Meeting date: Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 14 November 2018
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Social Care, ScotRail Franchise (Break Clause), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Climate Change
- Portfolio Question Time
- Social Care
- ScotRail Franchise (Break Clause)
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- Climate Change
The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-14361, in the name of Maurice Golden, on the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament notes the release of a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on limiting a rise in global temperature to 1.5°C; further notes that it details the consequences of climate change that are currently impacting populations and places around the world and the damaging and far-reaching effects that will occur if global temperature change exceeds 1.5°C; acknowledges that the report warns of the urgent need for increased action on climate change from all countries in order to be able to keep global temperature rises within 1.5°C; welcomes the announcements by both the Scottish and UK governments that they intend to seek new advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change regarding the implications of this report for Scotland’s climate change targets; believes that Scotland, as an advanced economy with a proven record of expertise and innovation in tackling climate change, for example the Recycle Room in Clydebank, shares in the global responsibility to take action and, while commending reductions in emissions to date, notes calls for a renewed commitment to reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint, and believes that integrating circular economic practice across policy making and providing enhanced support to transition Scotland to a low-carbon economy is an integral part of the process towards tackling climate change.17:13
The recent IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C paints a stark and deeply concerning picture of the future if humanity does not get to grips with climate change and limit the rise of global warming to 1.5°C. A rise of even 0.5°C more would see 60 million people in cities around the world at risk of drought and an extra 2 billion people facing extreme heat waves. The Arctic would be ice free not once every century but once every decade, and we would stand to lose almost all the world’s coral reefs. We, in Scotland, would not be spared, as we could be at risk of increased flooding from rivers and along our coasts. Our wildlife has already been affected, as was detailed in last year’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds report on the state of the United Kingdom’s birds.
The IPCC report makes it clear that the duty to act is shared by all countries, and it urges them to go further than they have ever gone before. It is too important an issue to get wrong, so I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has joined the United Kingdom and Welsh Governments in seeking updated advice from the Committee on Climate Change in the wake of the IPCC report. I want to make it clear that the Scottish Conservatives are committed to transitioning Scotland to a low-carbon economy through an evidence-based approach that delivers for both our environment and our communities.
The success that we have seen so far—a 45 per cent reduction in emissions through decarbonising our electricity and waste sectors—is to be welcomed. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. The theme that has arisen from recent sessions of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is the need for action in the short term to support our long-term goals.
Given that Scotland’s interim targets have been revised up to 66 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2040, we must look at other sectors such as transport, which has effectively seen no reductions in emissions since 1990. For example, the commitment to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 raises more questions than it answers. What are the timescales and costs for rolling out charging infrastructure? How will vehicle uptake schemes be improved? How will grid capacity issues be identified and resolved? The CCC has made it clear that,
“without firm new policies, reductions in Scottish emissions are unlikely to continue into the 2020s.”
That issue must be addressed.
The temptation is, of course, to look to the end goal of keeping the rise in temperature to 1.5°C by 2100, but we must consider the transition to that. I recently asked Professor Jim Skea of the IPCC about the prospect of an overshoot scenario in which we achieve a temperature rise of just 1.5°C by 2100 but allow that rise to be exceeded during the intervening years. He made it clear that that would have disastrous consequences for our planet and population.
The Scottish Conservatives have set out a comprehensive package of measures to tackle climate change, from supporting regulatory frameworks for district heating to investment in energy storage solutions, the decarbonisation of transport and much more.
In the context of the Scottish Conservatives’ list of policies to tackle climate change, do the member and his party accept the scientific reality that 90 per cent of the oil and gas reserves that we know to be in the North Sea—never mind what might be located through exploration in the future—must remain in the ground, unburned?
No. We have a major commitment to tackling climate change, but we have to be realistic. Thousands of jobs are provided not just in the drilling of new oil and gas reserves but in the supply chain throughout Scotland, particularly in the north-east. Indeed, the decommissioning costs associated with the infrastructure that is already in place—there are 471 platforms—should be progressed here, in Scotland. We need more recycling of all that steel in Scotland, which would, in turn, create jobs. It is no surprise to hear that comment from the Green Party, which, to my mind, has the least credible environmental policies in this Parliament.
