There is a global climate emergency. The evidence is irrefutable. The science is clear. And people have been clear: they expect action. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a stark warning last year: the world must act now. By 2030 it will be too late to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
Last week another UN body, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, issued a warning about the damage human beings are causing to the planet. It finds that the drivers of damage have accelerated over the past 50 years.
Climate change is one of the top three causes.
Both these reports highlight that it’s not too late for us to turn things around, but to do so requires transformative change. This is not just about government action. And it is not something that only affects Scotland. All countries must act and must do so quickly and decisively. We all have a part to play: individuals, communities, businesses, other organisations. And opposition parties also have a responsibility to look at their own approaches.
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government received advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change in light of the IPCC report.
We acted immediately with amendments to our Climate Change Bill to set a 2045 target for net zero emissions - as we said we’d do. If agreed by Parliament, these will be the most stringent legislative targets anywhere in the world and Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within a generation. The CCC was clear that this will be enormously challenging and is dependent on the UK Government fully playing its part – and so far they have not even committed to follow the CCC advice.
Our Bill amendments were the first step after the CCC advice, but the Scottish Government has been a leader in this field for many years. This Parliament’s 2009 Climate Change Act made us the first country in the world to:
*introduce legally binding annual targets, and
*include a fair share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.
We have already almost halved emissions since 1990 while growing the economy, increasing employment and productivity. We will continue to do so. And we’re doing this with domestic effort alone.
It is important to note that businesses and industry have played an important role and will continue to do so. In response to business feedback we have recently refreshed the Scottish Business Pledge, adding a new element to encourage businesses to consider their impact on the environment.
The transformative changes that are needed offer social and economic opportunities, but there will be risks and challenges to overcome. That is why we are the first country to establish an independent Just Transition Commission to provide advice on how our transition can also promote social cohesion and equality. The CCC has encouraged the UK Government to follow our lead.
Our Climate Change Plan, which was published last year, sets out how emissions will be reduced in every year to 2032. We have committed to updating that Plan within 6 months of the Climate Change Bill receiving Royal Assent. This will require us to look across our whole range of responsibilities to make sure we continue policies that are working and increase action where that is necessary. This won’t be easy.
An emergency needs a systematic response that is appropriate to the scale of the challenge and not just a knee-jerk, piecemeal reaction. All Cabinet Secretaries are looking across the full range of policy areas to identify areas where we can go further, faster.
Since the CCC issued its advice at the beginning of this month we have already announced:
* a change in our approach to airport departure tax;
* a new, ambitious deposit return scheme;
* funding to strengthen the rail freight industry and reduce the amount of freight that travels by road;
* and a new farmer-led initiative to drive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming practices
* and new funding for e-bikes.
The groundwork for further action has been laid with consultations closing in the coming weeks on Energy Efficiency and Low Carbon Heat. And we are working with stakeholders to determine where the Scottish National Investment Bank can have the greatest impact, and how its missions should be framed. All of this will be key to our response to the climate emergency.
Reviews of our Transport and Tourism Policies along with our future Rural Policy, Land Use Strategy, National Islands Plan, NHS Scotland Sustainability Strategy and Learning for Sustainability Action Plan will all place a strong emphasis on addressing climate change, as will our Infrastructure Mission.
Our regional development policy will include climate change objectives, following the example of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, currently under consideration by this Parliament.
And subject to the passage of the Planning Bill at stage 3, the next National Planning Framework and review of the Scottish Planning Policy will include considerable focus on how the planning system can support our climate change goals.
Carbon Management plans will be reviewed across the Scottish Government estate to bring forward the date for reaching net zero emissions to well before 2045.
The CCC has been stark in saying that the proposed new targets will require “a fundamental change from the current piecemeal approach that focuses on specific actions in some sectors to an explicitly economy wide approach”. To deliver the transformational change that is required, we need structural changes across the board: to our planning, procurement, and financial policies, processes and assessments. And as I’ve already said, that is exactly what we will do.
Our response to the climate emergency will impact on how we live as a society and on how our economy operates. This must be a shared, national endeavour: we all need to think more about how we can make our lives more sustainable, cutting down on waste and excess.
To inform our approach and how Government can support and implement the transformational policies we need, we will be consulting widely over the summer to feed into the update of the Climate Change Plan and let everyone have their say on what needs to happen across Scotland in response to the climate emergency.
We will co-convene a summit with industry to develop a shared understanding of what needs to be done, how businesses can contribute, and how we can help. And we will be seeking views from key sectors such as agriculture and land use.
As I said earlier, the CCC has been clear that the UK needs to up its ambition in reserved areas for us to achieve our goals here in Scotland. I wrote to BEIS Minister Claire Perry on 2nd May setting out some of the areas where we – and the CCC – expect the UK Government to take urgent and decisive action.
This includes carbon capture, use and storage, which the CCC says will be critical to our ability to meet the new targets. The UK Government must identify funding to deliver its commitment to build the first CCUS facility in the UK by 2025 and must commit to more than one cluster across the UK. With our North Sea assets and infrastructure, Scotland is the logical location for such clusters.
I requested an urgent meeting to discuss the CCC advice and the UK Government’s response. There has been no answer to that letter or to my request and I reiterate my call to the UK Government to work with us to deliver the transformational changes needed to respond to the climate emergency.
In brief, this Scottish Government, will be placing climate change at the heart of everything we do. I can confirm that it will be at the core of our next Programme for Government and Spending Review.
For those saying this is not enough – what is your offer? How will you help to support a fair and just transition for the people of Scotland? Work with us to bring on board those who are perhaps less convinced about the need for action; look closely at your own activities and those of your organisations and see what more you can do.
For those saying this is too much and too expensive, the evidence shows that the global cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. Future generations will end up paying even more if we fail to take action now.
Scotland has always been an innovator. This is one of our great strengths. Responding to the climate emergency will not be easy, but Scotland is not in the business of taking the easy way out. Scotland’s response to the climate emergency must be hardwired into our national psyche. We must take this journey together, seize the economic opportunities available to us and redefine what world leadership means, not just as a government but as a country. Scotland has declared a global climate emergency and now Scotland must act as one to safeguard our planet for future generations.
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