Climate Change Committee Scotland report - next steps: Net Zero Secretary statement - 18 April 2024

Statement delivered to the Scottish Parliament by Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy Màiri McAllan on Thursday 18 April 2024. 

Presiding Officer, the race to net zero is one that we must all win and I want to begin by affirming this Government’s unwavering commitment to ending our contribution to global emissions by 2045 at the latest, as agreed by Parliament on a cross-party basis.

I was grateful for the latest report from the Climate Change Committee on our progress in reducing emissions. The CCC are a key partner in our net zero journey and their insights are essential. 

Their report, it recognised much to be proud of, including this Government’s provision of free bus travel to all under 22s, our work delivering more woodland in Scotland in a year than any other UK nations combined and our work on decarbonising Heat in Buildings, noting that it could become a template for the rest of the UK.

Considerable progress is also being made in energy. Scotland is becoming a renewables powerhouse - with 87.9% electricity generation coming from zero or low carbon sources in 2022.

These are just some of the examples of the considerable work that has been taken and which sees us nearly halfway to net zero, narrowly missing our most recent annual emission reduction target, but decarbonising faster than the UK average.

But quite rightly, just as with the UK Government, the CCC challenges us to go further. And that is exactly what we will do as today, I am announcing a new package of climate action measures, which we will deliver with partners to support Scotland’s transition to net zero.

Firstly, Presiding Officer, the global transition to zero emission vehicles is happening apace. Indeed, major car manufacturers have named the day when they will cease manufacture of new petrol and diesel cars.

Scotland has long been at the forefront of helping people make the transition to EVs.

But now we will go further, working in partnership to more than quadruple the number of electric vehicle charge points across Scotland.

Collaborating across the public and private sector, Scotland will see approximately 24,000 additional charge points by 2030. This will help ease any remaining ‘range-anxiety’ that people may feel and make sure that going electric is an option in every part of  our nation.

To make public transport fit better with people’s lives and to encourage us all to choose more sustainable transport, we will also explore a new national integrated ticketing system for public transport in Scotland. We will encourage and support operators across all modes of transport to participate in this project, which aims to enable passengers to use one ticketing system for all elements of a journey. 

We will help people be less reliant on cars and we will publish a ‘route map’ to help deliver a 20% reduction in car use. This will not be a one size fits all top-down approach. We understand that urban and rural Scotland will contribute differently to this and our Just Transition Plan for transport will ensure support for all communities.

Turning to other vehicles, we will support the transition away from petrol and diesel vans. Working with business, including the largest companies for an initial phase and in line with our New Deal for Business principles, we will develop plans and support mechanisms to accelerate the switch to zero emission technologies and more sustainable modes. We understand the importance of this transition to small businesses and independent traders, in particular, and we will ensure that their needs are at the heart of this work.

Scotland’s food and drink, Presiding Officer, is a significant national success story and food security is important to this government. That’s why we are supporting our farming community to continue producing food whilst lowering emissions. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs is working with the sector to deliver this, including through the ongoing Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill and the Agriculture Reform Board she co-chairs with the National Farmers Union. But we want to do more to support our agricultural sector to lead the way in regenerative farming and food production.

That’s why we will take forward a pilot scheme with some Scottish farms, to establish future appropriate uptake of methane supressing feed products or additives, a key measure to reduce emissions from livestock where practical. Some of these additives are being pioneered here in Scotland so we look forward to working on this home-grown innovation.

Proportionate Carbon audits will be required by farms receiving public support by 2028 at the latest. Nutrient Management plans will build on this and be integrated into the whole farm plans.

We will also accelerate our Regional Land Use Partnerships, with up to three new areas coming into the initiative over the next year, recognising, of course, successful partnerships are those driven by communities.

And to further accelerate peatland restoration, we will investigate how partial re-wetting can co-exist with continued agricultural activity and access to Agricultural Support, including investing of up to £1m in pilot projects.

