Thank you Presiding Officer.
I am pleased to inform Parliament today of the sustained progress that the Scottish Government is making in tackling climate change.
I will outline progress made against statutory emissions reduction targets based on the latest greenhouse gas emissions statistics published this morning. I will also provide an update on the Climate Change Plan and set out the Government's proposals for a new Climate Change Bill.
I'd first like to make clear the Scottish Government's continued commitment to this global challenge.
The news of the US withdrawal from the international Paris Agreement is clearly regrettable and reinforces the need for more international co-operation on climate issues, not less.
We continue to build our networks and co-operation globally. That includes our pledge to work with the State of California as part of the Under 2 Coalition, which covers over a billion people and a third of the global economy. That work will continue.
It is also important to remember the role played by the European Union in global climate negotiations. As previously stated we will work to ensure Scotland continues to benefit from the EU's powerful voice.
I want to be clear that the Scottish Government:
- remains focused on being a world leader on climate change
- strongly supports the Paris Agreement
- will continue to collaborate with international partners
Presiding Officer, 12 months ago I informed Parliament that Scotland had met its statutory 2014 emissions reduction target. I am delighted to report that statistics published today show that Scotland has met its statutory emissions reduction target for the second successive year.
The level of the statutory Net Scottish Emissions Account shows emissions in 2015 were 45.504 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This exceeds the target level set in legislation.
This is a significant achievement, particularly as it was realised against a background of ongoing improvements to the underlying data. These data revisions are outside of our control and reflect changes in the way emissions are measured rather than changes in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They are necessary as they represent improved understanding of the challenge faced and ensure consistency with international reporting under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The cumulative effect of these revisions over the years means that the baseline is now around 10% higher than when the targets were set. The level of effort required to meet the fixed annual targets is therefore far greater than was envisaged when Parliament agreed the targets. The fact that today's statistics show a 41% reduction since 1990 – well in excess of the 35% reduction envisaged when the targets were set – is a remarkable achievement in that context.
Largely as a consequence of technical revisions to the data, progress towards the 2020 target is not as advanced as reported in the 2014 release. However, what is important is that Scotland remains well on track to achieving its interim 2020 target.
As a result of the most recent technical revisions, the forestry sink has reduced, but this sector continues to absorb significant amounts of carbon. We are committed to reversing the historic decline in woodland creation rates and protecting this important carbon sink, which has an important role in delivering our climate change commitments. Scotland was responsible for 83% of all the woodland created in the UK in 2015 and 2016, and the draft Climate Change Plan sets out our ambition to increase woodland further.
Another natural carbon sink, peatland, is also vital, and we have set out a step change in our ambition for peatland restoration through 'Peatland Action'.
Returning to the statistics, despite the revisions to the data, I am pleased to report that actual Scottish emissions in 2015 are down by 38% since 1990 and by 3% since 2014. This is a clear downward trajectory which shows that emissions reduction efforts are paying off.
The new figures also show that Scotland has, yet again, outperformed every other part of the UK over the period since 1990 – the standard baseline year. Scotland is among the top performers of the European EU-15 countries, behind only Sweden and Finland.
Climate Change Plan
Presiding Officer, as indicated and as previously committed I now wish to update Parliament on progress of the draft Climate Change Plan.
The period for Parliamentary consideration of the draft has ended. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the process, including the four committees who undertook detailed, constructive scrutiny.
We have listened to industry experts, the public and private sectors, Parliamentary colleagues and also the general public. This feedback, alongside the updated statistics released today, will help in finalising the Plan.
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recommended that we engage further with stakeholders in finalising the Plan. We are taking this forward by establishing an advisory group which will contribute to cross-cutting issues across the Plan and advise on external engagement and communications. A number of key stakeholders have been invited to work with us on this group.
We want to take time to work with our stakeholders to ensure that the final Plan:
- maintains ambition in meeting challenging goals
- sets us apart as an innovator and global leader on climate issues
- is supported and owned by the people of Scotland
For these reasons, we anticipate publishing the final Plan in early 2018.
In the meantime, we continue to strengthen the package of measures to address emissions.
Today [13 June] the Minister for Transport and the Islands launched 'Switched on Scotland Phase 2: An Action Plan for Growth'. This sets out the next steps in delivering the Scottish Government's vision to free Scotland's towns, cities and communities from the damaging emissions of fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2050.
The Minister also announced a further £8.2 million to support the Low Carbon Transport Loan Fund. These loans are interest free and, for the first time, will be available for electric motorbikes and scooters and plug-in heavy goods vehicles.
We are also strengthening our support to communities to run locally-led projects that reduce carbon emissions. I am pleased to announce today that the Climate Challenge Fund is now open for applications, offering multi-year funding to empower communities to tackle climate change. Communities will be able to apply for either one or two-year funding and, to give communities as much time as possible to develop applications, we're making this announcement ahead of the forthcoming budget.
In February 2017 Scottish Natural Heritage published a report on blue carbon that estimated that the amount of carbon stored within Scotland's inshore marine protected area network is equivalent to four years of Scotland's total greenhouse gas emissions. We will be supporting Marine Scotland to consider further opportunities to expand this valuable and remarkable research to better understand the role and significance of blue carbon.
And we are working towards a more targeted approach in ensuring the transition into low carbon employment is supported by our Transition Training Fund. This will ensure that more oil and gas workers can be supported to move into low carbon sectors such as renewables and energy efficiency.
Climate Change Bill
Presiding Officer, in addition to all of this, and in line with our Programme for Government commitments, the Scottish Government has been working with the Committee on Climate Change to bring forward proposals for a more ambitious Climate Change Bill.
I am pleased to announce that the Scottish Government proposes to increase the level of Scotland's 2050 emissions reduction target to at least a 90% reduction from baseline levels.
This proposal is the more ambitious of two options set out by the Committee on Climate Change, who advise that a 90% emissions reduction target is a stretching contribution to the aims of the Paris Agreement.
The proposals will strengthen Scotland's position at the very forefront of global climate ambition and, in so doing, play a key role in supporting Scotland's sustainable economic growth.
We also propose to include provisions to:
- allow a net-zero emission target to be set as soon as the evidence becomes available
- reset the level of the interim 2020 target to at least a 56% reduction from baseline levels
- set new interim targets for 2030 and 2040
- set all targets on the basis of actual Scottish emissions
In response to requests, we also propose to increase the scrutiny period for future draft Climate Change Plans.
We have been consulting with key stakeholders on the Committee's advice and will launch a public consultation on our proposals in the coming weeks.
To conclude, Presiding Officer, the statistics published today show that Scotland is making strong progress against ambitious statutory targets. This will be bolstered by the plans I have set out for finalising the Climate Change Plan to deliver a clear roadmap for meeting the targets, and the new legislation.
There is a huge opportunity to reap economic benefits from being at the forefront of a more resource-efficient and sustainable global economy. We are starting to see this in action, and the Scottish Government is determined that Scotland should seize the opportunity fully, as well as fulfilling our moral obligations to future generations. Our actions provide the momentum and motivation to do exactly that.
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