18 March 2010

S3M-5978 Climate Change (Closing Speech)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 18 March 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]

Climate Change

... ... ...

The Presiding Officer: ... we come to the first item of business, which is a debate on motion S3M-5978, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on climate change.

... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson:

Parliamentary debates on climate change have thus far produced consensus, and today's debate has been no exception. I join other members in welcoming the £220 million that the European Investment Bank is providing to Nissan to build a facility at Sunderland where up to 50,000 electric cars a year will be produced. Nissan states that it will provide the first mass-market, affordable electric car. We will watch that with considerable interest.

Cycling has been raised several times. I, too, read the Spokes bulletin. Spokes chooses to focus only on what the Government spends, not on what is spent on cycling in Scotland, and one can reach very different conclusions if one looks at the whole picture. Particularly in cycling, delivery works well if it is led at the local level. In the past, I have referred to the efforts of Moray Council, but there are many other councils with cycling initiatives, including East Lothian Council, which has good schools practice. I mention those two councils only because I am familiar with their initiatives, not for any other reason.

We published a sustainable procurement action plan in October 2009 that includes guidance on climate change issues, low-carbon vehicles, renewable energy and so on. We also have contracts in place for information and communications technology improvements and for lighting and water supply to our offices that show that we are taking action. Public sector engagement has been mentioned several times. Work on a strategy and a linked behaviour change research programme is under way, and the public engagement strategy is being developed.

Time permits me to turn to only a few of the things that have been said in the debate. Alison McInnes welcomed our continuing commitment to a 42 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. We will work together with the Parliament on that.

Patrick Harvie made the point that we must reduce energy use in the home, and we are engaging on that subject. However, he said that, even in the context of electric vehicles, increasing mobility is not a public good. There will be less consensus across the Parliament on that. Given the present climate in which we continue to burn oil out of the ground for much of our transport infrastructure, I accept that while we have seen huge improvements in the fuel economy of vehicles it is not appropriate for people simply to increase the amount of travelling that they do, as that would lead to a rising curve of oil consumption. That points to some of the limitations of viewing tackling climate change as simply an engineering problem. Particularly in relation to oil use, it is an issue with a human aspect to it as well.

Malcolm Chisholm rather unwisely referred to the use of hybrid vehicles in his time as a minister. The hybrid vehicles in which he travelled emitted 215g of CO2 per kilometre, whereas the vehicles that we now procure—which all have diesel engines—emit only 149g of CO2 per kilometre. That is a 31 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Sarah Boyack: Will the minister give way on that point?

Stewart Stevenson: I do not have time. My apologies.

I use that illustration to make the general point that considerable work is going on to improve all the technologies that are deployed in transport. Governments of all shades, including the Scottish Government, do not have a particularly good track record in betting on winning technologies. We must, therefore, ensure that we have a variety of technologies going forward, as we just do not know what will work best. Hydrogen fuel cell technology will complement the work that is going on to develop electric vehicles.

George Foulkes provided some good, knockabout stuff. He referred to the three weeks in which Stewart Stevenson made so many journeys. It is true that I did. I am going to upset a former school colleague. I went to school with Nina Myskow, who is one of the ladies who appear on "Grumpy Old Women". I am a grumpy old man who does not like Christmas, and I happen to be the minister who was on duty for four days over the Christmas period, therefore my travel plans were entirely different from those of other ministers. Believe me, we get the message and we are on the case.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am afraid that, on that happy note, you must stop, minister.


S3M-5978 Climate Change (Opening Speech)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 18 March 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]

Climate Change

... ... ...

The Presiding Officer: ... we come to the first item of business, which is a debate on motion S3M-5978, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on climate change.

... ... ...


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

I hope that it will aid the debate if I say that we are prepared to support Mr Johnstone's and Ms McInnes's amendments.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government. The debate comes at a timely moment, when we have had the chance to absorb and reflect on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference at the end of last year.

Like Sarah Boyack, the Government feels that the Copenhagen proceedings were very disappointing. They did not deliver the hoped-for commitments to emission cuts or a timetable for a new treaty, but the Copenhagen accord can be seen as a first step towards a new legally binding international agreement. It captures recognition from major players—the USA, China, India and Brazil among others—of the need to keep the global temperature rise within two degrees of pre-industrial levels and to support adaptation in the developing world. That is an important step forward, as it brings countries to the table that had expressed varying degrees of reservation.

The United Nations tells us that 70 countries have submitted mitigation targets and plans to the accord, representing more than 80 per cent of global energy emissions.

Scotland retains its position among the leading nations prepared to commit to high ambition in tackling climate change. One of the interesting things in the UK Committee on Climate Change's advice is that it draws attention to the fact that, on the basis on which the UK Government has set its targets, our 80 per cent is equivalent to 84 per cent, because of our inclusion of shipping and aviation. We will continue to work with other nations, states and sub-state organisations to influence targets across the world and we will, of course, work closely with the UK and the EU, two of our most important partners that have influence over the majority of the emissions in Scotland—an issue that my amendment addresses.

