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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 28 March 2018

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Bus Services, Local Taxation, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Earth Hour 2018


Contents


Earth Hour 2018

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-10561, in the name of Graeme Dey, on earth hour 2018. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes WWF Earth Hour 2018, which starts at 8.30pm on 24 March; understands that, while people do a wide range of things to show that they care about the planet’s future, millions will choose to mark Earth Hour by going “lights out” for 60 minutes as a symbolic show of solidarity in tackling climate change; celebrates reports that families and communities across Scotland will be taking part, joining the Parliament and some of the world’s biggest landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and Edinburgh Castle, in switching off their lights as a visual display of their commitment; believes that Scotland’s local authorities have always played a major role in the success of the event, with Scotland being the first country to have its councils give the hour 100% support; considers that this awareness event has become a moment for people around the world to think about the importance of helping bring real change to the lives of people; acknowledges what it sees as the continued cross-party support for the aims of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and notes the view that this should be built on in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming climate change legislation.

17:09  

Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP)

I thank all members who signed my motion, enabling it to be debated this afternoon, and I place on record my appreciation of the co-operation of the Conservative chief whip, who I understand intends to speak in the debate, in facilitating a debate-slot swap, to afford us this opportunity.

Last Saturday evening, at 8.30, lights around the world went out to mark WWF’s earth hour. The annual event is a symbolic act of solidarity with the planet, to mark the threat that climate change poses.

Globally, hundreds of millions of people take part in earth hour events. Members of the public shared on social media great stories of their activities on the night. People held candlelit dinners, went on nature trails and staged upcycling and repairing workshops, and 2050 Climate Group had a candlelit ceilidh.

I am not surprised to learn that research shows that 85 per cent of people who participated in the initiative are likely to have been inspired to do more to protect the planet throughout the year. That is self-evidently good news, because ultimately it is behaviour change that will put us on the path that we need to be on if we are to halt the worst impacts of climate change.

This year, WWF asked members of the public not just to sign up to taking part in earth hour 2018 but to make a promise for the planet. Individuals promised, for example, to use a reusable coffee cup or refuse plastic cutlery when they are out and about, to take steps at home, such as switching to green energy and turning washing machines down to 30°, and to reuse and compost leftover food, wherever they are.

As I said in the debate on plastic last month, we politicians might have thought in the past that we needed to prompt and facilitate behaviour change, but we are now finding that the public are setting the direction of travel and calling on us to make things happen. There are numerous triggers that are making the public realise that they need to act, whether we are talking about television shows such as “Blue Planet”, the mess that people find when they undertake beach clean-ups, or the coffee shops that offer the carrot of a discount for reusing a coffee cup, as I am pleased to say that the big chains have started doing.

Some of the steps that people are being encouraged to take sound challenging, but we need only remember how quickly people got on board with the idea of a plastic bag charge to realise that the public will respond.

I am delighted that Arbroath abbey, in my constituency, participated in this year’s initiative. Historic Environment Scotland is a great supporter of the earth hour programme.

My motion refers to Scotland being the first country in which all councils have participated in earth hour, so I was disappointed when Angus Council advised me that it would not participate this year. I have previously highlighted the council’s involvement and action to turn off lights or raise awareness of climate change among staff and community partners and through school lessons. I have learned from WWF that Angus Council promoted earth hour through its internet and social media channels. Forgive me for being underwhelmed. We should all be upping our efforts, not rowing back.

Despite the lack of significant action from Angus Council, I know that many of my constituents participated in earth hour, including people at Glamis castle. The people who run the castle are implementing positive environmental measures. They are looking into powering the castle from the hydroelectric plant that runs off the river by the sawmill in Glamis village. The plant already powers the estate office, and the provision of power to the castle would remove the need for oil and gas for heating.

Glamis is also taking steps to reduce the use of plastic. The thrust of the programme is to remove all plastic carrier bags from retail outlets and replace them with good-quality paper bags. The restaurant will also stop using disposable plastic. From this year, its disposable items will be made of card.

