Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 19 January 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Jobcentres (Glasgow), Draft Climate Change Plan, Rural Development (Funding), Decision Time, Points of Order


Draft Climate Change Plan

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

Good afternoon. The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham, on the draft climate change plan. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

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

In 2009, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world. Seven years on, I lay before the Parliament the Scottish Government’s draft third report on proposals and policies for meeting the statutory emissions reductions targets from 2017 to 2032. The draft climate change plan has been prepared in accordance with sections 35 and 36 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

In the past seven years, much has changed—not least the climate. The latest analysis by the European Commission’s Copernicus earth observation system confirms that 2016 was the warmest year on record. Global temperatures reached a peak in February 2016 at around 1.5°C higher than at the start of the industrial revolution.

Those temperature increases and their impacts vary enormously around the globe. Many of the people who have done the least to contribute to the problem have limited capacity to adapt. Our work through the climate justice fund, which supports some of Africa’s poorest climate-vulnerable communities, has emphasised the urgent practical need for global solutions.

We saw a major step in the right direction in Paris in December 2015. The United Nations Paris agreement, which was the first global, legally binding agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, came into force on 4 November 2016, significantly earlier than anticipated by the international community. We now see extraordinary momentum towards a low-carbon future—a future that is being shaped right here in Scotland.

Scotland has long-standing links to the climate change agenda. It was Professor Joseph Black at the University of Edinburgh in the 1700s who discovered carbon dioxide; he called it “fixed air”. On the other hand, James Watt’s work on the steam engine in the late 1700s was instrumental in initiating the industrial revolution. That revolution brought radical changes to our economy and society, and triggered the mass burning of fossil fuels—cue the beginning of anthropogenic climate change. It is fitting that Scotland, having contributed to the problem in the first place, now leads on many of the solutions.

I had the privilege of attending the 22nd conference of the parties—COP22—in Marrakech last year, where Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, referred to the “great achievement” of Scotland exceeding its 2020 emissions reduction target six years early. By delivering a massive 45.8 per cent cut in emissions since 1990, Scotland has demonstrated to the world that deep cuts are possible.

We should all be proud of that achievement. Without unanimous parliamentary agreement on the need for urgent action back in 2009, we could never have come so far so quickly. I advise members that Patricia Espinosa was surprised and incredibly impressed by the fact that that political buy-in was across the entire political spectrum. It is unusual in this world to have such unanimity.

Our achievements are a direct result of our ambition, our determination, our hard work and our willingness to collaborate. Progress has been achieved not by the Scottish Government alone, but by businesses, investors, communities and households, non-governmental organisations and the wider public sector all working to deliver a common goal for the common good.

Decarbonising electricity is critical in tackling emissions, and we are well on our way. In 2015, renewable electricity accounted for an incredible 59.4 per cent of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. Scotland-based companies are selling their renewables expertise abroad in more than 40 countries.

We have exceeded our 2020 target of achieving 500MW in community and local ownership, and in line with our 2016 election manifesto commitment we now pledge to double that to 1GW in the same timeframe—the equivalent of powering half a million homes. We must not forget that many community and locally owned renewables projects generate funds that can be spent at local people’s discretion.

On energy efficiency, we have exceeded yet another target, achieving a 15.2 per cent cut in total energy consumption six years earlier than planned. That is not just an impressive statistic; our investment is making a real difference to vulnerable households in Scotland, particularly in addressing fuel poverty.

In my portfolio, we have seen a 77 per cent emissions reduction in the waste sector between 1990 and 2014. Almost two million households in Scotland now have access to a food waste collection service, which is up from 300,000 in 2010.

Those are just some examples of our progress. We have done well, but together we must do more.

Today’s draft plan sets out how we intend to reduce emissions by 66 per cent by 2032, against the 1990 baseline. The reduction takes us into truly transformational territory. For the first time, we have made use of an international standard for modelling emissions reductions and energy issues. Members may have attended a session in the Parliament that my senior officials provided last year, which I hope they found helpful. The model has helped us decide how to reduce emissions across the economy using a pathway that is broken down into carbon envelopes, or budgets, for each major sector.