This week, we have gone further still by announcing plans to build a Scottish plastics recycling centre to concentrate the reuse and recycling of resources here, in Scotland, which would create jobs while helping to reduce our environmental impact. We want to promote a shift away from our disposable culture, so we are calling for litter fines to be increased to bring about change and reinforce the message that discarding waste is not acceptable.
We want people to be better educated about the environmental impact of food production. A new wave of allotments and school farms in our towns and cities will help people to make environmentally informed choices about supporting the growing of produce in Scotland. Creating city-wide woodlands, green spaces and habitats will not only clean our atmosphere of pollution, as those places act as carbon sinks, but will improve health, economic and social outcomes for our most deprived communities, in particular.
Those measures are deliverable now, and their impact will lay the foundation for the progress that we need to make in the years ahead. The Scottish Conservatives will continue to champion that approach, building the low-carbon society that we need and ensuring that aspiration is backed by action that delivers positive outcomes for people and the planet alike.
David Attenborough concluded “Blue Planet II” by saying:
“The future of the planet is in our hands.”
Let us take that step together by building a better future now.
I move the motion in my name.
You do not need to move the motion in members’ business debates. That is just a little technicality for you to remember.17:20
I thank Maurice Golden for lodging his motion and highlighting the IPCC report.
The IPCC special report is the loudest call for immediate climate action that we have had. I am sure that members will agree that the report’s findings on the potential and inevitable damaging effects of climate change are really concerning. They make for overwhelming and motivational reading, as Maurice Golden highlighted.
It is right that this Parliament should feel the weight of climate change on its shoulders. Climate change is the defining issue of this century. The IPCC report describes impacts that will be felt by all. I thank the many people—from my constituency and beyond—with whom I have had conversations about climate change, particularly empowered young activists. I have heard stories from around the world from those on the climate change front line, and I have heard the thoughts of my grandson when litter picking on a beach.
In the year of young people, intergenerational climate justice must be at the forefront of our minds. I am proud that Scottish Labour has committed to fight for the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill to include a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest and a 77 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, to be supported by a long-term statutory just transition commission that is answerable to Parliament. It is our duty to step up the fight for global climate justice while giving Scotland time to adapt in a just way.
Will the cabinet secretary tell me whether the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill is in line with a 1.5°C or 2°C target? Furthermore, how do those targets translate in terms of Scotland’s carbon budget usage? The IPCC report’s authors have said that that is a political decision, and it is important to know how the bill lines up.
Since the publication of the draft bill, the evidence base has grown on the feasibility of a net-zero emissions target by 2050 at the latest, including from the royal academies and the European Climate Foundation. There has also been a new study highlighting Scotland’s huge natural negative emissions potential. Is the Government considering the expanding evidence base?
If we are to set steeper targets, the rate of innovation must be accelerated. With leadership from the Aldersgate Group and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to name but two organisations, an increasing number of businesses are crying out for the political will that is required to drive markets with a clear signal. Ambitious targets will be the catalyst for greater technological innovation and will encourage other countries to set stronger targets, making additional domestic effort possible.
That should be viewed as an opportunity. However, the Scottish Government’s financial assessments do not build in the co-benefits of mitigation that we will enjoy, such as improved health through reductions in air pollution and fuel poverty. Nor do they take into account the enormous financial risks of inaction. Expenditure on climate change is simply a prudent measure.
The motion refers to the circular economy, which is an area that needs great leadership if we are to seize opportunities in re-manufacturing. Although initiatives such as a deposit return scheme for Scotland are welcome, there are concerns about other types of waste, including concerns about the need for new arrangements for construction waste and clearer policies on food waste. I look forward to hearing the Scottish Government’s proposals for the scheme. I was particularly impressed with the Norwegian model of a producer responsibility fee.