Charging points for electric vehicles will be installed at Glamis. The castle has more than 100,000 visitors a year, and it says that although it is making only a small contribution, it is a start. I applaud Glamis castle and others who are journeying down the road that our society—at domestic and global levels—needs to tread.

I acknowledge that many local authorities in Scotland remain at the forefront of leadership on earth hour. Dundee City Council, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Highland Council and Glasgow City Council all played their part last weekend.

Lothian Buses, which is publicly owned, showed a promotional animation on its number 1 route, which is served by fully electric buses. Lothian Buses and Glasgow Subway are the biggest transport providers in Scotland’s two big cities, and both companies featured advertisements for earth hour 2018.

What exactly are we doing all that for? WWF, which deserves enormous credit for coming up with the earth hour concept, recently published a report, “Wildlife in a Warming World”, which is based on work that was undertaken by the University of East Anglia and James Cook University. The research concludes that:

“Almost half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face local extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.”

Even if the Paris climate agreement’s 2°C target is met, those places could lose 25 per cent of their species.

The Amazon, for example, has around 10 per cent of all known species in its ecosystems, and it plays a crucial role in regulating the global climate. The region is highly vulnerable to climate change. Even a rise of 2°C would threaten more than one third of the species in all groups, without them being able to adapt by moving to other areas. A 2°C rise in global temperatures is forecast to make Madagascar climatically unsuitable for more than a quarter of its species. The call for action is crystal clear.

The annual earth hour activities are clearly to be commended. However, although they are important, we must remember that we need to undertake action not only now but all year round, so that we are able to tackle the challenges of climate change head on. Good progress has been made in Scotland through our taking responsibility for tackling those challenges, but we cannot stand still.

The Scottish Government’s upcoming climate change bill provides an opportunity for us, as parliamentarians, to lay down a fresh marker. It is only with behavioural change, which, as I said, I believe that the public is leading, that we will get to where we need to be on this critical issue. I look forward to earth hour and lights out 2019, and to the positive measures that citizens across the globe will undertake between now and then, through many climate change related actions, as a result of earth hour 2018.

17:17  

Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

I congratulate Graeme Dey for securing this members’ business debate. I confess that it was more convenient for me, as a keen advocate of tackling climate change, to indulge the member through the switch that he refers to. I also thank WWF for its continued support for tackling climate change across the world, and for its efforts on earth hour.

In the west of Scotland, East Dunbartonshire Council and West Dunbartonshire Council were awarded the WWF earth hour super local authority badge. I am sorry to learn about Angus Council, but I hope that next year it will be in the running for that award. In East Dunbartonshire, the lights were switched off at William Patrick library in Kirkintilloch. Interestingly, the education department and the national health service worked together to produce a sustainable school meals cookbook—I am sure that the children of East Dunbartonshire will be delighted to taste those recipes. Another one of this year’s promotions was the hashtag #PromiseForThePlanet, with individuals making promises to take action to make a difference on climate change.

I want to focus on a couple of materials that we should all look at more closely in terms of tackling climate change. The first material is, of course, plastic, which has been in the media primarily as a result of “Blue Planet” and David Attenborough. An interesting statistic is that, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, by weight. Over the past 30 years, about 8 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced. However, projections show that, over the next 30 years, 34 billion tonnes of plastic will be produced, which is more than a fourfold increase. That is a real worry.

The first thing that we can do about plastic is to extend producer responsibility. Producers of plastic packaging should bear more of the cost of disposal. By doing that, as well as by encouraging producers to take responsibility for their products, we will begin to influence the design of such products. By designing those products slightly differently, we can help to tackle litter. For example, with the old aluminium tin cans, the ring pull was often discarded after it was pulled off. The cans have been redesigned so that the ring pull is no longer detachable. It is such developments that we need to see. We also need to increase plastic recycling, and it will be interesting to see what impact the deposit return scheme will have in that regard.

The second area that I want to highlight is gold. I was chatting to Donald Cameron before the debate. He got married 10 years ago. To produce the gold ring on his finger, 3 tonnes of waste were produced. When my sister got married last year, to produce the same gold ring—but not with the same husband, clearly—30 tonnes of waste were created. The amount of waste that is created in the gold mining industry is increasing because the quality of ore is decreasing. There are 600,000 children employed in the gold mining industry worldwide in what are often the poorest conditions.

