Meeting date: Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Meeting of the Parliament 10 March 2020
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19 (Update), COP26, Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2020 [Draft], Business Motion, Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill: Stage 3, Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill, Auditor General for Scotland, Decision Time, Blind and Partially Sighted People (Access to Health Information)
- Time for Reflection
- Business Motion
- Topical Question Time
- Covid-19 (Update)
- Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2020 [Draft]
- Business Motion
- Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill: Stage 3
- Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill
- Auditor General for Scotland
- Decision Time
- Blind and Partially Sighted People (Access to Health Information)
The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham, on COP26—our contribution to global climate action. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.14:51
The 26th conference of the parties will be a critical moment in the global fight against climate change. Tackling the climate crisis and setting the world on course to net zero emissions within a generation will require a truly international response.
The United Kingdom Government’s themes for engaging at COP26 are adaptation and resilience, nature, energy transition, clean road transport and finance. Climate action is central to the work of the Scottish Government and is foregrounded in the aims of business, civil society, academia, industry, youth movements and many others. That inclusive approach is reflected in Scotland’s themes for COP26, which are a just transition and people.
In Scotland, we have already demonstrated that we are committed to delivering world-leading action to tackle the climate crisis. Our landmark Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 commits us to a target of 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, and net zero by 2045. Those targets are in line with the Paris agreement’s requirements for “nationally determined contributions” to reducing emissions by 2030 and beyond.
In building momentum towards COP26, our national endeavour to tackle climate change provides a platform for increased global action. Our budget sets out ambitious new measures to respond to the global climate emergency. It includes investment in low-carbon infrastructure of about £1.8 billion in 2020-21, which is an increase of more than £500 million on 2019-20. Equally welcome is the quarter of a billion pounds that has been committed to restoring peatlands over the next 10 years, which will truly be a game changer.
The year of coasts and waters is an appropriate theme as we journey towards COP26. Communities and businesses across Scotland will showcase our natural environment and wildlife—the elements that are most iconic but are also most vulnerable to climate change.
Last week, we introduced the Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill, which will help us to meet our climate change targets by regulating heat networks through increasing investor, supply chain and consumer awareness and acceptance. The Scottish Renewables conference in March and the All-Energy conference in May will showcase both Government and industry action to decarbonise the energy sector.
The updated climate change plan will be laid in Parliament by the end of April. That demonstrates the increased intensity and pace of activity that we will need to move us towards net zero. In the same month, we will also host an online international biodiversity workshop that will seek to amplify the voices of subnational governments and ensure that concrete action is taken on the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.
In May, the Under2 Coalition, of which Scotland is a proud member, will celebrate its fifth anniversary. We plan to work with the coalition during COP26 to showcase the action of subnational governments. We will, in recognition that the increased investment that is needed for the net zero transition is a key part of our action around COP26, seek to capitalise on the opportunities that that brings.
The Scottish national investment bank, with its primary mission of facilitating a just transition to net zero, is an example of innovative green finance. We are also identifying large-scale investment opportunities that are suitable for the global market, thereby helping private sector financing to become an integrated part of Scotland’s net zero transition. Last month the independent just transition commission published its interim report, which highlights the requirement to put equity at the heart of policy making. Throughout this year, we will continue to work with the commission to understand how the net zero transition can create jobs and prosperity, reduce pollution and waste, and improve people’s wellbeing.
In the summer, we will publish a heat-decarbonisation statement, which will set out the steps that are needed to reduce the emissions that are associated with heating our homes and buildings.
We plan to host an international land reform conference in September. Land use is a fundamental part of tackling the climate crisis, so we are working to ensure that everyone can benefit fairly from Scotland’s land.
Scotland’s annual climate week will take place from 14 to 20 September, and our climate citizens assembly will meet for the first time in the autumn. The assembly will be an important forum as we consider the far-reaching change that is needed across society. It is an example of how people can have their say on climate action.
COP26 can act as a catalyst to drive forward action by business, industry, local authorities, communities and many others. Our focus is on securing a legacy that puts decarbonisation at the forefront of people’s thinking. That has been central to our discussions with Glasgow City Council, and I have discussed directly with the council leader how we might ensure that non-governmental organisations, businesses and wider communities are able to get involved. We encourage all partners to seize the opportunity of COP26 to show the best of what Scotland has to offer.
Our COP26 platform must be inclusive and involve all sectors: it must be an event of which everyone can feel that they are part, and which provides opportunities for engagement for young people, communities and representatives from the global south.
Glasgow has an excellent reputation for hosting large-scale international events, and we are working closely with our delivery partners to ensure that Scotland delivers a world-class safe, secure and successful COP26. The First Minister and I have written to the new COP president offering our support. Although I have not yet met Alok Sharma, I hope to meet him when he visits Glasgow. To demonstrate our commitment to shared working, we have, following initial discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, welcomed the opportunity to deploy Scottish Government staff in the COP26 blue zone.
