, must balance the risks and rewards between Government, industry and consumers. He spoke of a place-based approach.

A number of witnesses said that the cost of decarbonisation should be spread fairly across society, and Mr Wheelhouse stressed the importance of partnership working. He praised initiatives such as the Grangemouth future industry board, the Scottish industrial decarbonisation partnership and the north-east carbon capture usage and storage initiative—or NECCUS to its friends.

Our committee welcomes the placing of importance on those partnerships, as business and community buy-in must be an essential part of our plans. We would like to see a little more detail on the 2032 target for gross emissions, so we recommend that the Scottish Government prepare and publish an industrial road map that will take us there.

Those were a few of our findings. I hope that they chime with the findings of the other committees. I look forward to hearing more and to hearing from the Government in winding up the debate.

15:48  

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

I, too, am glad to speak in this important debate on the climate change plan update. I thank the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for sponsoring today’s debate; I thank all the committees that have been involved in the scrutiny process; and I thank the conveners for their four important speeches this afternoon.

As Gillian Martin alluded, the cabinet secretary is unfortunately unable to be here, having been unwell recently. Do not worry—for clarity, she does not have Covid. More than anyone, Roseanna will be annoyed that she has had to miss Parliament, not only because this might well have been her final debate and speeches before her retirement, but because she has championed the climate change plan update for the past few years. Her commitment to delivering on our ambitious targets is second to none. Therefore, although she cannot be here today, I think that the whole chamber will acknowledge the contribution that she has made to getting us this far.

Scotland has made great progress in reducing our emissions. The Climate Change Committee recently highlighted that we have

“decarbonised more quickly than the rest of the UK and faster than any G20 economy since 2008.”

In 2019, we enshrined world-leading targets in law, including net zero emissions by 2045, and we committed to updating?the 2018 climate change plan. None of us could have imagined, back then, the circumstances in which the update would be published.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods across Scotland, as we know. However, there are brighter times ahead, and, out of the pandemic, we must secure a green recovery and a just transition to net zero, because the global climate emergency has not gone away—if anything, it has become an even more pressing issue. That reminds me of something that I heard when I was in China in 2003, when the first SARS pandemic hit: the virus is the greatest concern to humankind, except for humankind itself. That epitomises the situation that we are now in with regard to our focus on the climate emergency as well as the pandemic.

The plan update ?that we are considering today, which includes 100 new policies, sets an ambitious path to meeting Scotland’s targets up to 2032.? In line with the requirements of section 36 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, the policy package was designed to make up for the excess emissions that arose when we missed the 2017 and 2018 annual targets. The plan update was signed by all cabinet secretaries—the whole Cabinet—reflecting the cross-governmental approach that was recommended by the ECCLR Committee. Furthermore, our new co-ordinated approach chapter accounts for the interlinkages between sectors.

Given the complexities involved, the plan update commits to learning by doing, as was recommended by stakeholders. It refreshes the monitoring framework in the 2018 plan, and annual reporting?to Parliament on progress will begin in May. We have included an additional chapter for the negative emissions technologies sector, which reflects our recognition, in line with the advice of the CCC, that those technologies will be essential.

?Most important, our new and boosted policies and proposals will reduce emissions across all sectors. Indeed, while giving evidence at committee, Chris Stark of the CCC said that the plan update is “really impressive” in breadth and noted that there is no UK equivalent.

?The transition to net zero will require that many transformational shifts take place in the next decade. Therefore, the plan update commits us to?significant immediate action. For example, our farmer-led groups will secure uptake of low-emissions farming measures. We are rapidly implementing the beef sector group’s recommendations, and the groups on arable, dairy, hill, upland and crofting are aiming to report in the spring.

Last month, we announced our regional land use partnership pilot regions, to optimise land use in a fair and inclusive way. We have also increased our ambition with regard to nature-based solutions, with targets to restore 20,000 hectares of peatland per annum and to increase new woodland creation by 50 per cent by 2025.

Furthermore, we will reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030. We will seek to publish a strategy on that later this year. We will also ensure that, by 2030, half of our homes have transitioned to low and zero-carbon heating systems. The recent heat in buildings strategy lays out our delivery plans in more detail. In the waste sector, we will reduce food waste by 33 per cent by 2025.

?The commitments in the plan update are backed up by record levels of funding, including £1.9 billion that was announced ?in the budget. That includes the first £165? million ?of our low carbon fund, with £14 million for the green jobs fund, £25 million for bus priority infrastructure and £15 million for zero-emissions buses. We also recently published our infrastructure investment plan, which supports an inclusive net zero carbon economy and details more than £26 billion of major projects and large programmes.

Of course, the publication of the plan update comes at a timely moment for climate action worldwide. Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, we have the opportunity to showcase Scotland’s world-leading approach to tackling climate change, and we will use COP26 to drive tangible international climate action.

As we transition to net zero, there will undoubtedly be uncertainties relating to technological advances, the limits of devolution and the need to ensure a just transition, but we are confident that the plan update provides a credible pathway to meeting our?targets. It sends out a clear statement of intent and provides greater certainty for all parts of society to contribute further to mitigating climate change.

I thank the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for its report and recommendations. Alongside that, I thank the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee and the Local Government and Communities Committee for their reports. That progress is invaluable. The Scottish Government will consider the advice and respond in due course, bearing in mind that there is an urgent need to finalise the plan update so that we can focus on the implementation of its policies and deliver our targets, including a reduction of 75 per cent in emissions by 2030. We therefore plan to finalise the current plan update before the recess.

We will then look for opportunities to integrate additional policies into our overall package in due course. That will include any new policies in response to our full consideration of the committee recommendations, as well as the outcome of our review of the impact of technical updates to the measurement of emissions from wetlands. Ministers will make a statement in June, following the publication of the next set of greenhouse gas emissions statistics, and we will look for other opportunities to keep Parliament informed of our approach.

I hope that what I have said is useful in setting out the Scottish Government’s position and approach. We look forward to continuing to work with fellow MSPs and others, and I look forward to the rest of the debate.

15:57  

Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I offer Roseanna Cunningham good wishes from the Conservatives for a speedy recovery. Given that this would have been her last debate, I, too, would like to pay tribute to her. As everybody knows, we come from extremely different political stables, and we have been adversaries in Perthshire for quite some time. She is a formidable politician who has given great service at Westminster and Holyrood. I wish her a very happy retirement. [Applause.]

I think that we all accept that, during the pandemic, it has been all too easy to forget about the enormousness of the challenge that we face in tackling climate change. The scale of that challenge, together with the worryingly short timescales have focused the minds of several committees in the Parliament in recent months. They are also why the report from the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is fairly blunt in its analysis of the work that will have to be done in the next parliamentary session.

Chris Stark, who has been mentioned and who is definitely one of the most respected advisers on climate change, has described the Scottish Government’s ambitions as being

“on the fringes of credibility”.—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 2 February 2021; c 43.]

I agree with Chris Stark on that point, but that is not to say that the Scottish Government’s ambitions are wrong—far from it. However, there are serious question marks over the deliverability of certain key targets, most especially given some of the Scottish National Party’s recent record.

In the debate, we will concentrate on the question mark over deliverability. There are key issues that need to be addressed if, when it comes to COP26 in a few months’ time, Scotland will be able to demonstrate that she is a world leader in addressing climate change. The strong message coming from many of the witnesses and that is highlighted by the ECCLR Committee report is that much more has to be done to drive the sort of holistic policy approach that the minister described. Too much of the climate change debate has been taking place in silos, which is perhaps understandable.

I will provide just three examples of that. First, we know that there have been significant differences in progress to net zero in the eight sectors that are covered in the plan. For example, we have been doing well in the water industry and in relation to domestic heat in buildings, but much less so with transport.

Has enough been done to ascertain why certain sectors have been making more progress than others? Probably not—although I accept the cabinet secretary’s recent remarks that some of the difference was down to the different pace of technological change. That is a fair comment, but it is not the whole story. If we accept that green transport is a key priority—I have heard the cabinet secretary say that many times, particularly in relation to buses—I question why the Scottish National Party would decide to cut £33 million out of this year’s rail infrastructure budget. That does not make sense to me.

Secondly, we heard quite a lot of criticism at committee about the absence of a universal approach to regional land partnerships—something that has consistently been raised by NFU Scotland, which felt that there was too disjointed an approach to agriculture and forestry and questioned why the regional land partnerships policy had to be on a pilot basis only, when it is clear that there has been much success elsewhere with delivering substantial improvements in biodiversity and financial economies of scale.

