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1 March 2012

S4M-02156 Climate Justice [Closing Speech]

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-02156, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on climate justice.

09:15
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11:28

Stewart Stevenson
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Scotland’s international climate change agenda has always been to act as a model of international best practice. We are an industrialised nation and have a moral duty to play our part in tackling climate change and helping those who have contributed least to the problem to mitigate and adapt to our changing global climate.

We must not forget that it was our process of rapid development and industrialisation—which Marco Biagi and other members have referred to and from which we benefit today—that caused the carbon emissions that have ultimately resulted in the changing global climate. There can, therefore, be no doubt that we in the industrialised world are best placed to mitigate the effects of climate, and we have a moral duty to do so.

The climate justice approach must focus on what we can do to help those in the developing world, who have done the least to cause the problem but who are now the hardest hit by its effect. Given Scotland’s ambitious, world-leading legislation, which we all supported in the chamber, it is fitting that we are also leading the way in putting climate justice at the heart of our policy making in this area. I congratulate every member who has participated in the debate on their distinctive and interesting contributions. A number of issues have been raised that had not been part of my thinking before. I will take them away and think about them, even though, in the limited time that is available to me, I will not be able to deal with everything that has been said.

We will continue to seek to influence the EU and the wider international community to increase their ambition on climate change. However, even if global emissions of greenhouse gases stopped right now, climate change would continue for the next 30 or 40 years—past and present emissions determine that that is the case. That is why we must not forget the importance of adaptation and climate justice in the future.

Claire Baker asked about Rio+20. We have asked the UK Government for a place on the UK delegation. Places will be limited, so I do not know what the answer will be. I believe that the Welsh Government also seeks to be at Rio.

I congratulate SCIAF on having already commented on today’s debate. Its press release says:

“Today’s debate in the Scottish Parliament demonstrated cross-party support for the concept of climate justice, and a clear recognition of widespread public concern about the impact of climate change around the world.”

We can all share, momentarily, in the lustre of at least being part of a debate. We have to move to the point where we can share in dealing with the problem.

Part of Patrick Harvie’s amendment relates to consumption. Officials have been exploring how best to meet the section 37 reporting duty. Work on estimating Scottish consumption-based emissions has now been contracted out, and we plan to publish the results in respect of data up to 2009 before the summer recess. We are the first country in the world to do anything of this kind, so it is quite a formidable challenge. I will not overclaim with regard to the perfection of the analyses, but I think that we have made a very good start.

Patrick Harvie: I acknowledge that the collection of that data is a work in progress. Can the minister confirm that, following the publishing of the 2009 figures, such reporting to Parliament will become part of the normal reporting cycle of climate change targets?

Stewart Stevenson: I prefer at this stage to say that we will report on each year’s progress. The timetable for doing so is something that I will return to later.

Claudia Beamish opened her speech by saying, rightly, that there is a need to change behaviour and that we are talking about what is essentially a silent crisis. I found myself absolutely in agreement with that. She said that the effects are skewed and indiscriminate; others pointed that out, too. She also referred to the First Minister’s speech in Beijing in December. We have to set our own house in order and we have to set an example.

I was not aware of the example of 25 cities in China going for new eco-vehicles. I will look into that. When I was in China a couple of years ago, I visited an electric vehicle factory and found that the US Government had an order of 400 electric vans, which were just waiting to be shipped. China is doing much more than we sometimes imagine. If we are not careful, it might end up taking up many of the economic opportunities that exist.

Patrick Harvie rightly pointed to the great enlightenment figures who have contributed to modern thinking and whose statues and memorials we can see around us, particularly as we go along George Street and Princes Street. We should perhaps also remind ourselves that Adam Smith’s grave lies a few hundred metres from the door of the Parliament.

In response to one point that was made, I say that the Scottish climate justice fund will be in addition to any funds that are already allocated. We will hear more about that later.

I am glad that the Conservatives have participated in the debate in such a positive spirit. Jamie McGrigor said that climate change is one of the greatest challenges, and we absolutely agree with that. He personalised the issue by talking about the rainfall on Loch Awe: 140in is a formidable amount of rain. It is okay, Jamie—the rain was falling only on you; the rest of us were being treated quite differently.