By 2030, Scotland’s electricity system will be wholly decarbonised, and it will supply a growing share of Scotland’s total energy needs. System security will be ensured through diverse generation technologies, increased storage, smart grid technologies and improved interconnection. By 2030, the combination of carbon capture and storage and the production of gas from plant material and biomass waste will have the potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

By 2032 we will have transformed, through the landmark Scotland’s energy efficiency programme, the energy efficiency and heating of our homes and non-domestic buildings, which are what is meant by the term “services” in the draft plan. Wherever technically feasible and practical, non-domestic buildings will be near zero carbon and the majority of homes will be connected to low-carbon heating systems. Scottish households should save hundreds of millions of pounds on their fuel bills over the lifetime of the plan, and thousands of jobs will be supported through the development of energy efficiency measures as well as renewable heat services and technologies. Our shops, offices, schools and hospitals will be warmer and easier to heat. By reducing energy demand we can help businesses improve their energy productivity and competitiveness and release savings in the public sector for front-line services.

The transport sector will be significantly decarbonised by 2032, with emissions dropping by a third compared to 2014. Low-emission cars and vans will be widespread, and low-emission heavy good vehicles will be more common. We are committed to freeing Scotland’s communities from harmful vehicle emissions. We will continue to invest in public transport and active travel and in low-carbon technologies such as electric cars and vans, hybrid ferries and green buses—and in the infrastructure that they require. In the chargeplace Scotland network, we already have one of the most comprehensive electric charging networks in Europe. Electric vehicle sales are climbing.

We have also committed to the introduction of our first low-emission zone in 2018. We will evaluate and pilot the more extensive use of low-emission zones and associated changes to freight logistics and public transport, all of which will contribute significantly to improved air quality. Public health will benefit. Scientists tell us that the more they learn about the impact of air pollution on our health, the more concerned they become. It is also a question of social justice: in Scotland’s towns and cities, communities with the lowest rates of car ownership are often those that are most likely to be affected by pollution.

In agriculture, our ambition is for Scotland to be among the lowest-carbon and most efficient food producers in the world. By 2030, we will expect farmers on improved land to know the nutrient value of their soils and to be implementing good practice in nutrient management and application. My message to Scotland’s farmers is clear: what is good for the planet is good for farmers’ pockets, and we will support them to ensure that they can cut their emissions and costs.

Enhancing our natural carbon sinks is critical. By 2030 we will have restored 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands against 1990 levels—an improvement of valuable soils that represent around 20 per cent of Scotland’s land mass. That is a step change in our ambition, and it is fundamental for biodiversity, water quality and our enjoyment of Scotland’s spectacular natural environment. Over time, we will increase our tree-planting rate to 15,000 hectares by 2024-25, with a view to having 21 per cent of the Scottish land area in wood cover—an increase of around 3 per cent.

The draft climate change plan and the forthcoming draft energy strategy set out challenging but achievable goals that will boost Scotland’s productivity and foster a vibrant climate for innovation, investment and high-value jobs. We are committed to working even more closely with business to finalise and implement those plans and to secure sustainable economic growth that is driven by innovation, exports and inclusion.

Our long-standing commitment to a low-carbon future has provided certainty to investors, businesses and communities; it has given us credibility and respect on the world stage; and it is a practical demonstration of our role as global citizens. Parliament now has the opportunity to help us to refine and improve our approach, and I commend the draft plan to members.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues that she raised in her statement. I intend to allow around 20 minutes for questions. A lot of members wish to take part—if we have short questions, everyone will get in.

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

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

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our age. I welcome the global commitment that was agreed in Paris, which recognises the importance of averting, minimising, and addressing the loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. In Scotland, the 2020 interim target to reduce emissions by 42 per cent has been exceeded, which I welcome. Moreover, the announcement today of the intention to reduce emissions by 66 per cent by 2032 against the 1990 baseline is a truly transformational step forward.

The Scottish Conservatives are committed to sustainable transport; to ensuring that every home in Scotland has an energy performance certificate band C rating by 2030; and to the decarbonisation of our energy sector. The Scottish National Party Government has been very good at setting targets, but it has not always been good at meeting them in areas such as peatland restoration, tree planting and recycling rates.