Thirdly, concerns have been raised about the ability to link urban and rural policy. Several witnesses felt that the climate change plan did not reflect the needs of different regions sufficiently well, and we need to address that as soon as possible.

Without any question, priority must be placed on the introduction of the circular economy bill, which was promised by the SNP as a flagship piece of legislation. That bill is critical to the climate change plan, so it was disappointing that it had to be delayed. I am sure that my colleague Maurice Golden will say a bit more about that in his summing-up speech.

I turn now to what I see as some of the more difficult and pressing challenges that we face—challenges with which the ECCLR Committee has been wrestling over recent weeks. First, there is the issue of behaviour change and of how easy it will be to deliver that change with encouragement and incentives, rather than by more punitive measures. We all know that consumer behaviour must change if we are to hit more climate change targets. We may already have done some of what is necessary to reduce the use of plastic, to improve the heating in our homes, to ensure that we are buying greener cars and to address some problems with landfill, but there is an awful lot more to be done.

This is where things get difficult. To what extent, for example, should we be taxing consumers in order to effect the changes that we want to see? To what extent should Government dictate the expectations on consumer behaviour? To what extent should economic policy become more statist in its approach, should there be continuing conflicts between the private and public sectors?

Those are all very complex issues, raising questions about tax revenues, procurement and indeed the role of government in society—and we cannot run away from them. The committee has touched on most of those issues, but the Parliament will have to take that forward in the next session.

Secondly, there is the issue of striking a balance, and nowhere is that more important than in our approach to nature. We should acknowledge the huge progress that has been made in many respects, and I pay tribute again to the cabinet secretary for her efforts, particularly with peatlands, but there are some worrying features of the debate.

I put on record my deep-seated concern at the way in which a small minority of so-called environmentalists have attacked many people whose lifeblood is the countryside. The recent attacks on gamekeepers, gillies and stalkers for doing their job in maintaining and enhancing our countryside have been reprehensible, as have been the comments from a small minority who clearly ignore our responsibility to outlaw raptor crime. The approaches of those small but nonetheless vocal minorities are born out of prejudice and ignorance, and I deplore the lack of reasoned debate, as they often flout the available evidence about the activities that they undertake, most especially regarding those who have done so much to improve biodiversity.

The same is true for the stewardship of our beauty spots. Scotland is so rich in its natural assets and, if there has been any silver lining within the very dark Covid cloud, it is that many people want to enjoy them. That comes with responsibility, however, and it means much tougher action to weed out the fly-tippers, litter louts and antisocial campers.

The scale of the climate change challenge that we face is immense. I sometimes wonder if we in this Parliament have been devoting enough time to debating climate change policy in the chamber. I appreciate that the pandemic has made similar demands on debating time, but I look at some of the debates that we have had and I wonder whether we have got our priorities right. A debate about which flags we fly outside the building would surely have been one that we could have done without.

I hope that, in the next session, the Parliament will be able to prioritise climate change far more than has been the case in this session.

16:04  

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I start by wishing the cabinet secretary well, as others have already, in every sense of the word. It is indeed unfortunate that she cannot be here to take part in today’s debate—it possibly being her last—and I pay Scottish Labour’s respects to her long-standing contribution to this brief. I also wish Sarah Boyack well in her new post as our spokesperson for climate change, environment and land reform. In my view, her acumen and experience on all those fundamentally significant issues will serve Scotland well. Today, she will focus on the role of local government, leadership and funding. Richard Leonard will tackle the issue of just transition, jobs and probably—I hope—how vital the skills strategy is.

We must not miss the opportunities, as we slowly move out of Covid. We are in a declared climate emergency and in a nature emergency that is inextricably linked to it. There is an urgent need for rapid, clearly planned action across all sectors to meet the 2030 targets fairly, but the Scottish Government is simply not clear enough on the detail of many of its policies.

I and other members come to the issue from both committee and party perspectives—indeed, some have already—but I will start by focusing on the global imperative. Today the ECCLR Committee, of which I am a member, took evidence from a Scottish Government team that is working on Scotland’s involvement in the Glasgow summit, COP26, and I want to make some brief comments about that opportunity and stress how fundamentally important the framing is. These are our collective deliberations about the climate change plan, but I have to say that some of Scottish Labour’s amendments and those of others, in relation to the global south and our responsibility as a developed nation to pay our fair share, strengthened the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. There is an expectation in the act about how to reference

“the regard to ... the climate justice principle”

and, vitally,

“proposals and policies for supporting, including by the sharing of expertise and technology, action in developing countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

I am a member of the ECCLR Committee, and one of our comments states that

“While the Committee recognises that the climate change plan update is an update to the 2018 CCP, and therefore is not legally bound to incorporate the requirements as set out in the 2019 Act, the Committee expected the Scottish Government would seek to reflect those provisions, as far as it was possible to do so. The Committee is concerned that the draft CCPu does not include a number of those actions identified in the 2019 Act.”

I hope that the minister will take note of that today and that the final updated plan will express those concerns.

I turn to our recommendations on blue carbon. In her letter to the cabinet secretary on 4 March, on publication of our report, our convener Gillian Martin pointed out that

“The Committee notes that the plan is also being prepared in the run up to COP26 in November, when international emissions targets will be reviewed.”

Prior to that conference, I strongly ask that the Scottish Government push the case with the UK Government for the inclusion of blue carbon in the inventory, as per the committee’s recommendation 187, which states that

“It would appear to the Committee that acting on the basis of the precautionary principle, taking a proactive approach to blue carbon and including it as part of the final CCPu would ensure that Scotland makes early advances and secures multiple benefits in terms of carbon storage, securing biodiversity and supporting adaptation and resilience, in many areas through relatively simple, low cost actions.”

I hope that the minister and the cabinet secretary will take that on board. The cabinet secretary has shown robust leadership in the development of peatland action and I hope that that will be the case with blue carbon as well—we do not have to wait.

I have a brief comment on peat to please pass to the cabinet secretary. Our recommendation 162

“provides further detail on the mechanisms that will be used to phase out the use of horticultural peat and on the assessment of how existing sites for peat extraction will impact on the land use, land use change and forestry envelope and emphasises a presumption against extensions to existing sites.”

I ask the Scottish Government to explore incineration and energy from waste with great care, as highlighted by the committee. Our recommendation 129 is that the Scottish Government

“reviews and coordinates the planning and procurement of incineration capacity to avoid ‘lock-in’”.

I stress that, at its most simple, it is a case of no more capacity, no more demand.

In a more positive vein, I turn to the circular economy, which is so important to the future of jobs in Scotland and the climate change plan. The committee’s recommendation 128 is that the Scottish Government

“includes a re-commitment to a Circular Economy Bill ... to set out a framework for a transition to a circular economy”.

Chris Stark, whom I greatly respect, suggested that, although the Scottish ministers have responded to the principles that the Climate Change Committee set out, and to its recommendations, it does not go far enough. The response needs to be framed to the economic crisis that we are facing as we come out of the pandemic, to ensure that we achieve a green recovery.

I simply add that evidence of the global threat is stark. Let us do all that we can here in Scotland to help to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C and lead by example in the run-up to COP26. A really robust climate change plan update with route maps in all sectors, underpinned by a just transition, could do just that.

16:11  

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I offer my good wishes to all members for whom this is their final parliamentary debate. I share the disappointment that the cabinet secretary cannot be with us to participate this afternoon. She has not only shown a commitment to tackling climate change, but, as Liz Smith reminded us, has always been approachable and collaborative in her approach.

Although I learned the hard way the risks of taking an intervention from Stewart Stevenson—I have not entirely forgiven him for redirecting one of Orkney’s lifeline ferries to Norway—I feel strangely privileged to be here for his final contribution. I look forward to the remarkable word count of which I am sure he will apprise us later this afternoon.

I also thank all four committees for their diligence in robustly scrutinising the updated plan. The reports capture a vast amount of knowledge, expertise and experience from a wide range of witnesses, to whom I also offer thanks. As a result, today’s debate can only really aspire to be a whistle-stop tour, but I hope that the reports provide reassurance that this Parliament recognises the importance, urgency and scale of the challenge at hand. As the Local Government and Communities Committee observed, the word “challenge” hardly seems sufficient.