The Government has argued that it is impractical to set a long-term target without a prescriptive pathway, but we know that the consequences of letting global warming rise above 1.5°C are unthinkable for people and wildlife; we know that the financial cost of tackling climate change will rise further the longer that we drag out action; and we know how important the interim targets are.
Let us continue the legacy of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009; let us be consensual in looking forward as adventurous and brave leaders; and let us take on climate change together, as a Parliament of conscience, by setting targets to strive for with a sense of fierce urgency.17:24
I thank Maurice Golden for bringing the debate to the chamber as part of his personal hug-a-husky week.
In the second session of Parliament, I took part in Parliament’s first inquiry into climate change. I will read to members one of the key conclusions:
“A radical response on a huge, almost unprecedented, scale must start to be entrenched in policy now. A massive possibility for change exists at government, business and individual levels”.
That was just over 12 years ago—12 years in which we have seen the biggest transformation of our electricity supply in a century. That transformation has delivered jobs and security of supply, and has cut the carbon. We can see that change around us, as graceful onshore wind turbines have sprung up while the giant fossil power stations of old have finally been put to sleep. Today’s wonderful news that train manufacturer Talgo is moving to the site of the last coal-fired power station at Longannet, bringing 1,000 jobs, is testament to the power of the low-carbon economy driving the just transition for workers.
However, leadership and market intervention on electricity have masked failure in other sectors including farming, transport and heating to get to grips with the transformational change that is needed. The Government has rolled back on ambition in the recent climate plan, and is subsidising inaction on the back of past renewable energy success. Representatives of NFU Scotland came to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee yesterday and told us that they have not heard the message from the Government that climate change is the top priority for farming, so there has been a failure of leadership.
Alex Salmond talked about Scotland being
“the Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”
That was a successful message that was sent to the electricity sector more than a decade ago. Why are the ambition and leadership so poor for farming? There were warnings about that in the inquiry report from the second session of Parliament, which stated:
“Climate change should be fully integrated into a review of the Scottish agriculture strategy to ensure that the agriculture sector can achieve a consistent reduction in emissions”.
Instead, emissions from agriculture have remained largely static over the past decade. The climate plan proposes a reduction of just 9 per cent for the next 12 years, which is far less than the targets for other sectors. That is no wonder, because the subsidy regime for farming is largely blind to climate change. There is no strong regulation driving innovation and performance in the way that we see in energy generation.
Hope-based voluntarism is not enough. Joined-up regulation, education and marketing should have been in place years ago. The Irish have established it through their origin green programme; it is time we did that here, too.
With farming, there are, in the box, tools that are not being used to cut emissions. They are easy ones to use: for example, mandatory soil testing to reduce fertiliser use, linked to a nitrogen budget. Integrating trees into farm systems should be a no-brainer in respect of carbon sequestration, biodiversity, building materials and biomass fuel, yet we see virtually zero uptake of agroforestry, which is due to the poor design of financial incentives. We cannot deliver the critical net zero emissions target that the world demands without real change. Keeping on keeping on with the same model of farming, but just slightly more efficient, will not deliver what the science tells us we have to do.
“Business as usual” also flies in the face of consumer trends, which inevitably mean that we will all be eating far less meat in the decades ahead. If Scottish farming meets that challenge head on, it can adapt and survive by focusing on higher-value livestock production and horticulture, but a head-in-the-sand approach will not deliver food security for the nation or financial security for the farming sector.
The IPCC report has given us just another 12 years to deliver the change, and there is no place to hide for failing sectors—in particular farming, heating and transport. The implications are unimaginable if we waver off track and do not take the early action that is necessary, but we must also remain focused on the benefits in health and new livelihoods if we deliver the solutions now.17:29
I join others in thanking Maurice Golden for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I acknowledge his long-standing interest and strong track record in promoting the circular economy. I also recognise the importance of the issues that are highlighted in the IPCC’s latest report. As Claudia Beamish and Mark Ruskell have emphasised, it is a stark warning about the challenges that we face, and it lays bare the consequences of failing to act.