In the short time that I have had to review the draft plan, I have noted that a number of policies are not linked to budget lines. Given the ambitious target that has been set today, what is the expected overall cost to the Scottish Government of delivering the climate change plan?

Roseanna Cunningham

I welcome the Conservatives’ commitment to the overall strategy that the Scottish Government is pursuing. I would expect that whoever was standing here in government would want to continue with the commitment.

I hear what Maurice Golden says about some of our individual ambitions, and he is correct. On peat and forestry, progress against report on proposals and policies 2 was not as great as we might have wished, but we believe that we can make a step change in that area. The uptake of woodland grants has started to increase, and the amount of money that we are putting into peatland restoration will provide the necessary increased uptake. It is our intention to drive that forward to ensure that we are able to deliver on the much greater ambition that Maurice Golden seeks. I thank him for his commitment to getting on board with that ambition.

We have looked at the overall cost relative to gross domestic product for the whole of Scotland, and it comes in at about 2 per cent of GDP. It is not just about the costs that are borne by Government but about how we look at the impact across the whole economy. However, that 2 per cent figure does not take into account the enormous benefits that are involved. It is not a net 2 per cent; there is payback from the huge benefits that will accrue.

I tend not to talk simply about the costs. If we talk only about costs, we miss out on talking about the benefits. There are enormous potential benefits, including in areas such as the economy and innovation, on which I know Maurice Golden is very keen.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of the statement. I welcome today’s draft climate change plan. The document will be used by us all to guide us to a more sustainable future.

Global temperatures have risen to 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, alarmingly close to the 1.5°C limit that the world has committed to strive to keep to. Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is essential that there be robust funding for research and development and innovation across sectors, so that the necessary technology—it has not even been invented—can be effective?

The statement is light on detail. It remains to be assessed whether the plan will provide enough guidance and finance to tackle the most heavily emitting sectors. As transport emissions have reduced by less than 3 per cent from the 1990 baseline, there will have to be a massive step change there. Indeed, meeting the plan target will be a big challenge for everybody in Scotland, yet a lot of the actions will fall to local authorities at a time of cuts.

The SNP’s failure to ban fracking—or even to mention fracking—in the plan is a major let-down. If the Government is serious about tackling climate change, it will back my bill to ban fracking.

Roseanna Cunningham

I thank Claudia Beamish for her overall support. I am struggling slightly to isolate a question from her comments, so I will start with the fracking issue.

Fracking is not mentioned in the draft plan because we are not doing it. Factoring in something that we are not doing is not something that we considered being of much use. We are taking a cautious and evidence-led approach. I am conscious that the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy is sitting next to me, and I know that he is about to launch a full public consultation on the issue. In fact, in our pre-statement chitchat, he asked me about issues in respect of that consultation. Once responses have been independently analysed, the full range of evidence will be considered and recommendations will be made.

In the timescales that the draft plan covers, we will not be doing fracking; it is not going to be factored in in the immediate future. If anything were to change, we would have to look again at the plan but, at the moment, there is no need to do that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to questions from back benchers. I would like to get in all 11 members, so I would ask that they all—and not just Mr Dey, who I know will do so—ask short questions and that the cabinet secretary provides short answers. I know that that is difficult for everybody.

Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP)

The ambitious target that has been set for peatland restoration following the budget commitment for 2017-18 is extremely welcome. Will the restoration grants that are referenced in the draft plan be open to all land managers? Larger-scale projects might—at least in the early years—be favoured in order to achieve economies of scale and to establish the momentum that we will require. Does the Scottish Government recognise that we will need an accompanying increase in capacity and skills to deliver on the target?

Roseanna Cunningham

Applications will be invited from land managers across the board who are interested in delivering restoration projects. That will build on the excellent relationship that the peatland action initiative has established with the sector.

Obviously, we will want to support the best projects and those that deliver the most—and that is what we will be looking for. We agree that we need to develop capacity further to support the delivery of peatland restoration, so we will be working to build on the successful work that has been done to date. As I said, that will involve training and development and the dissemination of restoration tools and techniques. It will also mean jobs, which is an important consideration that needs to be reaffirmed.

