01 June 2016

S5M-00226 Taking Scotland Forward: Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-00226, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on taking Scotland forward: environment, climate change and land reform.

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

I declare that I have a very small investment—I think that it is about £300—in a community wind farm at Boyndie, which is near where I live and is in my constituency.

I congratulate Andy Wightman on his first speech; we will listen with interest to his subsequent speeches. When I was a minister, the last time that I met and had a serious discussion with him was on an act of the Scottish Parliament—not an act of this Parliament but the Common Good Act 1491. That act was interacting with the Long Leases (Scotland) Bill, which Andy Wightman was interested in and which I as minister was taking through Parliament.

Similarly, I congratulate Mr Burnett on his first speech. I will listen with interest to his future contributions while having no great expectations of having major agreements with him on their content.

I will spend a bit of time on climate justice, which I have spoken about before. In 2012, we initiated what was then thought—and is still thought—to be the first parliamentary debate on climate justice anywhere in the world. We were very much inspired by the work of Mary Robinson, who is a former President of the Republic of Ireland. She is now a feisty campaigner for climate justice around the world. The Mary Robinson Foundation describes climate justice as something that

“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.”

That is an excellent place to start any analysis of the effects of climate change.

We have heard reference to the flooding that took place in north-east Scotland, but the flooding affected not simply the north-east—it affected the south of Scotland and many places across these islands. The losses that individuals experienced were of more than simply homes and furniture—entire lives were put on hold, health was affected and psychological and practical safety was eroded.

The Scottish Government responded well—£12 million was released in January to aid those who were affected by the floods. That was the correct response, but preventative measures are also important, because we must head off disasters before they happen. We cannot remain at the mercy of climate change.

For the rest of the world, the issue is even greater. In Scotland, the UK and the developed world as a whole, we have the resources to respond. However, in the Philippines between 2005 and 2016, for example, it is thought that $16 billion of damage arose from climate change as a result of the rising of the oceans and the intensification of typhoons. The 2014 “World Disasters Report” showed that nearly 2 billion people were affected by disasters over the 10 years to 2013. About 95 per cent of those who suffered were in medium-development or low-development countries. We who have benefited from the industries that have created the problem of climate change through anthropogenic effects are not the ones who are paying the cost.

Climate change is also a gender issue because—particularly in Africa—it is women who are differentially most adversely affected by it. They are often the gatherers of wood and the transporters of water; they are having to travel further to get those materials and that is an effect that is specific to gender. We in the developed world have to work collaboratively with people around the world on this issue, and I am delighted that we are doing so.

In the last part of my speech, I will turn to some of the things that John Scott and other Conservatives have said about how jobs can be created by fracking. Those comments are entirely hypocritical—we have seen a turning away from the prospect of jobs from carbon capture and storage at Peterhead in my constituency and in the north of England as well. We have seen a closing down of the future prospects for renewable energy sources—tidal, wind, offshore—by the changing of the regime. At the same time, we are prepared to engage ElectricitĂ© de France to build Hinckley Point nuclear power station to generate electricity at many times the cost that we could do so with renewables.

Finally, I say gently to my colleagues in the Labour seats that, although I do not stand between them and their arguments against fracking—I am of course with them—the amendment that they invite us to support at 5 o’clock tonight is one which will bring fracking closer, not move it away. If we make a decision against fracking without subsequently being able to defend a judicial review in court based on evidence, we will bring forward the date at which companies can bring fracking to Scotland. That is why I will not be supporting the Labour amendment, although I will support the words that have been said by many of the members.


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