The UK Government wants to broaden, deepen and strengthen the commitments made at Copenhagen, to secure a legally binding framework and increase the EU commitment from 20 to 30 per cent reductions by 2020, provided that there is high ambition from others. We want that to be converted to an unconditional offer of 30 per cent, and we will campaign and engage to try to achieve that.

As part of our commitment to being a responsible nation, I announced in Paris earlier this month our intention to plant 100 million trees by 2015 as part of a 1 billion tree commitment by the Climate Group's states and regions alliance. That is in the context of a commitment by that alliance to plant one tree for every person on the planet; we are planting 20 for every person in Scotland. That is the kind of policy change that we are implementing. The aims to encourage Governments, businesses and communities worldwide are clear.

We will see a shift in the year ahead to domestic delivery. We are committed to the economic opportunities presented by the low-carbon economy to which Sarah Boyack referred. We provide the certainty that businesses and communities need to plan for a low-carbon future. We are now seeing examples of the low-carbon economy developing at every level in society: in communities, businesses, districts, towns and local authorities. All of society needs to take action. We provide the political driver, working with our colleagues in COSLA, through the new public sector climate action group. Membership is drawn from across the public sector and I co-chair the group with Alison Hay, the COSLA spokesperson for sustainable development.

The subject of Government cars has already arisen. Three years ago, the typical car that we bought had emissions of 138g of CO2 per kilometre; today the figure is 119g. There have been even bigger reductions in respect of ministerial cars. We have put ourselves on the road to setting an example and implementing the agenda that we need to pursue.

The advice that we have had from the UK Committee on Climate Change is complex, but very useful. It shows that it is possible for us to meet the 42 per cent objective that we have set ourselves and we will, of course, continue to work towards that 42 per cent, even in the absence of the European Union stepping up its ambition from 20 to 30 per cent. I am sure that that will reassure many in the chamber.

I thought that I heard Ms Boyack say that she campaigned for what has turned out to be an unambitious council tax discount policy. I think that councils are engaged on the issue. Members will remember that we structured things in the way that we did to allow us to continue to have access to carbon emissions reduction target—CERT—money. I think that that is the right approach for us to take.

We are making the kind of progress that befits our ambitions as the leading country on climate change. We have good relationships with the UK Government at both official and ministerial level. I attended two environment councils with Ed Miliband and we have discussed this subject. We have shared ambition. Scotland has a huge contribution to make to UK ambitions and we will work effectively to ensure that we help the UK deliver its ambitions while also ensuring that we in Scotland do the absolute maximum that we can.

I move amendment S3M-5978.1, to insert at end:

", and urges the European Union and UK Government to take action to support Scotland's ambitious plans and targets."


10 March 2010

S3M-5832 Commonwealth Day 2010

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 10 March 2010

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]
... ... ...
Commonwealth Day 2010

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-5832, in the name of Sandra White, on Commonwealth day 2010, science, technology and society. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament considers that the Commonwealth has a valuable role in strengthening relationships between nations across the world; welcomes the continued contribution of Scotland and its people to those relationships; reaffirms its support for the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA); notes that, this year, the CPA Scotland Branch and the Scottish Government have, as a key focus, continued to develop relationships with Australia, Canada, Malawi and New Zealand; considers that Scotland has contributed throughout the Commonwealth to promoting technological innovation as a powerful tool for fighting poverty and climate change; commends the CPA Secretariat for facilitating an online discussion via web and teleconferencing during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009; believes that it would be helpful if international organisations and donors focussed on science and technology to strengthen expertise in this area, particularly among developing countries, and commends the theme of Commonwealth Day this year, Science, Technology and Society.

... ... ...

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

This has been an interesting debate that has been brought to the chamber by Sandra White. I, too, add my thanks. I confess that I have not read the report on the Commonwealth conversation, which was published last week; however, I might be inspired to seek it out and see what it says.

Sandra White referred to morals and ethics for the 21st century. It is fair to say that that strand ran through several of the speeches tonight. The CPA is essentially not economic or military, but is an association of people who share values and want to build a world that is fair to everyone. In introducing that in her opening remarks, Sandra White was absolutely on the money.

Karen Gillon focused, as did Willie Coffey, on science and development. She talked about the need for access to knowledge in many parts of the Commonwealth and about the role that Scotland and the Commonwealth as a whole can play in ensuring that countries that have less capability than we have receive the support that we can give. She graphically illustrated some of the health threats in one of our close partners, Malawi, and focused on the academic links that both benefit the academics in Scotland by increasing their knowledge base, and benefit countries around the Commonwealth through the knowledge that we can transfer to them. That is done somewhat outside the parameters of the patents system, to which Willie Coffey referred and which is sometimes a severe inhibitor to the useful transfer of intellectual property for good social and health purposes.

Karen Gillon also raised one of my particular ministerial interests when she talked about climate change and mentioned the role of engineers in generating electricity. When we talk about technology, we tend to think about the advanced computer stuff and high-precision engineering.

However, it is interesting to see how quite simple things make real differences to people's lives. When I was in Barcelona for a pre-meeting for the Copenhagen climate change conference, I saw a solar furnace—a portable umbrella that a person can carry around in a bag and which, when set up with a kettle in the middle of it, will boil the kettle in 20 minutes by the power of the sun alone. There are many innovations that are simple, inexpensive, can be replicated without vast industrial infrastructures and which will be of use to Commonwealth countries around the world.