Rob Gibson pointed out that we are expecting food prices to soar because of drought in south-east England—in Lincolnshire in particular—where there are areas of highly productive arable land. That situation will be repeated throughout Europe. As I said in my opening speech, climate change is not simply an issue for the third world: it will affect us directly, too.

Neil Findlay: The minister is going through the members who contributed to the debate. Jamie Hepburn described how the financial transactions tax could help on the issue of climate change. Can the minister explain why the two SNP MEPs did not support the tax in Europe?

Stewart Stevenson: I hope that Neil Findlay will support this Parliament having the full powers of a normal independent country so that we can participate in that sort of thing, but I do not want to be particularly political today.

Elaine Murray correctly highlighted the problems of drought, famine and starvation. Annabelle Ewing, among others, highlighted the importance of climate change for women and the effect that it has on them.

Paul Wheelhouse mentioned that even the UK’s strategic defence review identified climate change as a threat to military stability. I had not been aware of that, but it is another interesting take on the issue.

Mary Fee spoke about Jack McConnell’s work in setting renewables targets. I respect and recognise the continuity in our activity on climate change, although I personally admire Jack McConnell most for his anti-smoking efforts.

We talked about 0.3 per cent as the target for the current year; the target for the following year is of course 9.86 per cent. Jamie Hepburn mentioned that Alan Miller is watching us, and I am delighted that he is here to see the first debate in a Parliament anywhere in the world on the subject of climate justice.

Jim Hume said that, as a member of the United Kingdom, we can engage internationally. That is correct, although we could do much more in a different environment—but we should not spend too much time on that today.

Dennis Robertson referred to curriculum for excellence, and mentioned the achievement of Old Rayne primary school in his constituency. That is typical of what is happening in schools throughout Scotland. The idea that children are now sending their parents to bed early so that the lights go out to make a positive impact on climate change is a new one, but not necessarily a bad one.

In response to Margaret McDougall’s point, we have been supporting allotments through the climate challenge fund, so we are doing quite a lot in that regard. We are supporting 8,100 hectares of forestry this year, and moving towards our target of 10,000 hectares per year. Last year we supported just over 5,000 hectares. In response to Aileen McLeod’s point, I shall be lugging a mug as people in Dumfries have been doing.

We have heard excellent contributions from members on all sides of the Parliament. Members have raised a huge range of issues, from the Crown estate to national defence, so the debate has been wide ranging. The debate is but a start: inevitably, in the first ever debate on climate justice in a Parliament, we cannot cover the subject in its entirety. However, we will certainly ensure that others see all the contributions that have been made today.

Throughout history, we have as a nation been at the forefront of innovation. Our strong engineering background has put us in the vanguard of past industrial revolutions, and we have reaped the rewards as a high-carbon country. We are now at the forefront of a green industrial revolution, and we must ensure that in reaping the rewards of that low-carbon revolution at home, we take with us those who are less fortunate than ourselves and let them benefit from our innovation, knowledge and expertise in those emerging economies.

In making 2012 the year of climate justice, we must influence others to do the same. Again I quote Mary Robinson, who said:

“Climate change is a matter of justice. The richest countries caused the problem, but it is the world’s poorest who are already suffering from its effects.”

She went on to say that

”the international community must commit to righting that wrong.”

S4M-02156 Climate Justice [Opening Speech]

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-02156, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on climate justice.

09:15

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson) I welcome the proposed amendments to the motion from both the Labour Party and the Scottish Green Party. I believe that, unless the debate takes an unexpected turn, we should be able to support both amendments.

In December, I represented Scotland on the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations framework convention on climate change summit in Durban. It was the second year in which a Scottish minister had been part of the delegation to the UNFCCC. The First Minister and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, sent a joint message to the UNFCCC calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the talks, which should witness a collective global raising of ambition on both climate change mitigation and climate justice.