As I said in response to the cabinet secretary’s statement to Parliament earlier this month, I welcome Scottish Government’s confirmation that further advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change has been sought in the light of the findings. I look forward to that advice informing the approach that we take on updating and strengthening our climate change legislation, particularly in heat and transport, for example.
However, the topic strikes me as being a slightly unusual one for a members’ business debate. I acknowledge the reference to the recycle room in Clydebank, and I join Maurice Golden in saluting its commendable effort. It strikes me that the debate lends itself more to an afternoon debate with amendments to the motion and a vote.
Maurice Golden’s reference to the impact of rising sea levels provides me with an opportunity to reflect on some more localised aspects of this extremely important debate. I do not for a second suggest that those who have done least to create man-made climate change are not those who are most at risk of bearing its brunt, but it would be dangerous to assume that the effects will not be felt closer to home, and that the threats are not present around our own shores.
I was struck by an article in The New York Times back in September which explored the potential impact of rising sea levels on Orkney’s heritage. It said:
“About half of Orkney's 3,000 sites, many built before Stonehenge or the pyramids, are under threat from those changes. Some are already being washed away.”
The United Nations environment programme published the “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” report and concluded that the heart of neolithic Orkney is
“already clearly being significantly and negatively affected by climate impacts.”
Because of the importance of the sea to neolithic life in Orkney, many archaeological sites are on the coast and at least half are under threat from coastal erosion. That has an economic bearing, as well. I am in no doubt that much of Orkney’s economy derives from its strong tourism sector. Therefore, as well as the environmental imperative, I underscore the economic imperative to take action.
More generally, the Scotland’s coastal heritage at risk project at the University of St Andrews, which maps vulnerable sites across Scotland, found that
“As an island and sea faring nation, Scotland’s political, social, religious and economic heritage is abundantly represented at the coast; in forts, castles, harbours, piers, chapels, settlement sites, burial monuments, fishing stations, kelp kilns, coal mines, salt pans and even chilly seawater swimming pools ... These diverse heritage sites hold Scotland’s stories.”
In Orkney, the rising sea level, the increasing frequency of storms and accelerated coastal erosion are not threats only to heritage sites. They also pose risks to people’s homes and businesses. Having recognised that risk, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency produced in September a new coastal flood warning scheme to help communities that are vulnerable to rising sea levels to prepare. More than 90 per cent of flood risk in Orkney originates from the sea.
That is, perhaps, a niche aspect of the wider debate, to which we will return. I look forward playing my part in strengthening what has been world-leading legislation here in Scotland, and in making sure that we meet the challenges. For now, I thank Maurice Golden for providing me with an opportunity to shine a light on a niche aspect of the wider debate.17:33
I thank Maurice Golden for the debate, and I agree with Liam McArthur that climate change is such a big issue that we could have spent a full afternoon debating it.
In the time that I have, I will concentrate on a single theme: the economic cost to individuals and societies of ignoring the messages in the IPCC’s report. I make that single point because, if the moral responsibility and duty to protect our environment, which many millions of us feel, does not resonate for them, we have no choice but to point out the harsh, clear and proven economic cost to people, communities and Governments of ignoring or denying climate change. The cost to public health will be staggering, the impact on global food supplies and the resulting rise in food prices will hit us all, and we can only guess at the cost of the damage that will be caused by extreme weather events globally.
Scotland is taking all that very seriously, but other countries are not. It is ironic that the nation that withdrew from its obligations under the Paris agreement and that has a climate change denying leader has incurred a staggering and quantifiable cash cost as a result of the extreme weather events that it has experienced. Since 1980, the United States has experienced 219 weather and climate related disasters, the cumulative cost of which exceeds $1.5 trillion.
Right now, we are seeing terrible and tragic devastation in California. Some people do not believe that those fires are a symptom of climate change but, this summer, people in Jokkmokk in the Swedish part of the Arctic circle also experienced forest fires. There should not be forest fires in Arctic areas. If that is not an undeniable effect of climate change, I do not know what is.
