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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 13 June 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Oath, Topical Question Time, Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2015, Human Trafficking and Exploitation, Decision Time, Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002


Contents


Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2015

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on the greenhouse gas inventory 2015. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

15:01  

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham)

I am pleased to inform Parliament of the sustained progress that the Scottish Government is making in tackling climate change. I will outline progress made against statutory emissions reduction targets, based on the latest greenhouse gas emissions statistics, which were published this morning. I will also provide an update on the climate change plan and set out the Government’s proposals for a new climate change bill.

First, I make clear the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to this global challenge. The news of the US withdrawal from the international Paris agreement is clearly regrettable, but it reinforces the need for more international co-operation on climate issues, not less. We continue to build our networks and co-operation globally. That includes our pledge to work with the state of California as part of the under2 coalition, which covers more than 1 billion people and a third of the global economy. That work will continue. It is also important to remember the role that is played by the European Union in global climate negotiations. As previously stated, we will work to ensure that Scotland continues to benefit from the EU’s powerful voice. The Scottish Government remains focused on being a world leader on climate change, strongly supports the Paris agreement and will continue to collaborate with international partners.

Twelve months ago, I informed Parliament that Scotland had met its statutory 2014 emissions reduction target. I am delighted to report that statistics that were published today show that Scotland has met its statutory emissions reduction target for the second successive year. The level of the statutory net Scottish emissions account shows that emissions in 2015 were 45.504 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which exceeds the target level set in legislation. That is a significant achievement, particularly as it was realised against a background of on-going improvements to the underlying data.

The data revisions are outside our control and reflect changes in the way that emissions are measured rather than changes in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They are necessary as they represent improved understanding of the challenge faced and ensure consistency with international reporting under the United Nations framework convention on climate change. The cumulative effect of the revisions over the years means that the baseline is now around 10 per cent higher than when the targets were set. The level of effort required to meet the fixed annual targets is, therefore, far greater than was envisaged when Parliament agreed the targets. The fact that today’s statistics show a 41 per cent reduction since 1990—well in excess of the 35 per cent reduction that was envisaged when the targets were set—is a remarkable achievement in that context.

Largely as a consequence of technical revisions to the data, progress towards the 2020 target is not as advanced as reported in the 2014 release. However, what is important is that Scotland remains well on track to achieving its interim 2020 target.

As a result of the most recent technical revisions, the forestry sink has reduced, but the sector continues to absorb significant amounts of carbon. We are committed to reversing the historical decline in woodland creation rates and protecting that important carbon sink, which has an important role in delivering our climate change commitments. Scotland was responsible for 83 per cent of all the woodland that was created in the United Kingdom in 2015-16, and the draft climate change plan sets out our ambition to increase woodland further.

Peatland, which is another natural carbon sink, is also vital. We have set out a step change in our ambition for peatland restoration through the peatland action project.

I return to the statistics. I am pleased to report that, despite the revisions to the data, actual Scottish emissions in 2015 were down by 38 per cent since 1990 and by 3 per cent since 2014. That is a clear downward trajectory that shows that emissions reduction efforts are paying off. The new figures also show that Scotland has yet again outperformed every other part of the UK over the period since 1990, which is the standard baseline year. Scotland is among the top performers in the EU 15 countries—it is behind only Sweden and Finland.

As I indicated and previously committed to do, I wish to update Parliament on the progress of the draft climate change plan. The period for parliamentary consideration of the draft plan has ended. I thank everyone who contributed to the process, including the four committees that undertook detailed and constructive scrutiny. We have listened to industry experts, the public sector and the private sector, parliamentary colleagues and the general public. That feedback, alongside the updated statistics that were released today, will help in finalising the plan.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recommended that we engage further with stakeholders in finalising the plan. We are taking forward that recommendation by establishing an advisory group that will contribute to the consideration of cross-cutting issues across the plan and advise on external engagement and communications. A number of key stakeholders have been invited to work with us on that group. We want to take time to work with our stakeholders to ensure that the final plan maintains ambition in meeting challenging goals, sets us apart as an innovator and global leader on climate issues, and is supported and owned by the people of Scotland. For those reasons, we expect to publish the final plan in early 2018.