I will return to the climate justice theme of today’s debate in a minute or two, but first I will update the Parliament on the outcome of the Durban conference. In July last year, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister supporting higher global ambition on tackling climate change, saying in particular that it was essential that we work towards European Union agreement to a second commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, given that the first commitment period comes to an end in 2012. David Cameron expressed gratitude for the Scottish ministers’ support and acknowledged that Scotland has a good example to share with European colleagues of low-carbon investments and policies creating jobs and growth.

A second Kyoto commitment period should be an interim step towards a single, legally binding agreement on all parties to deliver the necessary global action to tackle dangerous climate change. Clearly, we were delighted that at Durban the EU did indeed pledge a second commitment period for Kyoto and that, in return, it gained a timetable from the major emitter nations for a new global agreement on climate change to be negotiated by 2015 and ratified by 2020. That is a tremendous example of Scottish political support across all the parties contributing to influencing an outcome on a global environmental issue of the first importance.

In addition, in the months prior to setting off for Durban and in support of United Kingdom influencing efforts, I met a wide range of European ministers from, among other countries, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Hungary to promote the evidence from Scotland on the jobs, investment, trade and growth potential of the low-carbon economy in order to assist in moving thinking within the EU towards increasing the drive for green growth.

In Durban, as part of the UK delegation, which included two UK secretaries of state and a minister of state, I took part in speaking engagements and meetings with the business sector, states and regions, Governments, non-governmental organisations and members of the European Parliament to promote Scotland as a model of international best practice on climate change and to promote our messages about the economic potential of low carbon. I am very grateful for the support of Scottish NGOs and young people in Durban in promoting the positive messages about Scotland.

Over the past two years, international recognition of Scotland as a country pursuing high ambition on climate change and the low-carbon economy has undoubtedly increased markedly. We have a presence on the international climate stage, and we were struck this year by how many countries are beginning to echo Scotland’s messages, in particular the need to provide certainty in a framework for investment to drive low-carbon growth.

Durban has been widely hailed as a success for EU climate diplomacy, and its leadership position is underpinned by progressive EU countries such as Scotland setting high climate change ambitions. The fact that 120 countries formed a coalition behind the EU’s roadmap was key to securing the Durban platform agreement, which keeps the major emitter nations at the negotiating table and now has a timetable. Agreement was also reached in Durban on the establishment of the green climate fund. However, although the overall result was far better than expected, we acknowledge that concerns remain about the shortfall in pledges to limit global warming to 2°C.

Returning to the climate justice theme of today’s debate, I note that on the radio this morning Alan Miller and Mary Robinson suggested that this is the first ever parliamentary debate worldwide on the concept. All of us in the chamber are playing a role in that first.

What is climate justice and why does it matter? The Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice aims to secure global justice for the many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten: the world’s poor, disempowered and marginalised. By the way, I should point out that that does not exclude people in our own communities. This is not simply an international issue.

The following definition, provided by the foundation, captures the essence of the climate justice agenda:

“Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.”

Such an approach to combating climate change focuses on people, is informed by science and seeks both to protect the vulnerable by supporting developing countries to increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change and to ensure that they have access to the benefits that come from the developed world’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

What is the global problem that the climate justice agenda seeks to put right? Speaking in Edinburgh last September, Al Gore set out his belief that clear evidence from events in Pakistan, China, South Korea and Colombia shows that climate change is directly responsible for extreme and devastating floods, storms and droughts. He said that nearly every climate scientist actively publishing on the subject now agreed that there was a causal link between carbon emissions and the increase in intense and extreme weather events across the globe. Via television and the internet, we are all familiar with the effects of extreme weather events, but those events are experienced in all-too-vivid reality—and all too often—by those in developing countries.

Of course, there are examples of such severe effects being felt in the developed world, too; I think, in particular, of the increased death rate among older people in France during an unexpectedly very hot summer a couple of years ago. In the Pakistan floods of 2010, 20 million people were affected; several hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed; 6 million people were left without access to clean water; and 3.5 million children were at risk of contracting deadly water-borne diseases. An increase in extreme weather events, driven by climate change, will further drive widespread climate injustice.