Last month, I was fortunate to attend the organisation Arctic Circle’s assembly in Reykjavík, along with my Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee colleague, Mark Ruskell, when the ink was barely dry on the IPCC report. What struck me about many of the conversations that we had was that, south of the Arctic circle, the rest of the world needs to wake up to what is happening there and to the negative impacts that the melting of Arctic sea ice will have on people who live south of the north pole. As has been mentioned, melting sea ice means coastal erosion here and around the world, as well as higher sea levels here and around the world.
Melting sea ice also has an impact on regulation of the earth’s temperature, as the farmers in my area know. They are struggling to feed their livestock this winter because of the dry summer, which impacted on silage production and meant that they had to use winter stocks of silage because the fields were too dry for grazing. That is hurting them directly in their pockets, because bought-in feed is expensive.
My area is also all too keenly aware of what a warm and damp winter means. During my election campaign in 2016, l suspended my campaigning to enable my team to assist in efforts to deal with the aftermath of the dreadful storm Frank, and the horrible flooding that resulted in many of my constituents evacuating their homes and businesses. It is estimated that the cost to the Aberdeen city and shire area of the flooding and damage that were caused by the storm was £700 million—although that is quite a conservative estimate. The emotional and social cost is more difficult to quantify, but it is significant—we need only ask anyone who had to evacuate their home by boat at 4 in the morning.
I hope that the few examples that I have given have clearly made the point—for those whose only motivation is money—if we do not act on the recommendations of the IPCC report, every one of us will bear a great personal financial cost. I say to the people who care not a jot about what happens in other countries—there are such people—that the impact will be felt on their doorsteps, too. It will affect their health, their livelihoods, their homes and their family budgets. The IPCC report is not a letter to environmentalists; it is for each and every one of us. We should all read and understand it, get behind the efforts to stop its predictions coming true and put tackling climate change at the top of our agendas.17:37
I am pleased to speak in tonight’s debate, and I thank my colleague Maurice Golden for bringing the important subject of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report to the chamber for debate.
As a member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, and as my party’s spokesman on the natural environment, it is fair to say that I am becoming well versed in matters surrounding climate change. As other members have said, the report that the IPCC released last month is a really important piece of work. Indeed, it serves as a further stark warning—not that we needed one—that we as politicians have a duty to act urgently on behalf of our constituents before it becomes too late. It is an astonishing fact that even if global warming was limited to a rise of 1.5°, we would lose between 70 and 90 per cent of our coral reefs. Furthermore, if temperatures were to rise by 2°, more than 99 per cent of our coral reefs would be lost for ever.
The Scottish Government has made some welcome progress on cutting our carbon footprint but, as Maurice Golden’s motion outlines, the IPCC report should reaffirm the need for Scotland to go further and quicker, as a nation that is in a position to do so. The SNP Government talks the talk when it comes to climate change, but it has done a U-turn on plans to reduce emissions from domestic heating. The low-carbon domestic heat target was reduced from a reduction of 80 per cent in domestic heating emissions by 2032 in the draft climate change plan to one of 35 per cent in the final plan. Furthermore, Scotland’s streets still have dangerously high levels of toxic air pollution that are breaking legal limits. Under the SNP, the total number of official pollution zones, where levels regularly exceed legal limits, has remained static at 38, despite the fact that the deadline for meeting the particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide standards was 31 December 2010.
More needs to be done to bring about transformational change in active travel, because, at the current rate of progress, it will take around 239 years to reach the Government’s target for 10 per cent of journeys to be made by bike by 2020. That was evidenced by the tiny increase of 0.2 per cent in bike journeys from 2010 to 2016 that was revealed in the latest transport statistics.
Bus passenger numbers in Scotland have fallen by 10 per cent over the past five years under this Government. Bus fleet sizes have fallen by 16 per cent, while fares have increased by 5 per cent in real terms. In 2016, 31 per cent of journeys to work were by public or active travel, which is the same amount as in 2006.
