13 December 2012

S4M-05186 United Nations Climate Change Negotiations

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-05186, in the name of Paul Wheelhouse, on the United Nations climate change negotiations. ...

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

When we passed our Climate Change (Scotland) Bill in 2009 we did so unanimously. I am delighted to have heard excellent speeches from Claudia Beamish and, with the exception of his nuclear obsession, Alex Johnstone. I am pleased that we still seem to have a common view on where we should be going, because it is our ambition, engagement and contribution to this vital debate that will book our place in worldwide discussions.

Our attendance at various conferences of the parties predated this Government, with Ross Finnie previously attending. COP14 was my first conference of the parties, which was held in Poznan. I found such huge conferences an immensely puzzling experience—the Copenhagen conference was attended by more than 40,000 people—and they are initially quite intimidating. I congratulate the minister on the engagement that he achieved at his first COP.

Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab): Will Mr Stevenson advise us how the 40,000 people got to the conference?

Stewart Stevenson: Neil Findlay’s Labour colleague, the Welsh environment minister, went by train, which took two days each way. Unfortunately the parliamentary arithmetic in Scotland meant that I was not allowed by the whips to make that same choice and I had to fly. I regret that, but that is the honest truth of the matter.

In 2009, the convener in Copenhagen said:

“This is the time to deliver. This is the place to commit.”

Delivery and commitment remain bafflingly elusive; progress is snail-like, but it is being made. COP17, when we were in Durban, reached agreement on the timeline for a global climate treaty. How has Doha COP18 progressed matters? I am delighted that the damaging effects of climate change on gender issues, in particular on women, moved up the agenda. I am delighted that the Government has worked with Mary Robinson on the broader climate justice agenda, in particular how that affects women. I very much welcome the minister’s announcement that we will host a climate justice conference.

We know that climate change is damaging farming in Africa and reducing access to water and firewood. That is no mere inconvenience to people in faraway countries. They are paying the price for what we have created for them through our emissions, so it is a moral issue for us all. However, it also represents a genuine economic, and perhaps wider, threat. Mass migration from areas of aridity to areas with water is inevitable. There is also the prospect of family dislocations and real conflict.

When the Kyoto protocol was first introduced, countries such as Russia and Poland signed up in good faith, expecting that the accounting units that they were allocated would lead to their having money to invest in dealing with the problem. The failure of the US, and Canada’s subsequent withdrawal, have undercut that. If it is difficult to get those countries to re-engage, I understand that.

If the United States needs a warning, hurricane Sandy is one. The same thing will happen again and it will happen more frequently. There are states in the United States, such as California, that are engaged on the matter, but we need the big boys in the big pond to make a real commitment to real change.

I congratulate the minister on his work at Doha. I hope that we all support him.


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