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Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Urgent Question

2030 Climate Change Targets

Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Climate Change Committee stating that the scale of reductions in emissions needed for Scotland to meet its 2030 climate change targets is “beyond what is credible”.

The Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy (Màiri McAllan)

I am grateful for the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee. We will carefully consider the report’s recommendations and, indeed, we are already considering the Government’s next steps.

It is worth noting that the CCC has always been clear that meeting the legislated 2030 target, which was agreed by this Parliament on a cross-party basis, will be extremely challenging and may not be feasible. However, I assure those in the chamber that all options, including legislative action, are part of the Government’s consideration of how to respond.

Scotland is already halfway to net zero emissions. We continue to decarbonise faster than the United Kingdom average. We remain fully committed to meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2045 and we are committing £4.7 billion to support the delivery of our climate change goals in next year’s budget alone.

Maurice Golden

The Scottish Government is to blame for this. Members should not take that from me—the Climate Change Committee is clear that there

“are risks in all areas with significant policy powers devolved to the Scottish Government”.

Moreover, the CCC has warned that the decision to delay the next climate change plan leaves a significant period without sufficient action or policies to reach the 2030 target. The Scottish Government has inflicted that problem on itself and on Scotland. Given the scale of the emergency, will the cabinet secretary commit to introducing a climate change plan before the mandatory deadline of November?

Màiri McAllan

No, I will not commit to doing that. I am extremely proud of the progress that Scotland has made. I noted in my opening answer that we are around halfway to net zero emissions, and the long-term trajectory of decarbonisation is what is most important. We have got there through a combination of measures, not least since we declared the climate emergency, by completing the world’s largest offshore floating wind leasing round and by putting into the ground 75 per cent of all the forests that have been created in the UK in the past five years.

We have created four low-emission zones. We have the most comprehensive network of public electric vehicle charging anywhere in the UK outside London and the most generous concessionary package for bus travel. We have banned single-use plastics. We have 37 per cent of our waters in marine protected areas. All of that has contributed to the progress that has been made to date.

What I do not underestimate for a second, and what it does nobody any good to underplay, is the magnitude of the challenge of the climate emergency. We cannot get to net zero overnight, but the Government remains absolutely committed to taking action in pursuit of it.

Maurice Golden

To govern is to prioritise. It is evident that the Scottish National Party and the Greens have been chasing headlines, not environmental results. Why else would we be in a situation where eight of the past 12 statutory emissions targets have been failed and the 2030 target looks doomed to failure as well? Can the cabinet secretary confirm whether the Scottish Government has now abandoned the 2030 target?

Màiri McAllan

I was very clear that we are actively considering all options in respect of the views of the Committee on Climate Change, as they were set out today, including legislation.

I must remind Maurice Golden of a bit of context and, in particular, the fact that his party in the UK Government has fought to open coal mines at the same time—[Interruption.]—as it has failed to commission onshore and offshore wind in England, while we have moved ahead in Scotland—[Interruption.]

Let us hear the cabinet secretary.

Not least—these are the actions of the UK Government—is its failure, for example, to prioritise—[Interruption.]

Excuse me, cabinet secretary. I suggest that members who put questions and those who are responding should always have the opportunity to do that in a way that means others can hear what they are saying.

Màiri McAllan

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I was just going to complete the list of the UK Government’s failures by noting its inexplicable failure to support the Acorn carbon capture, utilisation and storage project at track 1.

I will set that against what the Scottish Tories have done in this Parliament. They have stood in the way of even modest measures that the Scottish Government has sought to bring forward, including low-emission zones, workplace parking levies and the deposit return scheme. Maurice Golden really ought to do some soul searching over the contribution that he and his party have made to the progress on climate change. We will get on with delivering for Scotland.

Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

The Climate Change Committee previously estimated that, to achieve our climate change targets, Scotland will need an additional £5 billion to £6 billion of investment in low-carbon infrastructure each and every year from 2030. At the same time, Scotland is facing an almost 10 per cent real-terms cut to our UK capital funding between 2023-24 and 2027-28.

Will the cabinet secretary affirm that the Scottish Government will continue to call on the UK Government to change course and provide adequate funding to match our climate ambitions in Scotland?

Màiri McAllan

We absolutely will continue to urge the UK Government to provide adequate funding for us to meet and rise to the climate emergency.

Frustratingly, our calls in respect of the spring budget to address that issue went completely unanswered, with no additional capital funding in 2024-25. That came off the back of a year of unprecedented position changing by the UK Government, in which it reneged on some of its key net zero commitments and appeared to fabricate commitments on recycling bins and the number of them that people might be expected to have. It makes a mockery, frankly, of the seriousness of the climate emergency.

I point members to a piece published last week by the Scottish Fiscal Commission, which makes it clear that the burden of reaching the UK’s net zero target will “fall disproportionately” on Scotland when it comes to spend.

We will continue to push the UK Government to change course and ensure that future financial settlements provide us with the resources that we need to meet our 2045 target, while we note, of course, that that is interlinked entirely with the UK’s target.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

The Committee on Climate Change’s report is a damning indictment of the Scottish Government’s lack of progress on achieving net zero. SNP and Green rhetoric has not been matched by action.

It is not just me who thinks that. Today, Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a respected organisation with more than 60 member organisations, said:

“the Scottish Government has lost its position as a climate leader and we would like to see the First Minister make an emergency statement to Parliament to set out his response.”