There has been significant media coverage of COP-related cost estimates. The estimates will be further refined once the UK Government provides additional information on planning assumptions. As a result of updated information, the Scottish Police Authority has already revised to £180 million its estimate of policing costs. That figure is subject to change to reflect evolving operational planning, and will also be subject to on-going review and scrutiny. Additional information has also reduced the cost estimates for the health, transport and justice systems by about £40 million. I hope that, as more detail becomes available from the UK, it will be possible to refine the costs further.
It is also important that I update Parliament on the partnership with the Glasgow Science Centre that I set out to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on 26 November 2019. That partnership is intended to provide a space where the public, business, universities and non-governmental organisations can engage with delegates on what is happening in Scotland, and learn more about climate action.
In recent weeks, we have become aware that the UK Government wishes to use the Glasgow Science Centre as the COP26 green zone. At the UK Government’s request, we have responded positively to proposals to share the science centre. However, I have learned that in a recent communication with Glasgow Science Centre, the UK Government indicated that the opportunity to share the space is no longer available to us, which placed the centre in a very difficult position and created significant uncertainty. We have no desire for that uncertainty to continue. Our position has always been that the climate emergency and COP26 should transcend politics.
As a consequence, and in the spirit of partnership, today I have written again to the COP26 president to offer to transfer control of the science centre during COP26 to the UK Government. I have made it clear that that offer is provisional on the Scottish Government being offered an appropriate alternative venue in Glasgow to allow us to showcase Scotland. I have urged the UK Government to conclude the matter without delay. We can then continue to collaborate with the UK Government, Glasgow City Council and our partners to showcase Scotland to the world at what will be a pivotal conference.
There have, of course, been questions in recent weeks about the impact of coronavirus on COP26. I assure members that we continue to plan for COP26 to take place. Although advice will evolve, we continue to plan on the basis that COP26 will take place in Scotland. We will, of course, inform Parliament should there be any substantial change in the assumptions.
We want to use the opportunity of COP26 as a catalyst to attract new investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth to Scotland. We will further harness the will and ambition of the Scottish Government and the Scottish people to position Scotland firmly as the world leader that it is in tackling climate change.
The cabinet secretary will now take questions on her statement.
I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement. I welcome the work that the Scottish Government is doing to tackle climate change. Scotland and the UK have some of the most ambitious targets in the world and I look forward to working with the cabinet secretary to make sure that those targets are met. In that light, I am glad that the cabinet secretary has offered the use of the Glasgow Science Centre to the UK Government, although I have a few questions about the on-going relationship between Scotland’s Governments.
Can the cabinet secretary confirm that the Glasgow Science Centre is the only building over which there is a dispute between the UK and Scottish Governments? Does the cabinet secretary expect to be offered “an appropriate alternative venue” by the UK Government? Does the cabinet secretary agree that such disputes between Scotland’s Governments will not help us to tackle climate change and that we need the UK and Scottish Governments to work together if COP26 is to be a success?
Of course working together is what will make COP26 a success, and that is what we are endeavouring to do. I did not use the word “dispute”; I would use the word “conversation”, and a conversation is taking place about the future use of the Glasgow Science Centre. I hope and expect that the Scottish Government will be able to secure an alternative venue from whatever source one becomes available.
I think that every member in the chamber will accept and agree that there needs to be a venue that the Scottish Government can use to host, and the use of which it can offer to others, in order to ensure that all aspects of the climate change challenge in the United Kingdom and globally are met. That is what this is all about.
I remind members that, if they want to ask a question, they need to press their request-to-speak button. I call Claudia Beamish, to be followed by Sandra White. You have pressed your button, Ms Beamish, so you should not take that personally. [Laughter.]
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s themes for COP26, which are a just transition and people. Those are fundamental considerations for Scotland and for places abroad in the shift to net zero and the global negotiations. Given the themes and the Scottish Labour amendment that is part of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, which requires ministers to
“support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects”,
I would welcome comment from the cabinet secretary on the following.
Will the cabinet secretary commit today to implementing the just transition commission’s interim recommendations in order to prevent any further delay? Will she consider the possibility of further funding for the climate justice fund in the light of the growing scale and depth of the climate impacts on the global south? The mechanisms for innovative green finance are vital both here and globally, as the cabinet secretary recognises. How is the Scottish Government working with the COP president to ensure equity of influence at COP26 so that marginalised voices have the same lobbying and access opportunities as wealthy industries?