In the meantime, we will continue to strengthen the package of measures to address emissions. Today, the Minister for Transport and the Islands launched “Switched on Scotland Phase Two: An Action Plan for Growth”, which sets out the next steps in delivering the Scottish Government’s vision to free Scotland’s towns, cities and communities from the damaging emissions of fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2050. The minister also announced a further £8.2 million to support the low-carbon transport loan fund. Those loans are interest free and they will, for the first time, be available for electric motorbikes and scooters and plug-in heavy goods vehicles.

We are strengthening our support to communities to run locally led projects that reduce carbon emissions. I am pleased to announce that the climate challenge fund, which offers multiyear funding to empower communities to tackle climate change, is now open for applications. Communities will be able to apply for either one-year or two-year funding. We make that announcement ahead of the forthcoming budget to give communities as much time as possible to develop applications.

In February 2017, Scottish Natural Heritage published a report on blue carbon, which estimated that the amount of carbon that is stored within Scotland’s inshore marine protected area network is equivalent to four years of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions. We will support Marine Scotland to consider further opportunities to expand that valuable and remarkable research to better understand the role and significance of blue carbon.

We are working towards a more targeted approach in ensuring that the transition to low-carbon employment is supported by our transition training fund. That will ensure that more oil and gas workers can be supported to move into low-carbon sectors such as the renewables and energy efficiency sectors.

In addition to all that and in line with our programme for government commitments, the Scottish Government has been working with the Committee on Climate Change to bring forward proposals for a more ambitious climate change bill. I am pleased to announce that the Scottish Government proposes to increase Scotland’s 2050 emissions reduction target to at least a 90 per cent reduction from baseline levels. That proposal is the more ambitious of two options that have been set out by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises that a 90 per cent emissions reduction target is a stretching contribution to the aims of the Paris agreement. The proposals will strengthen Scotland’s position at the very forefront of global climate ambition and, in so doing, play a key role in supporting Scotland’s sustainable economic growth.

We propose to include provisions to allow a net zero emissions target to be set as soon as the evidence becomes available; to reset the level of the interim 2020 target to at least a 56 per cent reduction from baseline levels; to set new interim targets for 2030 and 2040; and to set all targets on the basis of actual Scottish emissions.

In response to requests, we propose to increase the scrutiny period for future draft climate change plans. On the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, we have consulted key stakeholders and will launch a public consultation on our proposals in the coming weeks.

The statistics that were published today show that Scotland is making strong progress against ambitious statutory targets. That will be bolstered by the plans that I have set out for finalising the climate change plan to deliver a clear road map for meeting the targets, and the new legislation.

There is a huge opportunity to reap economic benefits from being at the forefront of a more resource-efficient and sustainable global economy. We are starting to see that in action, and the Scottish Government is determined that Scotland should seize the opportunity fully, as well as fulfilling our moral obligations to future generations. Our actions provide the momentum and motivation to do exactly that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues raised in her statement. I will allow around 20 minutes for that.

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of the statement. I am pleased that the Scottish Government has met its climate change target for 2015. Although the overall progress is encouraging, it would be incorrect to paint a picture of improvement across the board. Since 2014, emissions from transport and residential sources have increased, and transport is now the single biggest source of carbon emissions in Scotland. There has been no improvement in the sector since 1990, and transport emissions have increased by 0.4 per cent since 2014.

The Scottish Conservatives propose a wide range of measures that will lead to a substantial reduction in transport and household emissions, from increased and incentivised electric vehicle ownership to improvements in the energy efficiency of the current housing stock so that it reaches energy performance certificate rating C by 2030.

When there have been milder winters, that has helped us to meet our targets. Will the cabinet secretary continue to accept responsibility for the targets even when there are harsher winters?

Roseanna Cunningham

We had a slightly harsher winter between 2014 and 2015, and we think that that is why the residential emissions went up over that period. We live in the real world and, if winters are good, people will not use as much energy, whereas, if winters are bad, they will use more. We have to accept the reality of that.