I do not have enough time to explain the facts around the use of cyanide, mercury and sulphuric acid in the gold mining industry, so I will finish on what action we can take. There is more gold in 1 tonne of discarded electric goods waste in the United Kingdom than there is in the ore found in the rock in Africa, Australia or China. By recycling and recovering gold, plastics and other materials, we can begin to tackle climate change.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much, Mr Golden. I learned lots from your fascinating speech. I think that you should have a debate about the topic all by yourself.

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

Oh no! [Laughter.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Sorry, cabinet secretary. Maybe the member and I will just have a chat sometime.

17:21  

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

I, too, thank Graeme Dey for bringing the motion to Parliament today to recognise the importance of earth hour 2018.

I welcome the debate because it fosters greater dialogue about the steps that we can take to tackle climate change at an individual and legislative level. The small changes that we make in our daily lives can collectively have a large impact on the environment and the legislation that is passed in Parliament can nationally influence our carbon footprint.

We recognise earth hour 2018 because it provides individuals, businesses, organisations and Governments such as ours with a way to show solidarity in tackling one of the 21st century’s most pressing issues.

According to the WWF, the past 20 to 30 years have been distressingly damaging to our environment due to climate change, pollution and overconsumption. The list of species affected as a result of those factors is staggering—populations of freshwater species have declined by 80 per cent and populations of land species have declined by 50 per cent.

Today, one in six of the planet’s species is at risk of extinction from climate change. We can visualise the impact of climate change on wildlife here in Edinburgh at the national museum of Scotland. If people go to the survival gallery in the natural world section of the museum, they will see walls of animals that are critically endangered and extinct. The exhibit is sombre, but important, as it visualises the fact that the loss of species that we are seeing today is estimated to be at a rate between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.

We commend the WWF earth hour campaign. Such a simple concept has a powerful visual impact and causes us to pause and think about the implications of our daily actions on the environment. I am proud that, as Graeme Dey stated in his motion, Scotland is the first country to have 100 per cent of its councils participate in earth hour.

Fife Council switched off the lights in many prominent buildings, including Fife house, Rothesay house, Bankhead central, the town house in Kirkcaldy, the city chambers in Dunfermline and the county buildings in Cupar, to mark the event. However, important as earth hour is, it cannot be the only step that we take to tackle climate change. Such a symbolic event is designed not only to show solidarity but to spark action—and it is action that we need to encourage and support in Scotland via grass-roots initiatives and legislation by Parliament.

I am pleased that Fife Council has engaged in many diverse projects that tackle climate change. There are 55 energy efficiency projects in the works for council buildings, including the potential installation of photovoltaic panels in schools and nurseries. The new-build homes programme is achieving a fantastic B energy performance certificate rating and the council recently increased its electric vehicle fleet to 26.

This year the council is also launching three long-term strategies that are aimed at reducing climate change: the zero waste resources strategy to reduce waste landfill, the low-carbon Fife supplementary guidance and the sustainable energy climate action plan for low-carbon and energy efficiency measures.

With councils across the country taking equally promising measures to tackle climate change and our record-breaking renewable electricity generation, Scotland is a world leader on reducing carbon footprint. I am glad that Scotland participated so thoroughly in earth hour 2018 and stood alongside the rest of the world in the knowledge that, by leading by example, we can pave the way for a greener society. However, let us keep in mind that progress is a never-ending process and that we must remain committed to continuing to tackle climate change by small changes in our lives and via forthcoming legislation from the Parliament.

I again thank Graeme Dey and WWF for recognising the importance of displaying global solidarity in tackling climate change. Symbols such as the darkness of earth hour reiterate our commitment to preserving our planet and taking steps to protect its future. A commitment that affects our entire planet should not be taken lightly. I am proud of the steps that Scotland has taken and continues to take for a greener Scotland and a greener earth.