I thank Claudia Beamish for her questions and for her enduring commitment to those issues, which means that I could have anticipated that she would—quite rightly—go into that area. We are looking at all the just transition commission’s interim recommendations and we will return to advise Parliament of our timetable for their implementation or otherwise.
The climate justice funding issue is very important, and we already provide funding for climate justice work. Our continued commitment to doing that exists despite the fact that there is not an easy fund from which to draw that money, but we find it and are increasing it. It is distributed primarily through the climate challenge programme Malawi and the climate justice innovation fund, which funds projects in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. We try to keep that very focused, and I hope that the member will accept that, given the relatively modest amount of money that we spend, that continued focus is probably the best way for us to achieve some results.
The issue of climate justice is incredibly important. At the 25th conference of the parties, in Madrid, I was approached by a number of people from what might roughly be termed “the global south” about their desire to become much more actively involved at all levels of the COP proceedings. I have undertaken to try to be at least an amplifier of that demand.
As the member will have heard in my statement, the new president has been in place for only a short number of weeks. I have not had the opportunity to speak directly to him, although, as I indicated, letters have been exchanged. Climate justice is one of the issues that I will want to continue to raise with the UK Government. It will be an important marker for COP26 that those voices are heard.
Eleven members have questions and we have 13 minutes left, so I give my usual mantra of short questions and answers. Sandra White will provide the first example, I hope.
COP26, which will take place in my Glasgow Kelvin constituency, will be one of the biggest events to be hosted in the UK, and many additional resources will be required to deliver a safe and secure event. Has the cabinet secretary had any indication whatsoever that the UK Government will provide Police Scotland with the additional resources that are required?
As the member will be aware, that does not lie entirely in my portfolio, but there have been serious discussions in respect of Police Scotland. As I understand it, some of the policing support will be brought in under existing agreements. Police from other parts of the UK will be brought in to reinforce and support what is happening. Our view has always been that the decision to hold the COP in Scotland was a UK decision so its core costs should be borne by the UK Government, and that must include funding for the police.
The most important thing for us to do is to deliver a safe, secure and successful event, and that extends to fire and ambulance services as well. I welcome the assurance that there is a process in place to scrutinise the financial costs, and I expect that to be on-going. It will evolve as we get closer to the COP and we understand more clearly what will be required.
Previous summits have been heavily sponsored by fossil fuel corporations while delegates from countries on the front line of the climate emergency, such as Malawi, have struggled to attend. Will the cabinet secretary commit to finding a way to directly support delegates from the global south to come to Glasgow, while also committing to not sharing platforms with corporations and lobbyists who want only to slow down action on climate change?
We will continue to talk to the UK Government about the necessity of providing assistance to ensure that people can come to COP26, if that is what is required. I will of course continue that conversation.
On oil and gas and other fossil fuel companies, we recognise that that sector has an important role to play in supporting the transition to a net zero emissions economy. It is important that we continue to ensure that those companies are part of the conversation and are not locked out of it. We need them to help to design the diverse energy system that we need for the future, which will include options such as hydrogen production and the development of floating wind and marine energy. It is important that we continue to engage with the sector and make sure that it is part of the transition that we require to make over the next 10 years, as well as until 2045.
I have to ask members to speed things up a bit.
Scotland has a strong and specialised third sector that works in climate change, climate resilience and international development. What strategies does the Scottish Government have in place to encourage the engagement of climate and international development NGOs in the creation of COP26 events?
As has been indicated, we recognise the important contribution of those NGOs in tackling the global climate emergency and meeting sustainable development goals. In recognition of that, we have been meeting our stakeholders and international NGOs regularly to co-ordinate activities for a successful and impactful COP26. We look forward to continuing to do that work until COP26 in November and for the legacy thereafter.
To follow on from Claudia Beamish’s question, when will the cabinet secretary be able to update members on the implementation of the recommendations from the just transition commission’s interim report? Will she ask her officials to engage directly with the Speaker of the National Assembly of Malawi, who last week indicated to me and Mark Ruskell her determination to see that Assembly fully engaged with COP26?
I whole-heartedly agree with the second part of that question. My answer to the first part is “soon”.
I am disappointed by the UK Government’s petulance over the use of the Glasgow Science Centre. Will the cabinet secretary look at the bigger picture and provide more information on how the Scottish Government intends to showcase Scotland’s work on climate change, whether at the Glasgow Science Centre or elsewhere?
Our intention is to host a programme of events for people and community groups around the summit to ensure that Scotland as a whole can show its support for climate action, and to showcase aspects of mitigation and adaptation that Scotland is very ambitious about. When we entered into our agreement, the Glasgow Science Centre had received no other requests for exclusive hire of the venue during COP26. The centre was therefore entirely and wholly available. Obviously, our recent understanding of the UK Government’s completely changed view has changed the conversation about that.