The draft climate change plan sets out our intention to reduce transport emissions by a third compared to 2014 by 2030. It is long-term project that is underpinned by technological innovation and our behaviour change approaches. I referred to today’s announcement by the Minister for Transport and Islands. We invest more than £1 billion a year in public and sustainable transport in order to encourage people to use public transport and active travel modes.

I appreciate that transport emissions are now higher than energy emissions were before. In a sense, though, that reflects the improvements in energy emissions. Nevertheless, we will have to look carefully at transport emissions.

Good progress has been made on domestic and residential emissions. The share of the most energy-efficient dwellings—those in EPC band C that Maurice Golden referred to—has increased by 74 per cent since 2010, so we are doing quite well there. I appreciate that there is a desire to move to an EPC band C target. We sought views on target setting in the consultation on Scotland’s energy efficiency programme, which closed on Tuesday 30 May. We will fully analyse and consider the responses before publishing the SEEP route map in 2018, but I expect that the issue of targeting band C properties may arise in that context.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of her statement.

It is to be welcomed that the Scottish Government has met its targets for the second successive year, and I welcome the progress on blue carbon. However, it is very concerning that transport is now the heaviest emitter, with growing emissions.

Every year, the Scottish Government reports the emissions inventory. We have seen transport emissions barely change, and agriculture emissions have done likewise. We have called for more action through the climate change plan, but it does not appear that there are new actions despite phase 2 of “Switched on Scotland”. How is the Scottish Government addressing modal shift?

How can the cabinet secretary justify air departure tax in terms of climate justice, and why is the Scottish Government restricting people’s eligibility for bus passes?

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, if a transition training fund is to be effective, significantly more funding is required?

Roseanna Cunningham

There was slight consternation when the member referred to our restriction of bus passes—I am told that we are actually extending eligibility for them. Perhaps a bit of a misunderstanding has developed.

On modal shift, the draft plan includes a number of measures to influence the decisions of people and businesses, such as low-emission zones, workplace parking levies, active travel funding and consolidation centres. They build on current measures to reduce demand and encourage modal shift to active travel and public transport—in freight, from road to rail. There will probably be a fairly vigorous discussion on the Scottish Government’s commitment to have low-emission zones in place by 2018, and several local authorities have flagged up their desire to be involved in that initiative. Bringing forward low-emission zones will begin to focus minds on the advantages of changing modes of travel.

As I said, we are investing more than £1 billion a year in public and sustainable transport and active travel modes, and we will continue to invest record levels in active travel throughout this parliamentary session.

On aviation, at the risk of repeating myself, I say that we got advice from the Committee on Climate Change. It advised that our intention to do what we are doing with air transport tax or duty—

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

It is air departure tax.

Roseanna Cunningham

I mean air departure tax. I am sorry—it has changed its name. I still think of it in its earlier incarnation.

The committee advised that what we intended to do was doable but that it would require extra effort. If members look inside the overall figures for transport, they will see that some transport contributions are down compared to others. It is not a straightforward across-the-board figure.

We are taking the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and we are putting in effort across the board. The overall target is the one that we work towards, and we have met it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We will have to be a bit sharper on the questions and answers if we are to get through everyone who has requested to speak.

Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP)

In welcoming the figures, Jim Densham of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said that they showed that real progress is being made towards securing a “clean energy revolution” and that to

“hit future climate change targets we now need to build on the early successes.”

However, we have learned, in the past few days, that plans for four wind farms in the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth are once again being threatened by RSPB Scotland. Will the cabinet secretary outline how important a part offshore wind is required to play in our achieving the future targets?

Roseanna Cunningham

I cannot comment on anything that involves continuing legal proceedings. More broadly, I can say that the draft energy strategy proposes a new 2030 all-energy renewables target, which will be an ambitious challenge to deliver the equivalent of half of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity needs from renewable sources.

Offshore wind is a large-scale technology that has the potential to play a pivotal role in our energy system over the coming decades. There is a lot of optimism about the further development of offshore wind in Scotland given that 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource can be found around our coastline.

Alexander Burnett (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)

Residential emissions increased by 3 per cent between 2014 and 2015. Will the cabinet secretary address that by committing to improve energy efficiency so that, where practical, all Scottish homes have an EPC rating of band C or above by 2030?