Electric vehicles account for less than 1 per cent of the 2.9 million cars that are on the roads in Scotland. I acknowledge that the SNP Government’s plans to phase out the purchase of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 is ahead of the UK Government’s target, but a significant amount of progress is still to be made. Far more needs to be done, and a clear road map needs to be drawn up to hit future critical targets.
The Scottish Government’s independent adviser on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, was clear in its recent “Reducing emissions in Scotland—2018 Progress Report to Parliament” that:
“Scotland’s progress in reducing emissions from the power sector masks a lack of action in other areas”.
There remains a need to improve if we are to hit emissions targets through to 2032.
Conservative members recognise and welcome the 45 per cent reduction in emissions since 1990, but that record of international leadership will not continue without renewed action.
Agriculture is an industry that absolutely recognises its role in delivering better, positive climate change, but the industry is calling out for much-improved knowledge transfer and support because, as the motion states, we are a nation
“with a proven record of expertise and innovation”.
We need to properly harness that expertise and innovation to deliver better outcomes through actions including soil sampling for the precision application of fertiliser to prevent excess application. That will save farmers money and prevent environmentally damaging run-off. Financial incentives to support the purchase of more precise machinery would achieve similar aims.
With regard to buildings, a more ambitious goal for Scotland’s energy efficiency programme could help all homes in Scotland to achieve at least a band C energy performance certificate by 2030, which would tackle fuel poverty, reduce spending on home-heating energy and create thousands of jobs.
In May, the Scottish Conservatives won cross-party support to bring forward by 10 years the target for all homes to have an EPC band C rating or above. We set out an ambitious target for that to be reached by 2030, whereas the SNP’s energy efficient Scotland route map sets the target to be reached only by 2040.
Right now, the Scottish Parliament has a fantastic opportunity. We are hearing evidence from across the world and across every sector as we scrutinise the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) Scotland Bill. I firmly believe that we need to do our bit. That is why we must heed the IPCC report’s warnings and take the lead.
Once again, I thank Maurice Golden for bringing the debate to the chamber. Let us hope that we act before it is too late. The Scottish Conservatives are out-greening the Greens and trumping the SNP with our achievable ambitions. That alone must be an incentive for the other parties to do more.
That was a call to arms, Mr Greer.17:43
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate, but I absolutely agree with Liam McArthur that an issue of this scale deserves a full afternoon’s debate, with a motion that is voted on.
Last month’s IPCC report made it clear that we have about a decade left to manage the climate crisis—not to stop it, but to manage it. Managing means limiting warming to 1.5°; we are currently heading for more than 3° of global warming—that is civilisation-ending stuff.
Let us consider what the best-case scenario is. If we manage to radically change course and successfully restrict warming to 1.5°, all that we need to do to think about the impact of that is to look around us.
Wildfires in California have razed entire communities to the ground and killed dozens of people—that we know of. It is not just some celebrities losing their mansions: 8,000 homes have been destroyed. The town of Paradise is simply gone. Hundreds of people are missing, tens of thousands more homes are in danger, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. More than 200,000 acres have already been burned by just two of those wildfires, which are about the size of East Lothian and Midlothian combined.
This summer, we experienced a global heatwave. We had wildfires here in the UK, although they were thankfully not as large or deadly as those in California. As Gillian Martin mentioned, there were wildfires within the Arctic circle.
However, it is not just wildfires and heatwaves that are increasingly becoming mass-casualty events across the planet. Flash floods, typhoons and other extreme weather events have caused havoc this year, and they are becoming only more common.
Global warming causes more extreme and deadly weather, and that is happening right now. We have not yet hit—and we are not on track to hit—that manageable 1.5° of warming and the planet is already being devastated. As the climate heats up, extreme weather will become more common. There will be more wild fires, droughts and flooding, stronger and more frequent storms and a rise in sea level. Hundreds of millions of people in low-lying countries, particularly poorer ones, will be displaced.