I found myself in agreement with the ECCLR Committee’s welcome for the updated plan’s greater emphasis on the role of nature-based solutions, which the Scottish Liberal Democrats strongly support. For all the innovative technologies that we must and will invest in, a diverse ecosystem offers the surest means of storing carbon and reducing emissions. Moreover, the potential for green job creation through restoration and management work is significant. RSPB Scotland estimates that around 8,500 full-time equivalent jobs could be created, so it is an opportunity that cannot be passed up.

The ECCLR Committee warned that 1 million hectares of peatland are degraded in some form or other. The committee goes on to express concern, quite rightly, that

“historically, the Scottish Government has had greater success in reaching tree planting targets than reaching peatland restoration targets.”

I am sure that Mr Lyle will update us on the United Kingdom Government’s performance but, for obvious reasons, that needs to change.

The lack of multiyear funding is perhaps a more recognised and well-established problem. In the face of a climate emergency, we cannot miss targets and opportunities through an inability to plan, a lack of certainty and an overabundance of bureaucracy.

I associate myself with the important points that were made by Local Government and Communities Committee colleagues about linking work to eradicate fuel poverty with efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of housing and buildings. That theme was picked up during the recent passage of the Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill. Orkney is one of seven local authorities with significantly higher rates of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty that are well beyond the national average. Despite the Government declaring energy efficiency a national priority before the last election, we seem no closer to addressing that persistent scar on so many of our communities.

I am pleased that the committee underlined that retrofitting existing housing to reduce overall emissions will be one of the biggest challenges. That will be difficult in Orkney and other rural and island areas; for different reasons, it will be difficult in our cities. There are 800,000 tenement households in Scotland, and co-ordinating work to reduce emissions in such housing stock will be a logistical nightmare. It will require clear communication from the Government and accessible support services to help people make informed choices about the options that are available and how best to act.

Unfortunately, as the Energy Saving Trust observed:

“there is low general awareness amongst the population of the need to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and to switch away from conventional heating as well as very low awareness of how people can take action.”

Without improving public awareness, the ambitions in the plan are at risk of being a pipe dream. Sam Foster told the committee that 95 per cent of modern buildings

“fail to satisfy the minimum building standards regulations in ... energy efficiency.”—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 27 January 2021; c 6.]

If that statistic is anywhere close to accurate, that is truly alarming.

The need for coherent, co-ordinated and focused change was a theme throughout each committee’s work. It was perhaps exemplified during the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee’s visit to Orkney, where members saw first hand the value of taking a whole-system approach. I have spoken before about the impressive, forward-thinking ReFLEX project that is under way in Orkney and that I am now a member of. ReFLEX will match what we can sustainably produce with what consumers need. I whole-heartedly agree with the committee’s call, and that of Willie Coffey, for the Government to deliver on the lessons from the project.

I referred earlier to the opportunities for job creation, for which we see potential in many aspects of the fight against climate change. It will take time to build and adapt our workforce to meet the challenging demands, but people are raring to go, and they are looking for opportunities and the right signals and support from Government. The oil and gas sector is brimful of people with invaluable knowledge, skills and expertise, and many of them recognise the need to transition to sustainable alternatives. Indeed, Friends of the Earth found that 81 per cent of them said that they would consider switching to another sector.

However, as the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee heard in evidence, the experience of just transition has not been much felt on the ground to date. Job losses at key sites mean that

“the experience to date demonstrates that promises of green jobs and positive outcomes are easily broken without the concrete policy action to deliver”.

That shows the importance of having a climate change plan that can turn fine words into meaningful action. For every area and sector, we need a route map that is costed, funded and realistic; we do not need another list of excuses as to why work went elsewhere. We cannot start soon enough.

I welcome today’s debate, thank the committees for their hard work and hope to be in a position to continue contributing to efforts to turn these aspirations into actions.

16:17  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I join other members in wishing Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, all the very best. I hope that she makes a speedy recovery and that she is able to join us again for the final days of this parliamentary session.

I thank all those who have given evidence throughout the inquiries on the climate change plan update during what have been challenging times. I thank the clerks to the ECCLR committee and SPICe staff for their support to me and my colleagues over the past five years.

There will not be a single legislature or Government anywhere in the world that can say that it has done enough to tackle the climate emergency. It is our moral duty to go faster and further, especially for the sake of those who will suffer the most and who have contributed the least to causing the crisis.

In that context, the Parliament was right to set an ambitious target of a cut in emissions of at least 75 per cent by 2030, because the next nine years will make or break the climate. However, any idea that we can reach the target by simply creating a more energy-efficient version of 2020 is misguided. Halving emissions over the past 30 years was the start, but halving them again in the next nine years will require a total change of mindset. It will require a system change to tackle climate change and to make choices easier, whether that is to leave the car at home, scrap a gas boiler or reduce meat consumption.

The updated plan ducks many of those challenges, because it is just an update and a stopgap. It does not fully answer the question that the Parliament asked the Government about how it could achieve the 2030 target. The additional effort that is demanded by that target is simply divvied out to all sectors evenly—except for farming and industry, which are largely let off.

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform admitted in committee that the update is not designed to be “encyclopaedic”; for the sake of the planet, at this point, it needs to be. That is why I attempted to amend the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets (Scotland) Bill to require a full plan to be produced early on. However, we will now have to wait until 2023 for the real deal—it is hoped—to emerge.

The only area in which the plan takes a leap of faith—and it is a huge one—is on technologies that could extend the life of the oil and gas sector in its current form. Negative emissions technologies, especially carbon capture and storage, which is so costly and uncertain, are relied on almost unquestioningly in the plan. The Government has put all its chips on CCS to deliver a cut of nearly a quarter of Scotland’s emissions by 2030—even waste incinerators are planned to have CCS bolted on—but that is a fantasy. It is not a just transition, because there is simply no transition. It is business as usual for the sector that has been licensed to nearly quadruple oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. That move is as incompatible with the Paris agreement today as it will be with the Glasgow agreement in November.

The reality is illustrated by Mossmorran, Scotland’s third-largest emitter. The operators have no plans for CCS. The plant creaks along and the promise of a just transition board to plan for the future with the community has been repeatedly sidelined. Even the cross-party meeting that the First Minister promised me in October last year has been kicked into the long grass.

Every time that there is delay, we let down the workers and the communities of the future, because we risk deferring collapse rather than planning now for a transition that is just and leaves no one behind. There has to be a plan B on those negative emissions technologies that is not written by the oil and gas sector.

The good news is that we are sitting on the European jackpot of renewable wind and tidal resources. Technologies from heat pumps to pumped storage are cost effective, well understood and deployable now. Green hydrogen will have a strong role to play in heavy industry and transport. There is a need to double down on the progress that Scotland has made with onshore wind, and to accelerate the roll-out of offshore wind and tidal, while treating energy efficiency as the national infrastructure priority of this decade.

On transport, as in so many areas, there is a need for clearer implementation plans that show the reduction in emissions and which are linked to policies and budgets. It is welcome that the Scottish Government is now planning for traffic reduction rather than growth, but that will be impossible to achieve, given that the infrastructure investment plan aims to spend three times more on high-carbon transport than on low-carbon transport. It is far better not to build an unnecessary road in the first place than to spend decades wondering what to do with the traffic growth that it has generated.

For those reasons, the decision by Stirling Council last week to drop the Viewforth link road was the right one. Every new road capacity project, right up to the A96, now needs to be re-evaluated in the light of the climate emergency. Budgets must be climate-proofed, because the Parliament cannot tell at the moment what the long-term impacts will be of that capital spend. Some areas, such as farm subsidies, are locking in the harmful ways of the past, when they should be delivering the solutions to the climate and nature emergencies.

I hope that this session’s final debate on climate change leaves the right questions, lessons and demands for the next Government and Parliament, because our futures depend on it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

We move to the open debate. I call Stewart Stevenson. This will be Mr Stevenson’s final speech in the chamber. [Applause.]

16:24  

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. It is always as well to get the applause in first, because members might not be so enthusiastic at the end of my speech.

As I prepare for my departure from this place, I am wondering what issue I will wish to remain engaged with after I leave the Parliament.