Roseanna Cunningham

I would much rather be able to commit to sorting out Scotland’s winter climate to ensure that it was not quite so challenging for us.

I dealt with some of the EPC band issues in my responses to earlier questions. I am aware that some people desire to set a target for all homes to be rated EPC band C by a certain point. Work is continuing to develop our energy efficiency programme. I understand that £0.5 billion is available over the next four years and that, by the end of 2021, we will have allocated more than £1 billion since 2009 to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. We are making good progress in respect of energy-efficient dwellings, but members are correct to point out that we can do more.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Yesterday, the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee visited the hydrogen office project in Methil, Fife, which was really exciting. It looks as though Scotland really is at the cutting edge. Can the cabinet secretary say anything more about where Scotland stands in the international field in comparison with other countries?

Roseanna Cunningham

We punch above our weight in international efforts. As I indicated in my statement, among the western EU 15 countries, only Sweden and Finland have delivered greater reductions. The EU 15 country average is a 20 per cent emissions reduction in 2015 from the baseline, and Scotland, with a 37.6 per cent reduction, is well ahead of that.

David Stewart

I welcome the statement and acknowledge that Scotland has met its statutory emissions reduction target for the second successive year.

The cabinet secretary referred to the role that the EU plays in global climate negotiations. The EU emissions trading system is a crucial vehicle for achieving future emissions targets. Of course, there is no guarantee that the Brexit negotiations will achieve the UK’s continued membership of the EU ETS. Will the cabinet secretary agree today to run the TIMES model without the EU ETS to provide a realistic future scenario for a new climate change bill?

Roseanna Cunningham

That is an interesting question from David Stewart, and I will speak to officials with regard to whether what he suggests is a feasible option, as I do not know off the top of my head. He is absolutely right to highlight the importance of the EU ETS and the considerable degree of uncertainty that now arises because there is no indication of what our future involvement in that regard may be, or, if we are to be removed from the scheme, whether there will be some form of replacement. On the previous occasion that I raised the matter with UK ministers, it was clear that they had not really been giving it very much thought, which is a concern.

It is very important that we remember how big a part the EU actually plays in the global climate change debate and in global efforts. It is important that we ensure that, as far as possible, that is not disturbed by Brexit.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

Clearly it is imperative that all parties are on the same page when it comes to tackling climate change. Does the cabinet secretary share my view that the Tory party’s friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party are simply wrong when they describe the Paris agreement as a “delusion” and climate change itself as a hoax?

Roseanna Cunningham

I rather suspect that the members on the Conservative benches in this chamber privately share Angus MacDonald’s concerns about the DUP’s views on climate change; I do them the courtesy of assuming that their concerns will be as real as ours.

The overwhelming consensus of international climate change scientists is that climate change is happening and that it is exacerbated by human activity. In 2015, the Paris agreement was secured through long and difficult negotiations, following more than 20 years of international consensus building. The Scottish Government is committed to playing its part in that agreement and capitalising on the opportunities that it presents to strengthen our economy. It will be a great sorrow if climate change denial becomes embedded at the heart of Government at Westminster.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I, too, welcome the meeting of the annual targets for the second successive year, as well as the intention to set a net zero emissions target, which is significant. Given that transport has overtaken energy as the largest emitter, how can a zero emissions target be met, especially while there are plans to increase air travel, particularly through the planned expansion at Edinburgh airport? That expansion will be facilitated by cuts in air passenger duty, a project that has no environmental impact assessment associated with it and, so far, we have seen zero interest from the Scottish Government in holding that project to account in climate terms.

Roseanna Cunningham

I make it absolutely clear that we are committing to bringing in the net zero emissions target when the evidence is there for us to be able to do it. It will not be in the climate change bill to begin with.

I have dealt with some of the issues that Mark Ruskell raises on transport in general and aviation in particular. I simply return to the point that we operate on an evidence-based presumption. We do that with the Committee on Climate Change. If the Committee on Climate Change begins to look again at the issue, we will take that on board, but at the moment its advice on what we intend to do on aviation tax is that it is doable, as long as there is sufficient effort across the board. That effort is evidenced by our reaching the target for the second year in succession.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I join others in welcoming the achievement of the target for the second year in succession. I point the cabinet secretary to the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that 65 per cent of new car sales should be electric by 2030. The Scottish Government’s proposal is for that to be just 27 per cent. Given that an £8 million transport loan fund is unlikely to make up the shortfall—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Will you come to a question, please, Mr McArthur?