17:25  

Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I believe that climate change is one of the biggest concerns that we face collectively as a society. Our planet is at a very real and serious risk of environmental disaster unless we make greater change, and do it now. That is why I was pleased to sign Graeme Dey’s motion welcoming earth hour 2018. On Saturday, like millions of people across the globe, I switched off my lights, although I have to say that I bought a few candles, which took me back to the 1970s when we had the miners’ strike. However, I did not really need the candles, because Mossmorran was flaring all weekend, and the communities around it were pretty lit up. Goodness knows what was going up into the atmosphere from Mossmorran, but we can have that discussion with the cabinet secretary on another day.

I welcome the number of high-profile buildings in the Mid Scotland and Fife region that took part. They included Dunfermline abbey, Castle Campbell, many buildings in Perth, Dunkeld cathedral and Stirling castle. It was a very successful event.

As a dad and granddad, I always think to myself that most parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles would walk to the end of the earth and back to protect their children, yet the greatest threat to future generations is climate change. As Graeme Dey points out in his motion, people are becoming more aware and demanding more action, but we have a long way to go and we need to do more to engage and involve people. When we consider the climate change bill that is to come forward, we need to think about how to engage the people of Scotland more and ensure that they take ownership of the actions that we need to take to meet the 2050 targets, which are ambitious but achievable.

As WWF Scotland has pointed out, we are making good progress. Emissions are now 41 per cent lower than they were in 1990, which is good and is to be welcomed. However, WWF Scotland has also pointed out that progress on cutting emissions has been slower in a number of areas, such as agriculture, transport and the heating of homes and buildings. We need a better understanding of the issues in those areas. As the convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee knows, we discussed that yesterday in relation to agriculture. In transport, the Government has set a target that, by 2032, there will be no further sales of petrol or diesel vehicles. We need to have a discussion in Scotland now about how we achieve that.

It is a scandal that, in 2018, we still have people living in fuel poverty in Scotland. This winter, people have been cold in their houses because, even though they have tried to heat their homes, the heat goes out the doors and the windows and the heating system is poor in the first place. Those are real things that we can do something about now that will be of massive advantage to some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

This is a serious issue. Government is doing a lot about it—and all credit to it for that—but a lot more needs to be done, and we need to get on with that job. Finally, I say to the cabinet secretary that we also need to look at how we engage the whole of Scotland in this process.

17:30  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I join members in thanking Graeme Dey for bringing this debate to the chamber, and WWF for continuing to lead on this work not only in Scotland but around the world.

Earth hour, ultimately, is about creating a catalyst, embedding awareness of climate change in our everyday lives and building the momentum for change. This year, WWF has asked people to make a promise to the planet to do more to protect the environment, and we have heard some suggestions, including running a washing machine at 30°C and getting a reusable coffee mug. Of course, such actions are, in themselves, tiny changes, but as daily reminders and signals to Government and industry, they can spur us on to deliver much deeper and more meaningful change.

Indeed, a lot of action has been catalysed just in the past 12 months. Who would have thought that an hourly television nature programme would have spawned a citizens movement against marine plastics, leading to Governments introducing deposit return schemes and a plan for action against single-use plastic across Europe? Indeed, who would have thought a few years ago that a ban on fracking in Scotland was achievable, given the huge vested interests that were lining up against communities across Scotland? With the fracking ban, a line has been drawn in the sand, and it signals the prospect of an end to the fossil fuel age: something that might have seemed hopelessly idealistic just a decade ago. The actions of these citizens movements have delivered change across Europe, and we are now looking to campaigns on, for example, fossil fuel divestment to deliver action that will have the furthest and most profound reach.

Every one of us plans for our personal future through pension funds, and they must take account of the future of our planet and the economy that it sustains. At this point, I must declare an interest as a member of the Scottish Parliament pension scheme trustee board, because I want to emphasise that, although the health and performance of investments will be the primary concern of anyone who is involved in the governance of any pension fund, whether it is in the private or public sector, those sorts of responsibilities do not preclude considering its members’ views and being wise to the fact that investing in fossil fuel reserves, which we have no hope of burning, is inherently risky business. The growth of carbon bubbles should concern us as much as the growth of housing bubbles, and citizens and scheme members should be part of that divestment discussion.