However, before I do that I want to single out the Official Report team for so masterfully converting some of my more obscure contributions into something that approximates readable English, and for being persuaded to accept the majority of my suggested changes to their drafts—especially when they accepted a new word that Bruce Crawford and I created: “cumsnuggered”, which is an adjective that means “overwhelmed by information”. Not all of my previous 852 speeches have been of equal intelligibility, and the people in the OR are the all-but-invisible heroes of our institution. I give them my very heartfelt thanks. [Applause.]

Clearly, as I have been campaigning for our country’s independence since I joined the SNP in November 1961, I will remain engaged in that issue. However, independence is not an end in itself; it is about our having the power to serve wider purposes.

We are not entirely powerless on climate change, but we are allowed to be at the top table of decision makers only occasionally, and at the whim of different ministers of the UK. Let me hasten to say, however, that the signs for COP26 are good in that regard. I was privileged to lead the UK team from time to time during international conferences including COP14, COP15 and COP17. Colleagues have not always been so fortunate.

The update of our climate change plan, which is the subject of today’s debate, is another example of our shared determination to leave a world that is fit for purpose for those who will live after us. Of course, the update is not the last word on the subject. The full plan must arrive in relatively early course and will need to describe the means to the end that I believe we all share in wanting. It must also provide the resources for public agencies’ contributions to delivering that end.

Two foci are particularly important. The first is a just transition for people who currently work in industries that contribute to global warming. That is very important for the area that I represent: oil and gas employ perhaps 20 per cent of the people who work there. We have the skills and determination to be part of the vanguard when it comes to new energy. We are already travelling that road, as renewable energy has increased in importance. Government policy must support private enterprise to create the new jobs that will supplant the old.

Secondly, we must play our part in delivering climate justice. We created the aridity, heat, flooding and storms that affect many people who cannot afford to fix the problem. I am thinking of farmers in Africa in particular. There is also a gender issue in that regard, because many of the worst-affected farmers are female.

Finally, let me leave this place by recognising, as members would expect of me, the varied contributions of members who, like me, plan to leave the Parliament, and of one who plans to stay. In doing so, I acknowledge that no single person or party has a monopoly on wisdom. My list is a fairly random one that recognises that everyone who shares our belief in democracy—which is, in essence, an understanding that we may be dismissed from or denied office by the decisions of the people whom we represent—has the opportunity to make a contribution of value.

When I look at the Tory seats, I greatly miss Alex Johnstone and Alex Fergusson, who departed before their time. They were great friends of mine and great friends of the Parliament. One of my cousins was a Conservative councillor—yes; it is time for admissions. Dr Sandy Paterson was his name, and being a general practitioner was his game.

On the Labour seats to my right, Mary Fee has been radical in her ideas while being moderate and engaging in her expression of them. I served under her on the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing and I admired how she conducted herself in her role as convener. Her colleague David Stewart has distinguished himself on the subject of road safety to very good effect. I cannot imagine that there has been an occasion on which I have disagreed with anything that he said on the subject. I thank them both. My niece, Morag, who is a music teacher, is chair of her local Labour Party in Kent.

John Finnie, in the Green seats, has been a reasoned and reasonable voice for green issues, and I have rarely disagreed with him on matters of principle.

Among Liberal Democrat members is one who no one expects. I am sorry: it is not Liam McArthur, but Mike Rumbles. He has contributed much in his time here, and he is a man of focus and principle, and one whose frustration I felt when I gave him a one-word answer to an exceptionally lengthy question on funding for the Aberdeen western peripheral route that he asked me when I was a minister. Ministers have licence to misbehave occasionally, but I recall that John Swinney, who was sitting beside me, muttered, “Never do that again, Stewart.” My great uncle, Sir Alexander Stewart Stevenson, was a Liberal Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and has six streets named after him. He was responsible for the erection of the statues to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce that we pass between as we go into Edinburgh castle, but he had rather more substantial achievements.

As a genealogist of some 60 years’ standing, I have frequently referred to my relatives. Why should today be any different? My father’s cousin, Lord James Stevenson was, like me, a politician. He was a cross-bencher in the House of Lords, appointed by Ramsay MacDonald as a reward for delivering the empire exhibition in 1924—which, incidentally, provided England with its national football stadium at Wembley. They only got it because of the actions of a Scotsman from Kilmarnock. I can reveal that his coat of arms is supported by squirrels rampant and that, beneath the shield, is the motto: “Carry on”. Is this the end of my family connection to elected politics? No; we shall carry on.

Of course, I leave a very different Parliament from the one that I joined in 2001. I have just looked at my statistics and I will, by the end of this session, have attended 110 virtual committee meetings. That is how much things have changed.

It is now time for me to leave, Presiding Officer, and for another MSP and me to come out together, as it were. I hand my political baton to my cousin—a person with whom I share 11 centimorgans of DNA. She is already a Government minister and a respected and energetic local member of Parliament. So, I say, “Good luck in the election, minister.” With a final ping of my galluses, which I know she admires so much, I now hand my share of family responsibility for political service to a fellow admirer of such luridity: my cousin, Jenny Gilruth.

16:33  

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

It seems to be a little unfair to have to follow that, Presiding Officer.

I add my best wishes to all those who are retiring from Parliament—especially Stewart Stevenson, after that fantastic speech. When I made my maiden speech, he noted with, I think, some regret that he thought that I had beaten his record for the quickest maiden speech after being sworn in. However, it is always safe to say that we learn something from Stewart Stevenson when he speaks, although not always in relation to the subject that is being debated. I noted his mention of Alex Fergusson and Alex Johnstone, who are two people whom we all miss. He once suggested that I had the stature of Alex Johnstone; I am not sure whether he meant politically or otherwise.

I had better move on to the subject of the debate. First, I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests in relation to my being a partner in a farming business. I also want to give my thanks to the committees and their teams—in particular, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, for bringing forward the debate, and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, on which I sit, for its work around the climate change plan.

This is a year when, like no other, Scotland’s commitments around climate change will have a global stage. The United Kingdom will host the COP26 summit in Glasgow in just under 10 months. That will provide a space for real global work on climate change commitments, and will bring the world together to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time. Sadly, it will take place against the backdrop of a coronavirus pandemic that has dominated virtually every part of our politics for the past year.

The coming months and years must be a time for recovery from the pandemic and its unprecedented effect on the global economy, and we must, as I am sure we all believe, address the promises of a green recovery head on. In doing so, we should be looking not only to improve the areas of the economy that will have to be rebuilt, but to start making real progress in areas in which existing climate change reduction work has not made the impact that it must make.

The agricultural sector has been forthright in calling for a real future plan for rural Scotland—something that has been kicked down the road. Like most in our sector, I appreciate the need to change and to build a carefully managed transition to a lower-carbon rural economy. That transition will recognise that change cannot come overnight without serious consequences, but, equally, we should not hide behind transition to justify painfully slow progress.

The Government must also recognise that efforts to transition are completely undermined by what the ECCLR Committee has cited as detail being “substantially lacking” on how targets will be met, and by a future policy direction that is all but blank. That creates a credibility gap between targets and achievement, and it does not take long to realise that the Scottish Government has form here: legally binding emissions targets have been breached, recycling pledges are on course to broken, targets for a low level of renewable heat use have been missed dramatically and standards for clean air in the cities have been ignored. Add to all that cuts in the budget to programmes that are designed to improve the sustainability of farming and the rural economy, and the result is an incredibly disappointing inability to grasp the issue.

The climate change plan update is at least welcome, but the Scottish Government cannot pretend that it contains a viable route map to the transformational change that is required. In this year, when the spotlight is on Scotland, can we really trust that what the Scottish Government continually calls its “ambitious” targets will be met under the current Administration?

My region, the Highlands and Islands, faces many challenges in meeting those ambitions. For example, we have greater reliance on cars and a greater focus on agriculture. Infrastructure—from rail to mains gas—touches far fewer of the population than it does in other parts of Scotland. In many ways, the impacts of climate change will fall most heavily on regions such as mine. When I see such enthusiasm around my region—from the great renewables projects on the islands to the man in Lochaber wanting to change to an electric car but finding that the infrastructure is missing—it is frustrating that the Scottish Government simply has not considered how many of those issues must be addressed.

Sadly, Scotland still has a Government that constantly promises big but delivers small. It has, in the past, served up a policy agenda that takes the low-hanging fruit while some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in our society are barely touched. It is a Government that seems to be more interested in setting targets than in meeting them, and it is a Government that continually tells us that its priorities lie elsewhere, while devoting endless time to its core issue. That is to try to break up the United Kingdom, which has, through our integrated network, worked together and supported, to the tune of billions of pounds, the decarbonisation of our electricity sector, which is one of the biggest achievements that Scotland has made in reducing emissions.