Al Gore praised Scotland’s leadership on climate change and the First Minister has received the South Australia international climate change leadership award. It is important that we capitalise on Scotland’s enhanced international profile on climate change to make the case for those on the front line of climate impacts. In his speech to the Central Party School in Beijing in December, the First Minister joined Mary Robinson in championing climate justice and highlighted in particular the gender dimension to the issue. In situations of poverty, women suffer more than men from the effects of climate change. In the less developed world, it is generally women who travel increasing distances to forage diminishing quantities of wood and who go further to get water for their families and villages. We must take account of the fact that the impacts are differential.

As I said at the outset, the First Minister and Mary Robinson sent a joint message to the UNFCCC, calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the Durban talks, and the First Minister has also urged world leaders to make this year the year of climate justice.

Our actions go beyond simply championing a concept. For the past two years, we have been strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change. The Scottish partnerships that were announced in Copenhagen and CancĂșn support developing countries on renewable and clean energy through, for example, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. Our international development fund has supported the University of Strathclyde’s work on community solar power in Malawi. To coincide with the Durban conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and I announced the next call for project proposals to the international development fund for renewable projects of a value of up to £1.3 million in the countries of Zambia, Rwanda and Tanzania. Most recently, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs announced a significant contribution to our efforts on climate justice—a £1.7 million programme of renewable energy activity in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, to help set it on the road to green growth.

I will say a bit more about our support on climate change mitigation, in particular through the Scottish Government’s international development fund, which is already bringing Scotland’s world-renowned knowledge and expertise in the area of renewable energy generation to communities in vulnerable countries such as Malawi. In a fast-developing world, it would be easier for countries such as Malawi to adopt high-carbon solutions to their energy needs, but it is imperative that, as they aspire to western standards of living, they benefit from our knowledge and go straight to cleaner, low-carbon energy, rather than duplicating our processes and causing further damage to the climate. In addition, that will give them the opportunity to acquire leading-edge skills that may well, in time, surpass those in what we term the developed world.

As I have mentioned, a great example of that is the work that is being done in promoting sustainable energy and providing access to reliable electricity in rural areas of Malawi as part of the University of Strathclyde’s renewable energy acceleration programme, which the Scottish Government awarded more than £1.7 million in February. The programme has multiple benefits, including those of reducing poverty and tackling climate change, which are two of the key themes of climate justice. The project will enable disadvantaged communities to be empowered to address their own energy needs and to develop their own renewable energy projects, which will provide access to more reliable electricity for rural towns and villages. In the comfort of the western world, we forget how little reliable electricity there is in the less developed world.

By providing research technology, collaboration, educational and training support and entrepreneurship, the University of Strathclyde will work with the people of Malawi to develop their renewable energy capabilities and climate change policies, thereby putting Malawi on the path to green growth. In addition, the programme will provide support at an institutional level in Malawi to support the formation of policies, including Government policies, for renewable and community energy projects. Our approach and expertise fit with the European Commission’s priorities as set out in “An Agenda for Change”, as well as the work of the United Nations high-level group on sustainable energy for all.

In addition to providing increased support for climate change mitigation, we have already recognised the need to enhance our support for climate adaptation. In our manifesto last year, we committed to establishing an international climate adaptation fund. Given the clear link between the need for adaptation in developing countries and climate justice, I can announce today that we are renaming that commitment as Scotland’s climate justice fund and that we will launch the fund in the next few months.

I said to the Parliament in December, ahead of the Durban talks, that we believe that action is needed now to grasp the opportunities that are presented by higher ambition on emissions reduction to drive and incentivise investment in new low-carbon markets, and to deliver our energy security, environmental and climate justice objectives. I hope that the Parliament agrees that Scotland can make a meaningful contribution to championing and delivering for climate justice worldwide.

I move,

That the Parliament understands that it is poor and vulnerable people in developing countries who are most affected by climate change and are least equipped to respond to it; supports Scotland acting as an international model of best practice on climate change and promoting the moral, environmental and economic reasons for action by other countries; strongly endorses the opportunity for Scotland to champion climate justice, which places human rights at the heart of global development, ensuring a fair distribution of responsibilities, and welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring respect for human rights and action to eradicate poverty and inequality, which are at the heart of Scotland’s action to combat climate change both at home and internationally and strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change as part of Scotland’s international profile.

09:29

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