Can we handle the displacement that the climate crisis will cause? The so-called migration crisis in the Mediterranean in 2015 was caused by Europe’s inability to cope with what, at its peak, was the arrival of 1 million refugees. I have been to Lampedusa and spoken to those refugees. I have spoken to climate refugees on that island and I know the immense human suffering that this crisis is already causing. On current trends, which are constantly being revised upward, more than 300 million people will be climate refugees by 2050 and, despite those deadly summer heat waves, Europe will still be one of the safest places to be. Does anyone believe for a second that a continent convulsed by a xenophobic and hostile response to a few million people will respond to a true refugee crisis in anything other than a catastrophically inhumane manner?
How can we even limit global warming to that more manageable level? What we need is a global Marshall Plan, not to rebuild after a brutal conflict but to prevent a level of destruction and disruption that we cannot really imagine. The estimated costs are anything up to £2.5 trillion per year in energy transition alone, but that wealth is out there right now. It is in the hands of those who caused this crisis—the 90 or so companies that have caused more than two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the industrial era. That is who we should be seizing the money from to fund that emergency response.
We need the wealth and power to be in the hands of people who are determined to stop this crisis, because we know what we need to do. We need a sweeping expansion of renewable energy generation in every corner of the planet, to replace that capacity that has to be lost from fossil fuels. Every form of clean energy generation, everywhere that it is viable, must be brought online and integrated into wider energy networks at a speed of industrial expansion only previously achieved by the superpowers of the second world war.
We need to revolutionise public transport across the world to rapidly shrink private car use and drastically reduce short-haul flights. We need to manufacture products as close to source as possible, and in a way that maximises rather than minimises their lifespan, to decrease the carbon footprint of global shipping and cargo flights. To make that work, we need to expand rapidly the electrification of public transport.
We need to consume less and end the systems in our society that are underpinned by disposable items or programmed obsolescence, particularly in electronics. Those things cannot be achieved by asking nicely or relying on individual choices to buy a reusable shopping bag. We cannot wait for solutions to become economically viable or for the market to provide. We need clear and concerted state action now. We need to tax the companies that are responsible for emissions and to invest heavily in the solutions to decarbonise our economy. We need regulations that force businesses to end waste, and we need to restrict the corrupt and corrosive political influence of billionaires and their fossil-fuel intensive industries.
My generation’s future has been stolen from us. My adult life will be defined by this crisis, but I, and we, intend to fight like hell to stop it. We hope only that those who brought the motion to Parliament today are half as serious as we are about the scientific reality of the crisis that we face.17:48
I thank Maurice Golden for bringing to Parliament this debate on the recent IPCC special report. The Scottish Government has welcomed it already and I do so again today. The report sets out in stark terms the threats that we face from climate change in terms of food security and water supply, loss of biodiversity, damage to infrastructure and economic growth as well as more extreme weather. A number of members have flagged examples where that may already be happening.
I share Maurice Golden’s assessment that the IPCC report represents an urgent call to global action. It makes it clear that rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes to global energy, land use, urban and industrial systems are needed if the Paris agreement aims are to be met. I will just say what utterly dismal interventions there were from some members. Listening to Mark Ruskell and Claudia Beamish, you would think that Scotland was failing in its international obligations, when the exact opposite is the case. I am proud that Scotland is one of the first countries to have responded to the Paris agreement with proposals for strengthened, legally binding emissions reduction targets. We are well placed to take a leading role in decarbonising the global economy and it is right that we do so.
In answer to Claudia Beamish, I say that the issue of limiting warming to 1.5° or 2.0° was addressed by the Committee on Climate Change. Its advice to us on a high-ambition Scottish response to the Paris agreement was that a 90 per cent target is in line with limiting warming to 1.5°. I appreciate that members do not want to hear that, but that is what the Committee on Climate Change said.
Other countries must now step up and match Scotland’s ambition and action. We are doing our fair share, but Scotland accounts for only 0.1 per cent of the world’s emissions, and the issue is a global one that needs a global response. That is why the Scottish Government is committed to working with international partners and to supporting measures to increase global effort to tackle climate change. In October, we contributed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Talanoa dialogue, which was intended to support the implementation of national commitments to the Paris agreement. In September, we contributed to the European Union’s consultation on a long-term greenhouse emissions reduction strategy. We shared our experience of climate change and urged the EU to maintain its leadership on the issue. We have also written to the UK Government to call on it to join us in working towards net zero emissions, and I hope that that will be possible.