The ambition and drive for change exists in Parliament. Ministers, however, must start being serious about how the targets that the Parliament has voted for might become reality.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Angus MacDonald. This is Mr MacDonald’s final speech to the chamber.

16:38  

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate, as I serve on the ECCLR and REC Committees. This is my final speech, so I hope, with the Presiding Officer’s indulgence, to sign off with a few words of thanks and farewell. I, too, send my best wishes to the cabinet secretary.

Since the four committee reports on the CCPU were published, it has been heartening to see the warm welcome that they have received, with Fergus Boden of Friends of the Earth Scotland describing the ECCLR report as “excellent”, and WWF Scotland broadly agreeing with the ECCLR Committee findings.

Although it is fair to say the that the committee findings and recommendations are tough, or “blunt”, as Liz Smith put it, it is also fair to say that Scotland’s net zero climate targets that are already in place show genuine global leadership in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

There was clearly a bit of crossover between committee reports, and one example of that was industrial decarbonisation and NETs. ECCLR’s sister committee, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, covered that issue in some detail, as we heard from Willie Coffey, but that aspect was also covered by ECCLR and, as I have a constituency interest representing the industrial complex in Grangemouth, I am keen to touch on that in detail.

We know that emissions from the industry sector have fallen by 45 per cent since 1990 and that much of that drop comes from the disappearance of some major polluting industries. We also know that the draft CCPU aims for a 43 per cent reduction in industrial emissions between 2018 and 2032, which is considerably more than the 21 per cent reduction that was set out in the 2018 climate change plan.

A number of funds have been announced to support decarbonisation, as the minister said, but it was clear from the evidence that we took that the Scottish Government needs to better engage with the sector to capture all the potential benefits. Chris Stark of the CCC warned in his evidence that, with regard to negative emissions technologies and industrial decarbonisation, there is potential only for two decarbonised industrial clusters in the UK so, if Grangemouth wanted to benefit from funding and investment, it would have to

“lean in ... to capture the lion’s share of ... support.”—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 2 February 2021; c 61.]

It is vital for the Scottish Government to work along with industry and Falkirk Council to ensure that the town of Grangemouth is recognised as a decarbonised industrial cluster. If Grangemouth is to benefit from UK Government funding and investment, it needs to lean in to capture the lion’s share of support and beat off the very real challenge from Teesside in England, which is the main internal UK competition. Our committee considers that Scotland has a significant advantage in engineering expertise and geological storage for CCS, but it has the very real competition from Teesside, which we ignore at our peril.

Our committee explored with the cabinet secretary how Scotland can capture the economic and just transition benefits. We asked how important it is that Grangemouth sits at the heart of a low-carbon industrial transformation for Scotland and what is being done to support that. The cabinet secretary confirmed that the Acorn project should be seen as an anchor to enable the early establishment of CCS in Scotland and said that she considered Grangemouth to be a strategic industrial site that must be harnessed in the energy transition and can act as a critical catalyst hub.

I was pleased to hear the cabinet secretary acknowledge that a commitment will be required beyond the next parliamentary session and that private sector investment is necessary, alongside Scottish Government and UK Government intervention. However, it would be wrong not to highlight the concerns that a number of environmental non-governmental organisations raised about the CCPU’s overreliance on NETs.

There is much to cover, but I am conscious of the time and, as this is my final speech in the Parliament, I am keen to say a few words of farewell. Many members will know that I am heading off to the land of my roots in the Outer Hebrides. It will be 29 years this year since I was first elected to the former Falkirk District Council, so it will be quite a wrench to leave elected politics in Falkirk district.

For most of my life, I have been torn between two parts of Scotland—Falkirk district and the Western Isles—and it is probably fair to say that I sacrificed a completely different life in the Hebrides for a life serving the people of Grangemouth initially and the whole of Falkirk East latterly. That has been my choice, and it has been an honour and a privilege to represent my electorate at two councils and the Parliament.

The islands of the Hebrides have a habit of calling their sons and daughters back home, and I have succumbed to that call. My genes go back 1,000 years in the Hebrides, so I guess that it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the call to go home. I will never forget the absolute honour and privilege that it has been to serve the people of Falkirk East in Parliament for the past 10 years and the good people of Grangemouth on the council before that. Every day that I walked into the Holyrood chamber or the council chamber, it was never a chore—it was always an honour and a privilege. I have never forgotten the people of the old Inchyra ward in Grangemouth who put me on that path way back in 1992.

Massive thanks go to the members of the wonderful team in my constituency office—they do not call themselves team awesome for nothing. They are my office manager of nine years, Diane; my caseworker, Lorraine; my press officer, Iain; and the new addition to the team, Kirstin. I also thank all the other team members who moved on to pastures new over the years.

At this point, I would like to give a special mention to all the committee clerks I have worked with and, of course, the SPICe team, whose members are second to none. I also want to thank each and every committee convener, past and present, I have worked with over the years, who have been excellent conveners—you all know who you are.

Of course, this job cannot be done properly without the support of family, so I say a massive thank you to my long-suffering wife Linda. I am also grateful for the unstinting support over the years of my mother, who sadly passed away this time last year.

I have been pleased to have been associated with and worked behind the scenes on many positive policies and pieces of legislation, not least my favourite bills—the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill—the effective ban on fracking and, of course, the deposit return scheme, which I have been banging on about to anyone who would listen since I first saw it operating in Norway in 1985.

So, there is much to be proud of, and as I head off into the Hebridean sunset, I will watch with interest from afar as the Parliament continues to grow and becomes fully independent in the not-too-distant future.

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much, Mr MacDonald.

I say to members that, obviously, when people are making their last speech, I am relaxed about the time—that is only fair. However, the same does not go for the rest of you. You must keep to six minutes, as we have no time in hand.

I call Emma Harper, to be followed by Richard Leonard. You must not take that personally; it is just a fact.

16:46  

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I do not take anything that you say personally—it is always wonderful advice.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s update to the climate change plan for the period 2018 to 2032, and I, too, wish Roseanna Cunningham the very best of health.

I very much enjoyed being a member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee at the beginning of the parliamentary session, along with colleagues Angus MacDonald and Stewart Stevenson, and I enjoyed their final speeches this afternoon. Now, as a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, I would like to point to that committee’s scrutiny of the role that transport and agriculture play in relation to climate change. Finding ways to tackle climate change crosses many committee remits and many ministerial portfolios, as we have heard. Climate change is also an issue on which I have been engaging locally in my own work and as a member of the REC Committee.

The climate change plan update sets out bold actions that, together, chart a pathway to our new emissions reduction targets to 2032. It sets out plans for a green recovery from the Covid pandemic and includes a number of actions, from expanding walking and cycling paths, which will promote active travel, to steps such as supporting businesses to continue to support people to work from home, which is having an impact on emissions. It would be good to find out the extent to which emissions have been reduced by people working from home during the pandemic and through health professionals using digital technology to do appointments, which also reduces car journeys.

Our journey to meeting the emissions reduction targets will not be easy, and it will need to be a truly national endeavour, to which businesses, communities and individuals contribute fully. The plan update therefore gives clear signals on where we are going, what the Scottish Government is doing to enable us to get there and how others can contribute.

Across Dumfries and Galloway in my South Scotland region, South of Scotland Enterprise has been pivotal in supporting businesses and communities to recover from Covid-19. In addition, it is supporting the region to meet climate change targets and to adopt green policies to mitigate the impact of climate change. During consideration of the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill, I lodged amendment 25, which revised the language of the bill to incorporate terminology that is used in current environmental legislation, thereby providing better alignment with the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and with our Government’s climate change plan.

Since it commenced its work last year, SOSE has provided direct financial and practical support schemes to mitigate the impact of climate change, such as a grant of £1.9 million over five years to the UNESCO-designated Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere. One aim of the biosphere is to conserve and sustainably enhance our south-west natural environment, while encouraging sustainable development, outdoor access, hiking, mountain biking and other pursuits, which are important in supporting better health as well as acting as mitigating measures in addressing climate change.