This summer, Presiding Officer, we will also launch a consultation on carbon land tax on the largest estates, as part of considering regulatory and fiscal measures that could further incentivise peatland restoration, afforestation and renewable energy production. 

We are also considering the recommendation from the Green Heat Finance Taskforce to review and publish, by the end of 2024, analysis of how non-domestic rates relief can better support our climate ambitions and encourage investment in energy efficiency and clean heating systems. This will be developed working closely with the business community, in line with New Deal for Business principles.

Presiding Officer, Scotland is distinguished by the importance that we place on a just transition. We will publish our final Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan this summer, to be followed by draft plans for Agriculture, Transport, Buildings and Construction. Moreover, following the publication of a Just Transition Plan for Grangemouth, I can confirm that we will co-develop a Just Transition Plan for Mossmorran.

These policies again emphasise the critical role that Scottish businesses and industry play in our net zero transformation and we will work closely with them throughout delivery.

Reflecting on the recent Audit Scotland report on climate change governance, we will redouble efforts to ensure net zero is fully considered in our workforce, spending, policy development and structures, starting with the full roll out of a net zero assessment in the Scottish Government from the end of 2024.

And to ensure that spending across the public sector reflects our net zero ambitions, we will work with COSLA, including through our Climate Delivery Framework, to understand wider public sector spend and opportunities for action.

Finally, we will propose the establishment of a 4 Nations Climate Response Group, with a remit including climate financing and the balance of reserved and devolved powers.

These policies, they sit alongside extensive ongoing work and will be built upon through our next Climate Change Plan and Green Industrial Strategy.

Presiding Officer, with this ambitious new package, allow there be no doubt about the seriousness with which this government treats the climate and nature crisis - and our readiness to act. To deliver.

We must, however, acknowledge that we do so in difficult circumstances. The Climate Change Committee is clear that “The UK is already substantially off track for 2030” and achieving future UK carbon budgets “will require sustained increase in the pace and breadth of decarbonisation across most major sectors”. Indeed, we do see climate backtracking at UK level.

With severe budgetary restrictions imposed by the UK Government and under the continuing constraints of devolution, we are trying to deliver societal and economic transformation with one hand tied behind our back.

Indeed, such is the UK Government’s unprecedent economic mismanagement, full delivery of our plans will be contingent on the UK Government reversing the 9% cut to our capital budget.

This Government and Parliament, we rightly have high ambitions,and it is beyond doubt that investing now in net zero is the right thing for our environment, our society and our economy.  But we are being held back.

So I am asking MSPs across the chamber to work with us to call on the UK Government to reverse Scotland’s capital cut.

And whilst the Opposition quite rightly demand that the Scottish Government take urgent action to address the climate crisis, if they are serious about this challenge they must now stand with us in support of today’s policy package and the remainder of work that we are taking forward across this year and the coming years. And do that, instead of opposing the measures that we propose.

In this challenging context of cuts and UK backtracking, we accept the CCCs recent re-articulation that this Parliament’s interim 2030 target is out of reach. We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale that is feasible, fair and just.

And with this in mind, I can today confirm that, working with Parliament on a timetable, the Scottish Government will bring forward expedited legislation to address matters raised by the CCC and ensure our legislative framework better reflects the reality of long-term climate policymaking.

The narrowly drawn Bill will retain our legal commitment to 2045 alongside annual reporting on progress, whilst introducing a target approach based on five-yearly carbon budgets.

Presiding Officer, with our legal commitment to reach net zero by 2045 steadfastly remaining and recommitted today and with Scotland's emissions already nearly cut in half, we are well positioned to continue leading on climate action that is fair and ambitious and capable of rising to the emergency before us.

This Government will not yield to climate culture wars. We will never shrink our duty to those impacted by climate change today and to future generations. Together we know we can tackle the crisis with the pace and urgency required. Indeed with very minor legislative amendments that I am proposing today, we will pave the way for continued ambition and pragmatic delivery against this most important challenge.

Thank you.

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