Will the cabinet secretary agree that the Scottish Government has lost its position as a climate leader since our first climate act was passed, 15 years ago? Will the Government bring an emergency statement so that the First Minister can respond in full to Parliament?

Màiri McAllan

As the net zero secretary, I am answering an urgent question on those matters now, and I will be happy to continue to liaise with members from across the chamber, because I understand the importance of the issue.

The advice that we have received from the Climate Change Committee today is very important in respect of the 2030 target. I have made it clear that we are actively considering how we respond, including via legislation, and I will keep Parliament up to date on that. The core fact remains that the Scottish National Party and our partners the Greens are utterly committed to tackling climate change.

The truth is that no Government, in facing the magnitude of the climate emergency, should ever say that it is doing enough—members will not hear that from me, or not until we are at net zero. It does us no good to underplay the magnitude of what we are talking about. A true transformation across our economy and society will not be achieved overnight, but we remain absolutely committed to doing everything that we can in pursuit of it.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

The cabinet secretary will recall that she attended the same summit as I did in Bute house with the First Minister, at which Chris Stark trailed the fact that his report would show that we are nowhere near meeting our 2030 target. He indicated that the biggest drivers of CO2 emissions in Scotland are still buildings and transport, yet the Government, in the budget that was published after that meeting and finally passed, reduces insulation budgets by £10 million and reduces the just transition fund by 76 per cent. The cabinet secretary will be aware that her Government has presided over a situation in which we have 100 million fewer bus journeys each year, thereby eroding our commitment to public transport.

Can she see that that direction of travel is what has led to the report’s findings? Will she commit to addressing the targets and those deficiencies in funding in the negotiations around subsequent Government budgets?

Màiri McAllan

We liaise regularly with Chris Stark and members of the Climate Change Committee—it is our statutory adviser, so of course we do that. I hope that Alex Cole-Hamilton enjoyed his visit to Bute house and the constructive meeting that we had there with Chris Stark.

Alex Cole-Hamilton mentioned a couple of policy areas, one of which is heat in buildings, which today’s report draws out as a recent success of the Scottish Government. We have received some 1,700 responses to our consultation on a heat in buildings bill, which we will now take forward.

He also mentioned public transport. In my opening answer, I narrated that we have the most supportive concessionary travel scheme in the UK, with millions of people travelling free. Finally, I draw Alex Cole-Hamilton’s attention to the fact that, in this year’s budget, with the most difficult financial settlement that we have faced in the devolution era, the Government is providing £4.7 billion towards actions that will support achieving our climate goals.

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I am disappointed to be standing up today to talk about failed targets for 2030, but I am almost more disappointed that the cabinet secretary has not committed to publishing the climate change plan before the deadline of November this year. If Parliament is to be accorded the respect that it should be, surely the plan should be presented at the first possible opportunity, to allow all the committees as much time as possible to consider it, in the knowledge that we are not going to meet our 2030 targets.

Màiri McAllan

If Edward Mountain is disappointed, he should not have stood in the way of low-emission zones, workplace parking levies and the deposit return scheme. If he is disappointed, he should lobby his UK counterparts on their fight to open coal mines and their failure to deploy onshore and offshore wind in England. I have been clear that I need to continue actively considering today’s report. Under the current statutory regime, the climate change plan is not due in draft with committees until November. As I said, I am actively considering legislation, and I will keep Parliament closely up to date on the detail of that.

Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

Every party in the Parliament signed up to ambitious climate targets, but they can be met only through bold action to deliver. The Scottish Government’s plans for warm green homes were praised today by the Climate Change Committee, but the very people who are condemning the Government for lack of delivery are the same people who are trying to block progress and spread misinformation on the heat in buildings plan, the DRS, low-emission zones and workplace parking levies, and who continue with climate-wrecking activities. Is it not time for members on all sides of the chamber to get off the fence and get behind what has to be done?

Màiri McAllan

Maggie Chapman is absolutely right, and I hope that members across the chamber were listening to her. I emphasise her point about the work that the Government is taking forward on heat in buildings. It is an exceptionally ambitious piece of work to tackle one of the highest emitters that we face in Scotland. She is absolutely right that the CCC pulled that out as a success story, and it has said that it could be a model for approaches across the UK. I hope that the Tories will pay attention to that in England and that Labour will pay attention to it in Wales.

Given that the emissions targets are embedded in legislation and that the CCC says that they are impossible to achieve, what does the cabinet secretary propose to do to avoid breaching the law?

As I have said a number of times, I am actively considering all means by which to respond to the CCC’s position, including through legislation.

Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

The cabinet secretary previously told the Parliament that world leaders were contacting the Scottish Government to ask for advice on how to get to net zero. Can the cabinet secretary tell us who those world leaders were, so that we can let them know that the targets have been missed yet again?

It will always say more about Douglas Lumsden that he has brought the issue of internet trolls to the floor of the Parliament than it will ever say—[Interruption.]

It is really important that, when a member has asked a question, they show courtesy to enable those responding to questions to do so.

Màiri McAllan

That question gives me the opportunity to, again, state how proud I am of the progress that Scotland has made. We have completed the world-leading ScotWind floating offshore wind leasing round; 75 per cent of all forests in the UK have been created in Scotland in each of the past five years; Scotland moved first to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastics; we have the second most comprehensive suite of public charging networks for electric vehicles in the UK; and we have the most supportive concessionary travel scheme. All of that serves to demonstrate that the Scottish Government is extremely serious about tackling climate change. [Interruption.]

I do not know why they are laughing their heads off.


However, I am under no illusion about the task that is ahead of us.