20 December 2007

S3M-1023 Climate Change Bill [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 December 2007

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
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Climate Change Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-1023, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the United Kingdom Climate Change Bill.

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Stewart Stevenson:

The legislative consent motion is unusual in its extent. Key elements of the bill are within the legislative competence of this Parliament, but we must work with our UK partners, within the framework of European Union initiatives and with everyone throughout the world on this subject. I will deal with one or two of the points that have been raised and will try to get them all in.

David Stewart correctly said that climate change knows no boundaries. When our CO2 goes into the atmosphere, it is almost certainly blown across the North Sea to Norway, and what is in our atmosphere comes from other countries. We have a shared responsibility so, in seeking to share responsibility with the Westminster Government, we are taking a pragmatic and proper view of what we should do.

The comment was made that the bill does not cover emissions from aviation. That is true, but we are supporting the UK's attempts to ensure that aviation is included in emissions trading throughout Europe and we will continue to do that. I spoke to Jim Fitzpatrick about that and, in particular, developed with him some of the issues that there would be for smaller propeller-driven aircraft that run a number of our lifeline services. With Westminster, we will continue to track changes to the bill as they are made.

Alex Johnstone—I think, subject to confirmation—said that I was the first SNP member, as an Opposition spokesperson, to propose to our group that we should support a Sewel motion, which we did. I recall that I spoke on that. We are as pragmatic as the Government as we were as the Opposition, and I am sure that we will continue to be so as we go forward.

David Stewart and other members referred to the proposed Scottish climate change bill. I do not recognise some of the things that have been said about the progress that we are making on it. We have been working intensively on the UK bill, and we are working on our own bill. An extensive consultation document will be published next month. I am sure that members will find it interesting. I hope not only that we can all engage in the consultation process as individuals and political parties, but that we can encourage others to do so. We cannot deal with the subject on a partisan basis; we can only—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Excuse me, minister.

There are far too many conversations going on. Take your conversations outside the chamber.

Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) (Lab): I very much agree with Stewart Stevenson that we should not be partisan on the matter. Will he accept that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has already acknowledged that the Climate Change Bill has the scope to increase the UK target from 60 per cent to 80 per cent, and that he is already considering the science on that matter? He understands that the science is pushing us in that direction. Will the minister therefore accept that that is not a matter of partisan dispute?

Stewart Stevenson: Sarah Boyack makes an absolutely proper point. This is not about competing in the UK, with the different targets that the different countries of the UK may have to set. The targets should reflect the different opportunities and challenges of each country. In Scotland, we can be the renewable energy capital of Europe and make a particularly significant contribution through that.

Alison McInnes seemed to suggest that ministers—that would be myself—would not be accountable to Parliament for the progress that is made. Each year, we intend to show what is happening on climate change and we intend that the minister will be accountable to the relevant committee and to Parliament. I suggest gently to Alison McInnes that her talking about our increased roads budget is fair enough, but I ask could she talk to Mike Rumbles about that. Earlier today, he was actively encouraging me to increase expenditure on roads.

Patrick Harvie said that the bill has a huge scope—I agree. He wants the UK Government to go further. We have just heard an indication that it might be prepared to do so, so we will work with the UK Government as it considers its targets. Over the period to 2050, the year at which both the UK and Scotland seek to achieve their targets, we will learn more about the science. We will learn more about what is possible, and we will understand more about the opportunities that exist.

In the context of the LCM, we have to ensure that we determine Scotland's response to the challenge of climate change. The Government, in setting an 80 per cent target, on which we will be consulting next year, is showing the leadership that is expected. We have been congratulated by Al Gore, and we will deliver on what we have to do for the world and for Scotland. I hope that a 104-year-old Stewart Stevenson can be around in 2050 to see us deliver on that.


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