14 December 2016

S5M-02049 Climate Targets

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-02049, in the name of Maree Todd, on Scotland’s climate targets. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises what it sees as the contribution made by the recently-published report, The Energy of Scotland: Heating, moving and powering our lives from now to 2030, to the debate about the future of Scotland’s energy; understands that the report, which was prepared by WWF Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and RSPB Scotland, is based on technical analysis by the leading global technical consultancy, Ricardo Energy and Environment; notes its findings suggesting that producing 50% of all of Scotland’s energy across heat, transport and electricity from renewables by 2030 is achievable and necessary; recognises what it sees as the progress to date in deploying renewables across the electricity sector; understands that these generate the equivalent of more than half of the country’s demand and have brought economic benefits, especially in the Highlands and Islands, and notes the views regarding the work that now needs to be done to support renewables in the heat and transport sectors, which, it understands, together account for more than three-quarters of Scotland’s total energy consumption.

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

Presiding Officer, I wish you a happy birthday—it is always as well to get credit with the Presiding Officers; it is one of the rules in this place—and I thank Maree Todd for securing the debate.

I found myself agreeing with every word that Maurice Golden said in what was a very worthwhile contribution. In the light of that agreement, I gently encourage him and his Conservative colleagues to consider signing a motion from time to time, even if there is an SNP name on it. However, that is a political point that I do not want to stress.

The key point to make is that the report that is the subject of this evening’s debate makes many points that are critical to our economy, to renewable energy and—fundamentally—to climate change. Members will know of my personal engagement as the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change who took the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill through in 2009, which was a very challenging bill.

It is fair to acknowledge that an area that has already been the subject of debate—renewable heat—is one of the areas in which the challenge is greatest. Renewable heat is proving to be fundamentally more difficult to develop than we imagined in 2009 it would be. That does not mean that we should ignore it: on the contrary, it is the difficult things to which we must now turn our attention, but we will do so having had successes in other areas.

I accept that transport emissions remain a difficult area. I will tell members a little story about that. When I was minister, I went to a meeting of eco-congregations, which took place in a rural area and was attended by people from all over Scotland who were enthusiastic about making faith groups more ecologically friendly. I found ready ears for what I had to say, until I made the mistake of saying that, in transport, one of the things that people like me who live in rural areas might think about is co-ordinating with neighbours our visits to local towns to do our shopping. I can describe what happened only by saying that all Hades—I use the word carefully—broke loose, because it turned out that even among the most enthusiastic climate change adopters, that was for everyone else to do—not them. The big challenge lies with the people and in our persuading them to adopt new ways of working.

The UK has been doing reasonably well in the rankings, although it is going a bit backwards at the moment. Scotland accounts for one seven-hundredth of the world’s emissions and is widely recognised as being one of the leaders in tackling climate change—albeit that there are other areas of the world that are in certain respects doing better than we are. The leadership that we have displayed is being challenged by some of the UK Government’s policies on renewable energy.

However, I am hopeful, because there is economic benefit to be gained from addressing climate change. We create new jobs and reduce our long-term costs, because the raw material for renewable energy is, after all, all but free once we have made the capital investment. Those are areas that we can consider and in which we can, I hope, make progress. Scotland has engineering skills that we can leverage across from our oil and gas industry, in particular into new offshore renewable energy installations. First-mover advantage is still there for us to grasp.

I hope that the debate makes a useful contribution, just as the report that we are discussing and the work of WWF, Friends of the Earth Scotland and RSPB Scotland have made excellent contributions on climate change. I look forward to listening to my colleagues’ speeches.

I wish you a happy birthday, once again, Presiding Officer.


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