Liam McArthur

Will the cabinet secretary commit to strengthening the final climate change plan to ensure that we see far greater uptake of electric and low-emission vehicles?

Roseanna Cunningham

That was an occasion when all our evidence suggested that the Committee on Climate Change’s target probably would not be achievable. We are in a situation in which we must try to set stretching but realistic targets. If it becomes the case that it looks as though we can increase the target for the percentage of new car sales that are electric vehicles, I will be happy to start pressuring my ministerial colleague here on the left to confirm that that is possible.

The advice that we were getting about transport in Scotland was that that target would be unlikely to be achievable, and the danger in factoring that target into longer-term commitments would be to distort them unnecessarily.

Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

We will inevitably hear calls for a 100 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. What advice has the Committee on Climate Change given on going even further than the Scottish Government proposes?

Roseanna Cunningham

The Committee on Climate Change provided two options for the level of long-term ambition. The first option was to keep the 2050 target at its current level of 80 per cent emissions reduction. It noted that that was a stretching target. The second option was to increase the ambition of the 2050 target to 90 per cent emissions reduction. To use its own words, that was

“at the very limit of feasibility.”

In our consideration of the draft legislation that will be before us at some point, we have taken a very deep breath and decided that we would go for that 90 per cent target.

The Committee on Climate Change was unable to produce a scenario that would reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050—the 100 per cent cut. Given that the UK Committee on Climate Change could not produce a scenario that would deliver that cut, it would be very unwise of us to say that we will do that or be pushed into doing it at this point.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con)

I thank the cabinet secretary for the advance copy of her statement.

Other members have noted that progress in reducing transport emissions since 1990 has been poor, and there is little or no improvement. Will the cabinet secretary accept that we must be more ambitious in our electric vehicle uptake targets, bringing them more into line with those of other European nations? If they can do it, why cannot we?

Will the cabinet secretary also ensure that the Scottish Government adopts measures, such as the installation of more charging points, to make ownership of electric cars more attractive and to incentivise their use? Will she also consider the possibility of using interchangeable batteries and using bus lanes?

Roseanna Cunningham

That might be a level of technical detail on which I would be unwise to engage at this point. I am sorry, but I missed part of the member’s question; did he give a comparator who has a much bigger target?

John Scott

Other European countries seem to have greater ambitions than we do on the introduction of EVs.

Roseanna Cunningham

There are a variety of ambitions across a number of countries, but it is important that we take care to investigate exactly what is being proposed. Not many countries take the tied-hands, statutory approach that we have been taking. It would be useful to know what the targets are, country by country, and how people propose to meet them. I know that Norway is planning to ban traditional petrol and diesel vehicles, but no other country is planning to do that, although there is a debate in that regard.

There are a variety of targets and discussions, and different countries and markets will differ in their rates of electric vehicle adoption, for a whole set of reasons. Our vision represents an ambitious and challenging target.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Before we hear the final question, I say to members on the front benches that their conversations are very loud—in my left ear, in particular, today.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

Will the cabinet secretary set out how the memorandum of understanding with the State of California will help to address climate change and potentially create low-carbon jobs?

Roseanna Cunningham

A key part of the Scottish Government’s agreement with California is to increase co-operation through the work of the under2 coalition—the big coalition to which I referred, which involves around 1.2 billion people in 35 countries, across six continents, who are committed to ambitious emissions reduction measures. The collaboration presents great opportunities for Scotland and our partners. Collective effort is key. Our work with California and the under2 coalition will be focused on key areas, which will help all partners to maintain momentum in cutting emissions and reap the benefits of doing so.

There are much more specific commitments. For example, there will be a major climate change conference in California in 2018, at which we will provide support and expert advice, explaining and demonstrating good practice and technological developments that are driving the low-carbon transition, which are of interest to people outside Scotland. I can update Emma Harper separately on other, detailed parts of the agreement.