Alexander Burnett (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)

The cabinet secretary will know that her budget for improving energy efficiency in housing is still £1 million behind where we were two years ago. When organisations such as WWF Scotland say that an average of £400 million a year is required, how will the budget figure of £140 million achieve that? Will the cabinet secretary be relying on the United Kingdom Government’s energy company obligation fund of £640 million, of which Scotland receives 11.5 per cent—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is not a short question. That will do, thank you.

Roseanna Cunningham

I advise the member that energy efficiency measures are not coming out of my budget but coming out of a colleague’s budget. This Government’s proposals leave trailing what is happening south of the border. As I understand it, no public money is going into energy efficiency south of the border so, to be frank, I find it extraordinary for the Conservatives to ask a question about that. What we are doing will be extremely important. It is a key part of what will be delivered under the climate change plan, but it is also key to delivering on fuel poverty targets.

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

Given the ambition of the climate change plan, does the cabinet secretary envisage opportunities for Scottish businesses to innovate as the Glenuig Inn in my constituency has done? It has been using 100 per cent renewable energy, reuses heat and food waste and keeps 85 per cent of waste out of landfill.

Roseanna Cunningham

Indeed. I have already talked about the jobs that might emanate from the amount of work that is being done on peatland restoration. We are already seeing the benefits of innovation. Around 43,500 people are directly or indirectly employed in the whole low-carbon and renewable energy sector in Scotland and Scotland-based companies are competing globally, as I indicated in my statement.

There are many examples of innovation. In addition to the one that Kate Forbes mentioned, there are, for example, the surf ’n’ turf project in Orkney, which will produce hydrogen from onshore wind and marine energy, and the Glasgow Housing Association project in partnership with the private sector that will implement a new district heating scheme in south Glasgow, which will include the UK’s largest air-source heat pump.

There is already innovation in and around this area. It is an aspect that we must not forget. It is not only about cost but about benefit, and the benefits go beyond those to climate change and the environment alone.

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

The cabinet secretary said that we are into truly transformational territory. What steps is she taking to ensure that no one is left behind and that we have a just transition for workers in industries that are detrimentally affected by the plan? What about all the pensioners who are living in fuel poverty this winter—what assurances can she give them that they will not continue to be left behind?

Roseanna Cunningham

I have already indicated in the statement and some of my answers that that is a key part of the plan. I appreciate that members have not had the time to read the plan in detail, but we talk about benefits beyond simply climate change mitigation. Those will be benefits for everybody. I rather suspect that the people who are currently in fuel poverty are, for example, also the most likely to be impacted adversely by poor air quality. I hope that Richard Leonard understands the health implications of that for people in their working environment and those who suffer from fuel poverty.

At the end of the day, if we do not fix the problem of climate change, there will be a negative impact on huge numbers of people. We need to get it sorted out and I hope that what I have heard from Richard Leonard does not suggest that Labour is moving away from a commitment to the overall policy.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Many of the 21 recommendations made by the Government’s adviser, the UK Committee on Climate Change, have been rejected or only partially addressed in the plan. One of that committee’s essential concerns was that agricultural emissions were set to overtake those from energy, so will the Scottish Government commit to compulsory soil testing? It is clear that the voluntary approach, which resulted in only nine farmers getting involved in the Government’s climate farming programme, is failing.

Roseanna Cunningham

We have already committed to compulsory soil testing. I am on record as having done so, as is at least one of my predecessors. That is our intention.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I thank the cabinet secretary for early sight of her statement, welcome the aspirations in the plan and commit myself to helping with the scrutiny of it over the next three months. Will the cabinet secretary advise me when Parliament can expect a detailed strategy on how we up our game on district heating? I make a plea that energy efficiency programmes that are implemented have a degree of flexibility to allow local circumstances to be taken on board. In relation to transport—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

No, that is fine, Mr McArthur. I have other people on my list and that is two good questions.

Roseanna Cunningham

Those are two good questions that are not entirely within my portfolio. I am conscious that the energy strategy is being published next week and I rather suspect that those questions might be more properly directed towards my colleague the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I ask the cabinet secretary to expand on what the agricultural sector in Scotland can do to help us meet our climate change targets.