I do not want to be defensive about this, but does the cabinet secretary really think that the current position is Scotland’s fair share? She has gone to the CCC, but the Government is not bound to listen only to it. There has been so much other advice, which is why Scottish Labour is taking the position that it is. I do not speak for other parties, but some of them think similarly. That should surely be respected. We are pushing for further action.
We listen to evidence and information from everywhere, but I remind members that the UK Committee on Climate Change is our statutory adviser—it is who the Parliament wanted us to take advice from. If that issue has to be reopened, that is fine, but people will need to reopen it and think about what it means.
I said earlier today in the chamber that the First Minister hopes to be able to attend this year’s UN climate talks in Poland. That follows a personal invitation from Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, and it provides further confirmation of the importance of Scotland’s climate leadership internationally. We should all be proud of Scotland’s progress to date in driving down emissions and making world-leading commitments to continue to do so.
However, the Scottish Government has been absolutely clear that we want to go even further and set a date for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases in law as soon as that can be done credibly and responsibly. The independent expert advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change plays a key role in that, which is why we have joined the UK and Welsh Governments in writing to that committee to ask it to provide updated advice on national target levels in light of the IPCC report. I argue that that is responding responsibly as a Government to what we see, and that it reflects the seriousness with which we take the report.
We have asked the committee to provide its advice in March next year so that that can inform Parliament’s deliberations on the bill but, if that advice does not come in March, it is more important that we get the bill right than that we try to rush it through. If the committee advises that even more ambitious Scottish targets are now credible in light of the IPCC report or in light of more being done at UK level, we will act on that advice. That is what we have been saying all along.
Even if the CCC advises that a 90 per cent target remains the limit of feasibility for now, the bill contains mechanisms to ensure that the CCC regularly reviews and updates that advice. The bill allows for higher targets to be rapidly set in legislation as soon as evidence to support such targets exists.
The UK Committee on Climate Change has already given clear advice about farming and transport. In my speech, I highlighted the kind of actions that are needed, not just by the cabinet secretary but by her colleague Fergus Ewing and colleagues across the Cabinet. What pressure will she put on the other parts of the Cabinet and on the other portfolios to make those changes?
I cannot range across everybody else’s portfolios, but I can say that I was somewhat surprised to hear the comments about the NFUS. I had a meeting directly with the NFUS and associated groups that was specifically about the bill. They can have been under no illusions as to how important the issue is to the Government.
When we talk about progress to targets, we focus on territorial emissions from sources that are located here in Scotland, and that approach is in line with international reporting practice, including under the Paris agreement. However, Maurice Golden is right to highlight the need to be mindful of our consumption-based emissions, which are those that are associated with imported goods and services.
I recognise that progress in reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint has been slower than that in reducing our territorial emissions. That is why our role on the international stage is so important; all countries need to reduce the emissions that are embedded in goods and services. The Committee on Climate Change has advised that setting targets for consumption-based emissions would be both disruptive and impractical, so we need to think about how that would work. However, there is a lot that we can do at home, which is why I fully support the ambition to integrate circular-economy thinking into all our policy areas.
I will not be drawn down the line of a discussion about deposit return, as that is for another debate. Tomorrow, I will be opening a community resources network conference; that organisation gets the point and there is a lot that we can learn from it.
I welcome this debate in bringing the IPCC report further to the attention of Parliament. Climate change is a defining challenge of our time and the IPCC report represents a key stage in the global response to it. The report says that the world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050. Our bill means that Scotland will be exactly that. What is more, our bill enables the Parliament to keep our target levels under constant review, so that Scotland can always remain at the forefront of ambition, which is where we are at present.
That concludes the debate. I close this meeting of Parliament.Meeting closed at 17:56.