I would like the minister to be aware that many constituents are hoping that the biosphere will be expanded to include Stranraer and the Rhins of Galloway, which could contribute to sustainable economic growth through tourism and a green recovery for the south-west. Many constituents are also still interested in the potential of a Galloway national park, which obviously involves climate change issues.

Scotland has the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world, and the climate change plan update sets out the policies that will be introduced, boosted or accelerated to help us to meet the targets and support our green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The update makes a number of significant announcements on steps to meet Scotland’s climate change targets, including a truly world-leading new target to reduce kilometres travelled by car by 20 per cent by 2030. That target, which other members have mentioned, demonstrates our level of ambition in seeking to meet Scotland’s statutory targets.

I am aware of the RECC Committee’s work, which its convener spoke about earlier, regarding evidence on achievement of that 20 per cent reduction. Investing £120 million in zero-emission buses, driving forward a decarbonised future for Scotland’s bus fleet, supporting Scottish supply chains and a new £180 million emerging energy technologies fund are all good goals—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

And there, on those good goals, you must conclude. Speeches should be four minutes.

Emma Harper

I apologise, Presiding Officer. That was not my understanding.

In conclusion, I welcome the Scottish Government’s—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

No, no, Ms Harper. “Conclude” means that—no wee extra bits.

I call Richard Leonard, to be followed by Clare Adamson, who will be the last speaker in the open debate.

16:51  

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

As the committee reports make clear, and as witness after witness has attested to this Parliament, the Scottish Government’s climate change plan lacks clarity, lacks transparency, lacks detail, lacks evidence and lacks a plan B.

In the cabinet secretary’s absence—I am sorry that she is not here and I wish her well—I will quote her. In her defence, she told the ECCLR Committee that the Scottish Government’s climate change plan is not intended to be “encyclopaedic”. People are not expecting a 32-volume encyclopaedia, but they are looking for a simple, honest and clear working plan that is credible, intelligible and persuasive.

In the absence of that, it is as if promises are made by the SNP Government to the people with the full and certain knowledge that they will not be kept. It is as if there is no intention that a law that enshrines targets, which was passed by this Parliament less than two years ago, will ever be implemented, let alone enforced, while the SNP is in office. It is as if these most serious questions of the future of work, the survival of the planet, and international and intergenerational equity—these questions of life and death itself—can be set aside.

In its inquiry, the ECCLR Committee heard of a significant implementation gap, and nowhere is that gap greater that in the Government’s lamentable record on jobs. It is no use the First Minister announcing on 1 September a

“national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs”

if, on 3 December, the jobs and communities around the BiFab yards are abandoned. That was the latest chapter in a decade of failure that the Scottish Trades Union Congress has rightly characterised as

“broken promises and offshored jobs”.

Last year, as Scottish Labour leader, I commissioned a report on green jobs. It showed how we could recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild businesses by investing in green transport, renewable energy and energy efficiency, social and affordable housing, a Scottish conservation corps, a national care service, recycling and waste management, and an active industrial and manufacturing strategy.

All the evidence that is before us today, though, is that the current Government relies too much on market mechanisms and technical fixes and far too little on the role of the active state, which is precisely what we need as we recover from Covid.

We need a vision of a different kind of society and a different kind of economy, and for me that means a fundamental change in the relations of power: the decentralisation of industry; the localisation of economics; the promotion of self-management and self-sufficiency, and of co-operation; the humanisation of work; land reform; the creation of an active non-bureaucratic state; and popular democratic planning, involving businesses, workers and their trade unions, with full employment at its heart. I tell members that those changes are not only visionary; they are urgent. They are not only radical; they are realistic. Most important of all, they are not only necessary; they are possible.

16:55  

Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

I, too, congratulate those who have made their final speeches in the chamber today, which have been very moving indeed. I send my best wishes to the cabinet secretary, who I had hoped would be taking part today.

I have been a bit reflective, which is maybe partly to do with the wonderful speeches that we have heard from people who are leaving. As we near the end of the parliamentary session and pay tribute to those who are retiring or leaving to do other things, I have been thinking about climate change and our knowledge of it.

Climate variation has been known about since the 1700s. By the 1950s and 60s, we were aware that the behaviour of humans, fossil fuels and aerosols were playing a part in that. In the 1990s, when aerosol pollution had decreased, carbon dioxide levels were showing that, through the greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases were making global warming a real threat to the global future.

Gillian Martin mentioned David Attenborough and his extensive career and activism. He has informed us all of the impending global crisis over many decades.

As we moved from the 1990s into the new century, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was a seminal moment.

More recently, Greta Thunberg has captured the imagination of and fostered activism in our young people, who get it and do not accept it, and whose behaviour change gives an opportunity to change all our behaviour.

I thank Willie Coffey, Gillian Martin, Edward Mountain and—I am missing someone—James Dornan for their representations of their committees’ work in the area. The committees have been very diligent in their reports and in their hard work.

We are all reminded that Scotland has the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world. We have the net zero emissions target for 2045 and the interim target of a 75 per cent reduction by 2030, which was brought forward by Claudia Beamish, whom I have to commend for her dedication to the environment throughout her parliamentary career in this session. The legislation is world leading, bold, ambitious and groundbreaking.

The committees’ hard work has strengthened the climate change plan, which will see the legislation implemented. The legislation was recognised by the United Nations climate action summit in New York in 2019, when the executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said:

“Congratulations, Scotland, for demonstrating bold leadership on #ClimateAction ... This is an inspiring example of the level of ambition we need globally to achieve the #ParisAgreement.”

We look forward to welcoming COP26 to our country later this year.

I absolutely believe that the climate change legislation and plan are probably the most important achievements of this session of the Parliament. They could not have been achieved without the leadership and work of Roseanna Cunningham. We will look back on this moment as one when Scotland took the lead, and we will continue to take the lead in this area.

I commend all our young people for their activism, for not letting this go and for reminding us, each and every day, how important this is for our future and the future of everyone across the world.

16:59  

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

It is great for me to speak in today’s debate as the new environment, climate change and land reform spokesperson for Scottish Labour. I thank my colleague Claudia Beamish for her excellent contribution to the debate and for her work in the run-up to COP26.

This has been an excellent debate. The four committees have made important recommendations, and there have been some excellent and passionate speeches. I hope that the Scottish Government will listen to the debate. We need to meet our climate change targets; it is not enough just to have good targets. The criticism from the committees is powerful. There is cross-party support across the Parliament for more radical action to tackle our climate emergency, and members have made an incredibly powerful case for wide-ranging and cross-cutting measures.

The Local Government and Communities Committee concluded that decarbonising our existing housing stock is a key challenge in the update and has to link into tackling fuel poverty. The draft heat in buildings strategy is an important step, but there are different challenges across Scotland. For example, Councillor Heddle from Orkney Islands Council argued that there has not been support for heat pumps to date, which is a practical solution for rural communities that needs to be supported; whereas, in urban areas and cities, councils will need support to meet the challenge of heat networks because of the complexity and the risk taking that will be required.

In Edinburgh, for example, we are now seeing the second phase of our Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative, which is a community-led co-op that uses our schools to create electricity and generate resources, which are reinvested locally. However, it took the best part of a decade for the co-op to be established, and we do not have that time now, so we need community projects across the country to be supported with knowledge from our councils. If we are phasing out gas boilers in new homes in three years, the work needs to start now. We need more support to incentivise existing home owners, especially those in tenements, as Liam McArthur said.

Councils are critical in protecting us from impacts of climate change that are already happening, such as flooding, and in relation to the need for new green infrastructure to support adaptation measures. At our committee, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and witnesses from individual councils were clear that they need to be properly resourced and empowered to meet their climate change ambitions, with investment beyond national programmes. They worry that current levels of funding are not sufficient to meet the challenges and targets that are set out in the plan update. In his introductory comments, the minister mentioned pots of money, but long-term revenue and capital funding will enable councils to plan ahead. We need a holistic approach across the country, so we need to change our thinking on how funding is delivered.

In our committee evidence session, the Royal Town Planning Institute made the point that we need to put planning centre stage in reducing emissions and giving people attractive low-carbon connections between our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our shops. One of the lessons of the pandemic is that there is an appetite for safer walking and cycling across age groups. If we are to deliver the aspirations of 20-minute neighbourhoods, which everybody loves, we will need joined-up planning, investment in new active travel networks, much more affordable and accessible bus and rail services, and investment in low-carbon vehicles. That point was made effectively by Emma Harper and Edward Mountain earlier in the debate.