The theme of this year’s earth hour is the impact of climate change on the natural world. If the planet temperature rises by 2°, a quarter of priority species will be at risk of extinction. As we head towards debating the next set of climate change targets, it is important that we reflect on the impact on the natural world of our aiming higher or lower in that respect. After all, we have a moral duty to do everything that we can as early as we can.

Of course, we have yet to make the really tough transformative changes. I am sure that when, in the earth hour debates of the Parliament’s 10th session, members look back at our debates about, say, making soil testing compulsory, they will find them infinitely trivial—although I hope that Ross Greer or perhaps Kate Forbes will refer to and reflect back on that statement. Who knows? Perhaps Mr Golden might still be here, too.

Finally, it is critical that we invest in adaptation. For example, coastal wetlands can lock up carbon, buffer sea-level rises and create much needed habitat. Although the Greens’ recent budget deal with the Scottish Government has accelerated action on marine protected areas, it is disappointing that in the past year there appears to have been no action from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Government on creating a national ecological network. Given this year’s earth hour theme of species protection, it might be good if the cabinet secretary can comment on what we can do to really buffer our environment against the extremes of climate change.

We still have much to do in our homes, communities, fields, forests, seas and Parliaments, but I think we are starting to join up the dots faster than ever and the momentum for change is unstoppable.

17:34  

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I, too, congratulate Graeme Dey on securing this debate and thank him for bringing it to the chamber. I also pay tribute to WWF for the earth hour initiative, which has been running for 10 years. I have been a supporter of it from the get-go; I even have a kilted panda to prove that. That came at the cost of also having to wear a dolphin mask.

As other members have said, the campaign has captured the public imagination. As Mark Ruskell rightly pointed out, it has demonstrated that small steps taken together have a cumulative effect. Probably more important, it sensitises the public to the broader messages and the need for wider reform and action, not just at earth hour but year round.

The global impact is unquestionable. The motion refers to the parts that are played by the Sydney opera house, the Eiffel tower and Edinburgh castle. I add to them St Magnus cathedral in my constituency and the architecturally less impressive but no less committed headquarters of Orkney Islands Council and NHS Orkney.

The message that was reinforced through earth hour this year was to make a promise for the planet. I can update members. On-going negotiations in the McArthur household on the purchase of a hybrid vehicle are reaching a delicate stage. Perhaps there will be more about that in due course.

The campaign is going from strength to strength at the local, national and international levels. As I have said, it opens up opportunities to debate more substantive issues. In the two or three minutes that are available to me, I want to focus on just a couple of those: biodiversity and energy efficiency.

As a species champion—for Primula scotica, since you ask, Presiding Officer—I am very conscious of the threat that is posed by the loss of biodiversity. The Scottish Environment LINK briefing points to the “State of Nature 2016” report, which suggested that one in 10 Scottish species is at risk of extinction. That includes plants, butterflies and birds, including puffins and kittiwakes.

Scotland now ranks in the bottom fifth of all the 218 countries that were analysed for the biodiversity intactness index. Leaving aside the justifiable concerns that we all have about the clumsy title of that index, that finding should act as a stark reminder of the work that is needed to restore and protect habitats as a means of safeguarding biodiversity.

Earth hour should act as a reminder that, although we have made considerable progress on energy efficiency, there is still an awful lot to do. On the eve of earth hour last week, I took part in visits in my Orkney constituency that were organised by the existing homes alliance Scotland. I am sure that colleagues will be aware that Orkney has the dubious honour of being the part of the country with the highest level of fuel poverty. The visits on Friday to an elderly couple who have benefited from measures that were taken under the warm homes scheme and to R S Merriman Ltd, which is a local contractor that delivers high-quality work under the scheme, underscored for me the social, economic and environmental imperatives of our approach.

To secure a win-win-win situation, we need a warm homes bill that remains ambitious for the genuine eradication of fuel poverty, properly recognises the rural and island dimension of fuel poverty and how we tackle it, and translates into action the status of energy efficiency as a national planning framework priority, with the budget to back it.

I congratulate Graeme Dey again, not least on his negotiating skills with the Tory chief whip. I also congratulate WWF on keeping the issue of climate change to the fore not just for an hour or a day, but year round.

