25 September 2019

S5M-19025 Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is the stage 3 debate on motion S5M-19025, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I start by wishing John Scott well. I hope that he will be sitting beside me when we look at the climate change plan update, because his wise counsel—which is not to say that I agree unequivocally with everything that he says—will be important at that stage.

Farming has been an important part of the discussion, and John Scott has contributed to that debate, as have others across the political parties. I very much welcome the fact that we have, as a result of agreement to a Maurice Golden amendment, incorporated nitrogen accounting. That will help us to get a proper understanding of farming emissions.

We have had a bit of talk about the role of young activists in relation to climate change, which is entirely proper, but I want to take us back to something that I have not heard mentioned this afternoon, even though it is of equal and immediate importance. It is that this is a feminist issue as well as a youth issue.

In parts of the world, particularly in Africa, where aridification is taking place because of the diminution of rainfall and the drying up of wells, it is generally the women who are the farmers and who do the hard labour. They now have to walk many times the distances that they previously had to walk to get water or kindling. It is a feminist issue and it affects women across the world.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green): I agree, but does Stewart Stevenson think that maintaining the existing road-building programme will be a positive or negative contribution to women in sub-Saharan Africa?

Stewart Stevenson:If sub-Saharan Africa had better roads, I suspect that climate change would be less of a feminist issue, but I expect that that is not really the point that John Finnie was trying to make.

Patrick Harvie correctly said that the Greens advocate a 50 per cent target for 2030. However, we also need to think about the fact that there have been several changes to the baseline, which has added to the inventory of CO2. We therefore need to translate the targets that were set in 2009 to what they would be against today’s baseline: they would be rather different. In 2015, we added another greenhouse gas—nitrogen trifluoride—to the inventory. There have been various changes that affect how the numbers work, so the situation is a bit more complex than we sometimes like to pretend.

I also want to talk briefly about unanimity. I strongly believe that we must be driven by scientific consensus and not by individual scientists who are at one edge or the other of the argument. That is not because those scientists are wrong—they might be correct, within their areas of research. However, the consensus that comes through the IPCC—I welcome the report that came out today—will drive further change, as it must. If we start to pick scientists who take extreme positions, valid though they are, we will allow others to choose scientists who disagree with the whole agenda altogether. That is why we should always go with the consensus.

There is nothing to stop us exceeding scientists’ recommendations, so I encourage my Green Party colleagues to think carefully about withholding their support for the bill while continuing to campaign for more.

I will conclude by saying that, like others, I have been inspired by Greta Thunberg and the millions of young activists around the world. When I cast my vote shortly, I will be thinking of her and her young companions. I will be deid before it all matters: they have to inherit a world that is worth inheriting.


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