Roseanna Cunningham

The approach to reducing emissions in agriculture is through maximising farming efficiencies, focusing on protecting and enhancing soils, tackling livestock diseases, utilising the best technologies, and turning waste into a resource. Low-carbon farming is not only good for the planet; it is good for food producers’ pockets.

I refer to my response to Mark Ruskell’s question. Yesterday morning, I was on a farm near Alloa and I spoke to Ross Logan, who is a young and innovative farmer who has done soil testing on his farm. As a consequence, he saved over £3,500 on fertiliser in the first year.

People can be kind to the planet when they farm and save a lot of money too. I have never yet met a farmer who does not want to save money.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is Mr Scott’s cue.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con)

I declare an interest as a farmer.

Since 1990, emissions from the transport sector have decreased by only 1 per cent. In light of the cuts to mitigation measures that are proposed in the current budget, how will a 33 per cent reduction be achievable by 2032? The cabinet secretary referred to that in her statement.

Roseanna Cunningham

I very much hope that John Scott conducts soil testing on his farm to make all the savings that are possible for it.

John Scott rose—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

No, Mr Scott.

Roseanna Cunningham

I will move on to transport.

Over the period since 1990, there has, of course, been a huge increase in demand for transport. We show our age when we think back to 1990, but most households then would have had only one car. Now, it is not uncommon for households to have two or three cars. That has an enormous impact, and that has been one of the problems in effecting change.

In my statement, I talked about technologies that are beginning to come on board that will be able to help us to get to the challenging targets that we want to reach. I remind members that there is potential for innovation that we do not yet understand or know about. Obviously, we have not factored that into the plan, but the world is changing very quickly and, frankly, I even hope that the target will be bettered.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

The cabinet secretary might be aware that there are exciting proposals for district heating in Grangemouth and the east side of Falkirk. Those proposals include a number of domestic and non-domestic buildings, such as the new Forth Valley College campus, which is due for completion in 2019. Will the Scottish Government continue to impress on Scotland’s local authorities and other public bodies the benefits of district heating for climate change and the economic, health and social benefits that district heating can bring to local communities?

Roseanna Cunningham

Appropriately situated district heating is an efficient method of delivering affordable, low-carbon heat to consumers. It can help to reduce fuel poverty—that goes back to the question that Richard Leonard asked—and tackle the associated health problems that fuel poverty can lead to. District heating plays an important role in the transition to an affordable, low-carbon heat system for Scotland.

The project that Angus MacDonald mentioned is laudable. There are other projects, of course, and the Government supports the approach. The low-carbon infrastructure transition programme is supported by the European regional development fund with a budget of £76 million. It focuses on accelerating the development of low-carbon infrastructure projects, including district heating. One wonders about the question that now hangs in the air around that.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

It is fair to say that progress on energy efficiency for domestic heating has been disappointing. To follow on that theme, what specific financial measures and measures through the planning system are in the draft climate change plan to promote district heating and combined heat and power units?

Roseanna Cunningham

As Daniel Johnson knows, I am not responsible for the planning system. A huge planning review has just been launched, and I hope that, if he has particular concerns about how the planning system works, he will make a submission to that review. We are trying to drive forward on as many fronts as possible. That is one of them, and I think that we will be successful.

Jenny Gilruth (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that climate change policies have the potential not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a low-carbon economy, but to deliver in other vital areas such as health and social justice, and to encourage behaviour shift in the next generation through education? That is a matter that is close to my heart.

Roseanna Cunningham

Yes, I absolutely agree with that. We have chosen the pathway that we have to ensure that we meet our climate change targets while maximising economic growth and optimising wider benefits. We have used the model that I talked about in my statement.

The plan highlights a number of key non-carbon benefits. The combined value of air quality improvements as a result of reduced emissions might be in excess of £500 million a year.

The increased number of journeys that are made by active travel will reduce congestion and pollution, as well as providing the associated benefits of being active. I can tell the member that this morning I had a lovely visit to Currie high school, where the whole school is showing a commendable commitment to sustainability that covers everything from what food is produced in the canteen to what the young people are learning in the classroom. That just goes to show that work in this area can impact on virtually every area of life.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I thank all members, because everybody got their question in. That shows what we can do when we all put our minds to it.