17:38  

Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I, too, thank Graeme Dey for bringing this important debate to Parliament. As he said, last Saturday, thousands of people in Scotland added their voices to those of millions across the world by switching off for earth hour in a demonstration of solidarity to fight climate change. I attempted my own candle-lit supper—although with young children involved, that was not the most peaceful of moments.

Earth hour is not just about raising awareness; it is about stimulating action and enthusing people. WWF research shows that, in previous years, 85 per cent of adults who took part said that

“Earth Hour had inspired them to do more to protect the planet.”

A recent WWF report highlighted the grave problems that are faced by wildlife across the globe, for example, as a result of rising temperatures, which lead to habitat loss and drought among other devastating effects. At this point, I should mention that I am the species champion for the merlin. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said that one of the main reasons for the decline of the merlin is habitat loss.

Despite the Paris agreement, which, as we know, aimed to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C, current national climate pledges would still result in a 3.2°C rise in temperature. If we just carried on with the status quo—business as usual—that would lead to a 4.5°C rise, and the staggering loss of almost 50 per cent of the species that are found in priority places across the planet, which is simply unacceptable.

Although Scotland is not one of WWF’s priority places, we all acknowledge that we have a crucial role to play in environmental and wildlife restoration, given the fragility of our planet. As we know, Scotland is home to various carbon stores, such as sea lochs, which were recently highlighted in a report by the University of St Andrews as a carbon store that requires greater attention. Peatland restoration is also important. SNH estimates that our peat bogs hold 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon and that degraded peatland emits substantial amounts of carbon dioxide.

Nationally, we must ensure that we take steps to conserve Scotland’s biodiversity and natural areas, because, as SNH stated, healthy ecosystems help to increase the resilience of Scotland’s communities to the impacts of climate change. Through managing our many and varied ecosystems, such as coastal habitats, we can help to address the effects of rising sea levels and increased storm surges.

On a local note, I am extremely proud to say that many communities across the Highlands and Islands made their voices heard on Saturday by taking part and switching off for earth hour. I hope that you will permit me to make a few mentions, Presiding Officer. In the Western Isles, lights at the Lewis war memorial were temporarily switched off. In the Highlands, Inverness castle, Eilean Donan castle and Urquhart castle, to name but a few, were all drawn into darkness for an hour. Kinlochleven library held a polar bear lantern-making craft event in honour of earth hour. As I think that Graeme Dey said, Highland Council was awarded a 2018 super local authority badge for its substantial contribution to earth hour.

It was not just local authorities in my region that contributed; many constituents also pledged support. Six-year-old schoolboy Felix Hughes from Oban campaigned to find a way to recycle the 1,000 single-use plastic straws that he estimates are thrown away daily at his school.

I applaud WWF Scotland for its efforts in promoting earth hour and encouraging more of us to get involved and make changes in our everyday lives. We must be bold as a nation in our fight to prevent damaging climate change. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that this issue brings together everyone across the Parliament.

17:42  

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

I am delighted that we again have the opportunity to debate support for climate action in Parliament today. I am impressed by the level of participation in earth hour around the world and in Scotland, where 177 Scottish landmarks and monuments went dark.

We have had an unusual tour of constituencies in this debate, to which I will add. In this year of young people, it is good to know that many schools also signed up. In my constituency, Morrison’s academy in Crieff and Ochil tower school in Auchterarder were among the more than 1,000 Scottish schools that took part.

This is the 10th year of Scottish Government support for earth hour. We joined Saturday’s switch-off, with St Andrew’s house, Victoria Quay, Atlantic Quay and Saughton house all going dark. Like Liam McArthur, I lent my support to earth hour by going dark and joining in on Twitter with Islay the kilt-wearing panda for #PassThePanda, which I understand was the hashtag being used.

This year, earth hour grew to include the hashtag #PromiseForThePlanet, which referred to promises by members of the public to make a lifestyle change as part of living more sustainably. One of the most popular pledges was to use a reusable coffee cup. Thank goodness that is something that I do—I urge other members to do the same if they are not already doing so. I wonder whether those two hashtags are beginning to flag up an earth hour fringe developing. It will be interesting to see whether that increases again next year.