I reiterate that COP26 must transcend politics. I hope that the offer that we have made to the UK Government will conclude the matter without delay.
Agriculture has already shown its willingness to step up to the mark and do its bit. “Stability—The Platform for Change” suggests that an additional £100 million is required for transition. The Committee on Climate Change suggested that industrial clusters could be developed around sources of renewable energy, many of which are in rural areas. How does the cabinet secretary intend to rural proof policy to ensure that rural areas share the benefits and not just the burdens of climate change policy?
Has Finlay Carson met my colleague Fergus Ewing? He will absolutely be ensuring that the rural economy can benefit very much from the changes. I would not want to step into the agriculture conversation in case I inadvertently said something that my colleague was not happy with. I am sure that I would not do so, but I want to be on the careful side. However, I respectfully point out to Finlay Carson—he probably knows this is coming and is ahead of me—that the enormous, game-changing money commitment to peatland restoration will have a massive benefit for the rural economy as well as for emissions reductions and biodiversity.
What opportunities will there be at COP26 to showcase some of the inspiring best practice from our local councils and public sector organisations, such as our national health service, and our communities? What access will such groups have to the summit?
On the first question, we are having serious conversations about COP26 and what might and might not be appropriate to go on right across the board. I know that a number of local councils are very keen to showcase their work, as one would imagine the public sector more widely is. I recently met Orkney Islands Council to discuss that and the conversation is on-going.
On the second question, there is a conversation to be had with the UK Government about the extent to which it will allow the doors to be open to other actors and ensure that they are also able to showcase what they want to showcase.
How will the Scottish Government ensure that the holding of COP26 maximises sustainable economic opportunities for Glasgow and for Scotland, while minimising disruption to the working life of the city and its residents?
As the member will expect me to say, a considerable amount of work is being done on the logistics that will require to be put in place to manage COP26 in the centre of a very busy city in Scotland in November. There is no doubt that there are challenges, but a lot of work is going into ensuring that that happens.
With respect to COP26 being used to attract sustainable economic opportunities to Scotland, it will be the largest event of its nature ever to be held in the UK. We welcome the opportunity to showcase the exceptional landscape, venues, hospitality and culture of Scotland, and to ensure that visitors experience the very best of Scottish welcomes. As I indicated in my statement, we will use it as a catalyst to attract new investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth for Scotland. I hope that that is the message that will go out globally from Scotland as a result of COP26.
We all want Scotland to be a world leader in tackling climate change and meeting our targets. Will the Scottish National Party meet its target of recycling 60 per cent of household waste by the time that COP26 comes around?
I will get back to Maurice Golden on that, but—gently and with the best possible intention—I suggest that he might want to think a little more strategically about COP26 and find a way to rise above an attempt to simply make petty party-political points.
Will the cabinet secretary outline how young people will be encouraged to be involved in COP26?
We are speaking to a wide range of people, including young people. We want COP26 to be an inclusive event, in which all voices can be heard. Obviously, young people have been instrumental in bringing the issue to public consciousness in the past few years.
We are working with partners to develop a programme of activities and events for community and civic engagement for before, during and after COP26. I also remind people that a parallel youth COP will be run in Italy, although I am not 100 per cent certain how that will be managed. There is an active youth COP strand to the work that is being done.
I hope that what we do will deliver a legacy of climate change awareness in Scotland. Very detailed, serious and consistent conversations about activity related to COP26 are taking place regularly, within the Scottish Government and with our stakeholders.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that COP26 needs to involve all of Scotland? Will she therefore ensure that proposals to host delegate visits or affiliate events from communities outwith the central belt, such as Dumfries and Galloway—a region that is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2025—are backed, so that we can showcase the carbon reduction assets of that region, while making sure that people from across Scotland are involved in the conference, even if they do not travel to Glasgow?
That is an important question. We have been asking about doing that, particularly in areas such as Orkney and Dumfries and Galloway. There are two sides to the question: the ability of those areas to present to COP26 the good news of what they do, and the possibility—which we are trying to explore—of encouraging some of the visitors to COP26 to go to some of those areas and see for themselves the good work that is being done.
I know that Orkney Islands Council is keen on the idea. I would be very happy to speak to any local authority that has particular ideas on how doing that might be managed. It is not necessarily in our gift to do so, but it is an idea that needs to be explored as we move towards November. I initially raised it as a possibility in order to put a more Scottish stamp on COP26 that would encourage people to think about what was available for them to see when they came to Glasgow and not always to stay just in Glasgow.
That concludes questions on COP26. I thank members and the cabinet secretary for asking and answering all the questions. There will be a short pause before we move on to the next item of business.