Willie Coffey referred to the patents system, and highlighted the role that global system for mobile communications phones have played throughout Africa. Occasionally, there is an advantage in not having an existing infrastructure, because that allows a country to leap forward over the old technologies to new technologies. The Commonwealth can be a vehicle for enabling countries to do that.

Ted Brocklebank spent over much of his time talking about Tommy Sheridan. My view of Tommy Sheridan is that he is his own worst enemy, which is—when we consider the competition—a terrific achievement.

As someone who is one and a half generations away from Gaelic and regrets having virtually none of it, I also found it interesting to hear what Ted Brocklebank said about work on the Maori language.

Jamie Stone has been engaged with the Commonwealth through his work in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for some considerable time.

Members talked about many people joining the Commonwealth. One of the interesting things that really illustrated the value of the Commonwealth was Rwanda's joining in 2009. Of course, that country has no historical connection to the United Kingdom, but was a colonial outpost of Belgium and Germany. The fact that it has joined shows that the idea of the Commonwealth is much bigger than perhaps anyone imagined when it was first dreamed up. The Commonwealth is a glue that binds many countries together.

Later this year, the Commonwealth games will be held in Delhi, after which we will see the transfer of host status from India to Scotland. The year 2014 will bring the Commonwealth, on the sporting field, directly to Scotland, which will show what we can contribute to the world on the sporting field and that we can organise such an event.

As a country, we have always looked beyond our borders. We might not have sent many convicts to Australia, but because I do family research, I know that one of my distant cousins—a first cousin four times removed, I think—was a member of Parliament in Australia, although I hasten to add that that was 130 years ago.

We are still managing to find the money to fund an international development budget. We are increasing it from £6 million to £9 million in 2010-2011. That is part of Scotland's contribution to the global fight against poverty.

My colleague the Minister for Culture and External Affairs will publish four components of a programme of engagements with south Asia before the summer recess. We are looking to build further links with India, Pakistan and south Asia more generally.

The Copenhagen conference was a great disappointment to many people but it was, nonetheless, an opportunity to make terrific links with various countries, which will serve us well as we progress the climate change agenda. In sub-Saharan Africa, the threat of climate change is real and imminent and is of a different character from the difficulties that we would experience from climate change. Running through the climate change agenda is the moral core that we need to take action on the climate in order to help people around the Commonwealth and around the world.

This has been a first-class debate, although it has barely scratched the surface of an immense subject that we will, I am sure, debate again and again, and always to good purpose.

Meeting closed at 17:38.

03 March 2010

S3M-5859 A90 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Special Road Scheme 2010 - et al

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 3 March 2010

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]
... ... ...
Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is consideration of six Parliamentary Bureau motions. I ask Bruce Crawford to move en bloc motions S3M-5859 to S3M-5864, on the approval of Scottish statutory instruments on the Aberdeen western peripheral route.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the A90 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Special Road Scheme 2010 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the A90 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Trunk Road Order 2010 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the A90 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) (Craibstone Junction) Special Road Scheme 2010 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the A96 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Trunk Road Order 2010 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the A956 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Special Road Scheme 2010 be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the A956 (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) Trunk Road Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

... ... ...

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Aberdeen western peripheral route is of course somewhat more than simply a strategic road for the north-east of Scotland: it is important for the whole of Scotland and substantial economic benefits will accrue from it. I will turn my attention to a number of points that Patrick Harvie raised.

The Aarhus convention and the habitats directive are of course under active consideration elsewhere, and I am inhibited in what I can say specifically about them, apart from making the obvious point that this Government would take no action in such matters if we believed that it was not legal.

Costs will be included in the discussions that I will have with the chief executives of Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council and the leader of the latter council in about nine days' time, as part of a regular programme of meetings. They have been content with our approach thus far.

One of Patrick Harvie's key suggestions is that every project that has a carbon impact should simply not be proceeded with. Were that to be the argument, it would mean that we would not spend on costs to insulate houses to improve their energy efficiency, because there is a carbon cost to that. We have always said that, across our programme as a whole, we will seek to deliver on the targets that we as a Government and a Parliament committed to when we passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill last June.

It is appropriate to draw members' attention to another motion on which we will shortly vote, on the carbon reduction commitment energy efficiency scheme. That scheme, which was debated at the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee in the form in which we will decide on it at decision time, will lead at United Kingdom level to the reduction of 4 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. The Scottish share of that is around a third of a million tonnes. I concede that the effect of the Aberdeen western peripheral route will be an addition of 10,000 tonnes. The decisions that we make at five o'clock will therefore have the effect of reducing the carbon emissions that we in totality are responsible for by some 320,000 tonnes. The totality of the programme is the important point. The Aberdeen western peripheral route is a vital link for the north-east of Scotland that is, I think, broadly supported—we shall see at decision time—by members across the chamber. I am happy to endorse the motions that my colleague moved, and I commend them to the Parliament.


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