Maurice Golden talked about plastics, ring pulls and deposit return, which was an interesting choice. I will not enter into the gold debate, because, interesting though it was, it is perhaps a bit beyond the subject of tonight’s debate.

On plastics, I reassure Maurice Golden that issues of production, design and manufacture are very much in our minds and will be represented at the June summit in Oban. On ring pulls, I have to advise him that I have an expensive designer belt that is made from ring pulls, which can be bought in a rather flashy shop in London—the shop makes belts and handbags that have become sought-after accessories, so all is not lost for ring pulls.

Maurice Golden also mentioned deposit return, and I am proud that Scotland was the first part of the United Kingdom to commit to introducing a deposit return scheme. I am pleased to learn that the UK Government will now follow our lead. We have ambitious plans and wish to work closely with the UK Government to ensure that communities north and south of the border reap the environmental benefits that a deposit return scheme can deliver.

I am appointing an expert panel to advise on environmental charges and other measures to prevent wasteful behaviours, which will begin its work with consideration of disposable cups and plastic straws. There will perhaps be more about that in other chamber interventions. Graeme Dey rightly flagged up that public pressure is now driving change. Who knows where that will take us, because it means that behaviour change is happening? That is an interesting development and something that perhaps five years ago we would not have foreseen.

Members including David Torrance, Alex Rowley and others spoke about climate change. Of course, 2018 is a big year in Scotland for climate change. As well as the publication of our climate change plan, this month we awarded the 1,000th climate challenge fund project, next month officials will hold a climate conversation with the Scottish Youth Parliament, and the coming months will see the introduction of our new climate change bill, the establishment of a just transition commission to advise ministers on the transition to a low-carbon economy, and the start of the process to develop the second Scottish climate change adaptation programme; that will no doubt be of interest to Mark Ruskell, given his focus on adaptation.

Since 2008, the Scottish Government has, through our successful climate challenge fund, funded projects to the value of more than £101 million, which have directly helped communities to tackle climate change. Earlier this month, members may have noticed that the First Minister visited Wellshot primary school in Glasgow to celebrate that 1,000th climate challenge fund award. The award was made to bike for good, which is part of the switch to active travel.

Influencing our everyday actions is key to delivering our climate change ambitions. Individuals and households really can make a difference, as is shown by the earth hour pledges, but also by the reaction to “Blue Planet” and the change that is coming about through the political pressure that is being exerted by ordinary people. The Scottish Government is encouraging the public to do more through our greener together campaigns, including our current saving the world campaign, which members may have seen on social media, television and in cinemas.

Alex Rowley might be interested to know that, as part of an on-going engagement with the public, we initiated a series of climate conversations across Scotland, starting in summer 2016, to take the temperature of public views on climate change and actions that might be needed to tackle it. By participating in climate conversations, people who do not usually talk about climate change can engage with the issues in a way that matters to them. Those conversations are continuing across Scotland and the findings are feeding into the development and communication of climate change policies. I am sure that officials will be happy to share details with members if they are interested.

Scotland was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and, therefore, it has a responsibility to deal with climate change. That is why we already have the most stringent climate change legislation in the world, why we include emissions from sources that other countries exclude, and why we hold ourselves to account against annual targets. No other country does that. The new climate change bill will increase the ambition of our long-term targets. In introducing that bill, we will become one of the first countries to put in place legislation to play our part in meeting the goals of the Paris agreement.

In the last few seconds, I want to say something about climate justice. We have been championing climate justice since 2012, when we launched the world-leading climate justice fund, which was a world first. A total of £21 million has been made available up to 2021, to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people in becoming more resilient to climate change. Last year, we launched the climate justice innovation fund as part of the wider climate justice fund, and I am pleased to announce that the second round of the innovation fund opened today. I look forward to funding another round of innovative and exciting climate justice projects.

It is good to see the enthusiasm that earth hour has generated and I look forward to working with members across the chamber as we make the transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable low-carbon economy in Scotland. Our plans are ambitious and everyone’s support will be crucial.

Meeting closed at 17:50.