The call for detail and action is echoed across the reports. Although the update is only an update—it is not meant to be a full plan—the Scottish Government needs to listen and turn the targets into clear action plans. Scottish Labour has been clear in calling for bolder and clearer action from the Scottish Government to tackle the climate emergency. That action needs to be tied into the nature emergency, too. We need to think about how we rebuild our economy after Covid-19 and about the opportunities to join up different policy initiatives, so that we tackle the inequalities that the pandemic has exposed in our society.

Claudia Beamish was right to highlight the skills that are needed to give us an effective green recovery, so we should ensure that we do not miss out support for those who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment over the next few months as a result of the current crisis.

Procurement will be critical. In Scotland, we spend £11 billion of public money on procurement every year. That money needs to be leveraged to ensure that we purchase climate-friendly goods and that, when there is no Scottish supplier, we help existing companies to diversify or create new supply chains. That work needs to link into the real living wage and to recognise trade unions. We need to reduce our carbon footprint right across the procurement sector.

As Richard Leonard said, we also need private sector companies to source low-carbon materials and prioritise manufacturing in Scotland.

There has been a huge missed opportunity in renewables across the country, but renewables will repower during the next few years. New constructions need to involve turbines and heat pumps that are built in Scotland. That is not only to help in our recovery from Covid, but to help us transition to a low-carbon economy. That means a just transition and—as Richard Leonard said—trade unions need to be involved in that transition and in tackling inequalities.

As Claudia Beamish—as well as almost everybody else—noted, we are in the run up to COP26, at which our climate targets will be broadcast as being world leading. They are world leading, but we have to showcase the steps that we are taking to implement them, because the progress that we have made thus far is not fast enough.

It is a shame that Roseanna Cunningham is not able to join us today, but I am sure that she will read the Official Report. I hope that when she leaves as minister, she leaves in her outbox the recommendations that the four committees have made, and that she in turn makes them to the next Parliament. We need to act on them urgently if we are going to tackle the climate emergency.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you. I call Maurice Golden to close for the Conservatives. You have six minutes, Mr Golden.

17:06  

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

I always keep to time, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Well, you have said it now. We will keep an eye on the clock.

Maurice Golden

We will wait and see. I will use some of my time to pay tribute to Angus MacDonald. We set up the Nordic countries cross-party group together and I enjoyed working with him. I wish him well as he heads off into his Hebridean sunset.

Stewart Stevenson gave a typically entertaining and enlightening speech—his 852nd speech, if I heard correctly. He has attended 110 virtual committee meetings. I do not know how many I have been to, but I know that Stewart would keep things on track.

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I worked my notice period at Zero Waste Scotland almost five years ago, so it seems strange to keep referring to it.

I also wish the cabinet secretary well in her retirement. I am sorry that she cannot be here today. We might not always agree—she refers to me as a waste geek—but I can honestly say that I have looked forward to our debates and questions. I wish her all the best.

Jamie Halcro Johnston outlined the challenges that are faced in rural areas because of a lack of infrastructure—from rail to mains gas to electric vehicle charging points.

Liam McArthur highlighted the need to improve the energy efficiency of homes in both rural and urban areas.

My colleague Liz Smith hinted that I would have something to say about the circular economy; she knows me well. In fact, I have spent the past five years in the Parliament making the case for the circular economy, and for good reason. It is the mechanism by which we make climate gains permanent, the economy more sustainable and the lives of our citizens fairer.

Amid the misery of the pandemic, it at least gives us an opportunity to build back better. The committee report contains a number of important recommendations on that front, such as bringing forward the next iteration of Scotland’s economic strategy and prioritising a review of the circular economic strategy with a view to embedding it in the economic strategy. On that ground, there are also recommendations to expand the Zero Waste Scotland circular economy investment fund and invest in skills and training. Those are both practical measures that I welcome to spur on a green recovery and help reach net zero.

Both goals would be helped by a circular economy bill to set out the framework for transition to a low-carbon economy. That is a view that the committee shares. I hope that we see that bill early during the next parliamentary term.

Much of that work could be set in motion in time for the UK Government bringing COP26 to Scotland, as many speakers have mentioned. That would show assembled world leaders that Scotland can do more than just set targets. Although I have always welcomed the SNP showing ambition to tackle climate change, the fact remains that it often fails to deliver, such as in the case of its failed 2021 landfill ban. The SNP is burning waste as a stopgap measure until the ban hopefully materialises in 2025. The committee warns about the possibility of a reliance on incineration becoming embedded post 2025. That concern is well founded, given that the SNP is increasing incineration capacity by 400 per cent, turning Scotland into the ashtray of Europe.

I am delighted at the Labour U-turn on energy from waste, announced today, and the fact that Labour is adopting the Scottish Conservative’s position of a moratorium that we announced in 2016-17. Only the Greens and the Scottish Conservatives voted for my amendment earlier in the parliamentary session, so I am delighted by that Labour U-turn.

Moreover, the landfill ban is not the only target to be missed. Targets for emissions, renewable heat and recycling are all either set to be missed or set to fail. Of those, recycling is particularly bad. Not only is the current recycling rate of 44.9 per cent far short of the 70 per cent target set for 2025, but the rate is going backwards. Scotland now recycles less than it did in 2016.

Making matters worse, the SNP is now shipping 3 tonnes of waste a minute out of Scotland. It is clear that there should be increased action further up the waste hierarchy with better support for re-use and repair. I agree with the committee that more details are needed on that and on enhanced producer responsibility, all of which was outlined in my 2017 climate change paper. The committee outlined the lack of detail that permeates the climate change plan, warning that

“concerns have been raised over the credibility and achievability of the”

updated plan.

It will be the task of the next Parliament to start and sustain a green recovery, taking steps such as better use of public procurement, establishing a centre for circular economy excellence, launching renewable energy bonds and building an electric arc furnace and a new plastic recycling plant to create green jobs, retain waste-stream resources and build supply chain resilience. I hope that the next Parliament will treat the report’s recommendations with the urgency that they deserve and start building the circular economy that Scotland needs.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Well done! You made it within the time. I knew you would.

17:12  

Ben Macpherson

I thank colleagues for an important and interesting debate and for the opportunity to outline the steps? that the Scottish Government is? taking to meet our emissions reduction targets and to respond to some of the points that were raised. I welcome Sarah Boyack to her position and commend Claudia Beamish’s speech, in which she made some important points. Mark Ruskell also raised important points—I will come to some of them shortly—as did Liam McArthur.

I pay particular tribute to Angus MacDonald on the occasion of his last speech and to Stewart Stevenson, who was a mentor to me and many of the new intake in 2016. We are incredibly grateful for that and he has our admiration for everything that he has achieved, particularly the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which is behind much of the progress that we have made up to this point.

The path ahead may present many uncertainties—the pandemic, technological advances, the limits of devolution and the need to ensure a just transition—but our destination is clear. That has come through today. We have a bright future before us, in a society and economy that prioritises the environment and the wellbeing of its people. That is the vision.

We will reduce our emissions?in a way that is fair and just to all,? involving? people and communities so? that ?everyone can benefit from the widespread and positive changes that lie ahead. By 2032, through the actions outlined ?in the climate change plan update, we will? witness? a? profound ?transformation of our energy system, with 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand met by renewable sources,? ?the creation of secure and well paid-jobs and the export of surplus renewable electricity.

Furthermore,?Scotland will benefit from the development of new and pioneering infrastructure used for? carbon ?capture and storage, hydrogen and green hydrogen production, which Mark Ruskell rightly highlighted, and tidal and wave energy development and production in due course.

Mark Ruskell

Will the minister give way?

Ben Macpherson

Those technologies will help to ensure that we have a managed transition for Scotland’s industrial sector.

One of the important points that Mark Ruskell raised—he might have wanted to come in on it there—was about our learning-by-doing approach, which will be most important with negative emissions technologies. We are confident that it will be technologically possible to deliver large-scale installations by 2030. As Chris Stark, from our statutory adviser the Climate Change Committee noted, we know that the technologies will work; the question is how they will work in reality in Scotland.

Mark Ruskell

What happens if negative emissions technologies do not work?

Ben Macpherson

I was just coming on to that. Arguments have been made about a plan B. It has been suggested, including by Richard Leonard, that we should have a plan B, but our process, designed by the Parliament, ensures regular monitoring and reporting and means that should the need arise for a plan B, one will be produced at the appropriate time. However, we should not plan for technological failure now; we should pursue technological achievement.

The transformation will not be limited to our energy system. In the coming decades, there will be a step change in the way that we travel. Our landmark investment in public transport and active travel will support more sustainable transport choices. The £1.6 billion of investment in heat in buildings will make homes better insulated, including tenement housing—I note the points that have been raised on that. The investment will also remove fuel poverty, increase energy efficiency and improve the housing stock in our urban and rural environments.

One of the key recommendations of our stakeholders has, understandably, been to prioritise nature-based solutions. We have heeded that call, with boosted investments in forestry of £150 million over five years and a further £250 million in peatland restoration. By 2032, 21 per cent of our land will be covered by forest and more than 250,000 hectares of peatland will have been restored.

The agriculture sector, which many members have referred to, will support those and other changes in land use through further integration of woodlands and peatland on farms, while continuing with the important role of food production. Farmers and crofters will adopt low-emission technologies and practices, supported with the skills and tools that they need to produce more sustainably.

By the end of the period that is covered by the plan update, we will be well on the way towards a full circular economy that is designed to reduce waste and to reuse and repair materials. We are embedding circular economy principles into the green recovery and prioritising areas where there are the biggest opportunities, such as construction, agriculture and food and drink. Reduction targets are giving clear signals of intent to businesses, public bodies and individuals.

Maurice Golden

The minister mentions the circular economy. Can he give his view on the use of bio-stabilisation as a treatment technique prior to landfill, as opposed to energy from waste?

Ben Macpherson

I do not have appropriate time capacity to come back on that point to Mr Golden now, but I give him an undertaking to write to him in due course.

As has been clear today—[Interruption.] I am afraid that I do not have time to take an intervention.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The minister is coming into his last minute.

Ben Macpherson

As was said throughout the various evidence sessions, a truly cross-Government, co-ordinated approach will be vital if we are to achieve the shared vision. The plan update goes further than any of its predecessors has done in acknowledging, including through our climate skills action plan, which is published alongside the climate plan, that climate action must be embedded in our work across Government. Looking ahead, we will continue to build on that whole-Government approach and ensure that tackling climate change continues to be a core priority for the entirety of the Scottish Government.

The climate change plan update is truly world leading, in the targets that it contains and the actions that it commits to. We are confident that it provides a credible route map towards emission reduction targets and gives clear signals of intent to business, public bodies and individuals. The plan update demonstrates the pioneering approach to climate change for which Scotland is renowned, and its application is timely as we look to COP26.

In my opening speech, I outlined plans to finalise the climate change plan update. The global climate emergency requires immediate action and we want to turn our focus to implementation. I outlined additional plans to take into account the further recommendations that we have recently received and opportunities to build on our current policies in due course.

I thank members for the debate, and I look forward to our continuing to work together.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call the deputy convener, Finlay Carson, to close for the ECCLR Committee.

17:19  

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

As deputy convener of the ECCLR Committee, I welcome the opportunity to close the debate on the committee’s recent report on the updated climate change plan. I thank the associated committees for their work and those committees’ conveners for their contributions to the debate. I echo the comments of other members about the huge amount of work that has been carried out by the committee clerks, SPICe and stakeholders.

Given that this will be the last committee debate for some of us, I recognise the constructive and mostly consensual outcomes that have been delivered by the ECCLR Committee over the past five years, not only in relation to climate change but across its portfolio. I wish retiring members well, and I must mention that I particularly enjoyed the drams and banter with Angus MacDonald at the end of the day on our field trips.

I pass on my good wishes for a speedy recovery to our ever-present—until now—cabinet secretary, Roseanna Cunningham. As others have done, I recognise her considerable contribution to addressing the climate emergency. We should perhaps add a middle name to make her Roseanna “Peat” Cunningham, in honour of her commendable success in persuading the finance secretary to invest record levels of funding in peatland restoration. I sincerely wish her well in her retirement.

The report is of importance not only to our committee but across the majority of cabinet secretary and committee remits. We need to move forward with clear and decisive actions, which need to be set out in the final plan—a plan that every sector, community and individual can trust to deliver the outcomes that we so desperately need if we are to reverse the threat that climate change brings to our very existence. It needs to be a climate change plan like no other. In the words of Jim Skea, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

“The message is that, frankly, the scale of the changes that would be needed in the emissions pathways has no precedent in human history. There is no precedent for the rate of emissions reductions and the changes in social and technical systems that would be required”.—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 23 October 2018; c 6.]

That message is stark but, in response, the Parliament put in place a legislative framework with hugely ambitious targets, which can deliver significant emissions pathway changes. We need to act now and go further and faster. Indeed, the Scottish Government plans to finalise the update before the recess. While swift action to finalise the updated plan is welcome, the committee seeks assurance that its recommendations will be taken into account in the final updated plan.

Liz Smith mentioned that Chris Stark of the CCC described some of the Scottish Government’s ambitions as being

“on the fringes of credibility”.—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 2 February 2021; c 43.]

I agree that much of the evidence that the committee took suggested that that might well be the case. The Scottish Government is not wrong in having highly ambitious targets, but it needs to address many of the concerns that we have heard about regarding their delivery.

The minister touched on some of the issues set out in our report. One topic of importance was the negative emissions policies. I ask the minister whether the estimates of the negative emissions efforts are there simply to balance the books in the light of other policies not reaching the targets. We do not know that, and we need further information on how the figures on negative emissions policies have been arrived at.

Concerns were raised about the need for clarity regarding the modelling and baseline information that underpins how emission envelopes have been determined, and we still question whether the TIMES model is fit for purpose. We need to know how policies and proposals deliver the envelopes that are presented for each sector, as well as the rationale for agriculture and industry being protected from the attribution of additional abatement. That would allow Parliament to scrutinise progress and ensure that all sectors are well positioned for net zero opportunities in the future and are not disadvantaged.

The topic of land use appeared regularly throughout our evidence sessions. The basis of our recommendation 56 is that we must appreciate that land is a finite resource. The final CCP must take an integrated approach to agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry, recognising the role of farmers and other land managers in delivering emissions reductions in both emissions envelopes.

To achieve that, we must have an accelerated roll-out of regional land use partnerships, including the available tools and resources—which include knowledge transfer, as John Scott said—ensuring that agriculture can continue to play its role in leading the way towards low-carbon land management while, at the same time, benefiting from the innovation and cost savings that it will inevitably bring.

There are considerable opportunities for nature-based solutions such as woodland creation, peatland restoration and the management of invasive non-native species to form part of a green recovery package.

As the report says:

“The Committee recommends the Scottish Government’s economic recovery plans explicitly include support for nature-based solutions to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic”

and

“considers there is a significant opportunity in redesigning Pillar 1 agricultural payments to be consistent with the objectives of supporting a green, just and resilient recovery, and reward existing good practice.”

However, there was recognition that the Scottish Government must come forward with those plans far quicker than it has done up to now.

“The Committee supports the inclusion of natural assets and natural capital in the Scottish Government’s definition of infrastructure”

leading to

“a fundamental rethink of how decisions are made on capital allocation.”

We recommend that

“the Scottish Government fully incorporate natural capital and an understanding of natural assets into the ‘investment decision framework’ being developed in advance of 2025.”

There is much work to be done, but we should take comfort in the fact that there is cross-party determination to achieve the ambitious targets that the Parliament set. The legacy of the ECCLR Committee’s report will set out the hugely important role of the committee. The existing ECCLR Committee or a new, bespoke climate committee will take on the responsibility of addressing the climate change emergency in the next session of Parliament. It has a target of laying the draft fourth CCP in Parliament no later than the end of 2023, to ensure sufficient time for consultation with stakeholders and in Parliament on the draft plan, and it will take those views into account and finalise the plan by the end of 2024.

Our children and our children’s children are putting their trust in us to deliver—we cannot fail them.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That concludes the debate on the climate change plan.

Edward Mountain

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I wonder whether you could help me. How can I correct the Official Report? I mentioned that six people on the RECC Committee are standing down but failed to mention Mike Rumbles, which was an error on my behalf. I would like to get the record corrected.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

It is not a point of order, but your point has been made, and I am sure that Mr Rumbles will be eternally grateful.

We will now have a short pause before we move on to the next item of business.