In 2009, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world.
Eight years on, I am laying before this Parliament the Scottish Government's third report on policies and proposals for meeting the statutory emissions reductions targets from 2018 to 2032 – our Climate Change Plan. A little late – thanks to last week's snowstorm – but perhaps fittingly so, given that for Scotland climate change will mean increasingly frequent severe weather events.
This Plan has been prepared in accordance with sections 35 and 36 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.
In January 2017, I laid before Parliament a draft version of the Plan, and I am grateful for the scrutiny of four Parliamentary Committees. In considering the recommendations made, advice was received from the Committee on Climate Change, along with feedback from a wide range of stakeholders with interests across the entire range of society and the economy. I wish to formally thank everyone involved in the development of this final Plan.
We have responded with changes which I believe result in a better Plan – more balanced, more ambitious, and more achievable. The final version of the Plan is very different to the draft. It addresses Members' concerns and it presents what is undeniably a complex set of issues, policies and proposals in a more accessible way. In short – we listened and we have produced a Climate Change Plan fit for the future and for a growing economy.
So what is in the Plan?
It sets out a vision of Scotland's society for 2032 and the policies that will get us there. Of course, we also announced significant policy changes affecting greenhouse gas emissions in our Programme for Government in September last year, and these have been embedded within the Plan. The Plan is broken down into sectors of the economy and sets out the contribution of each.
Scotland's electricity system has been our great success to date, and shines a light on the path for other sectors to follow.
Already largely decarbonised, our electricity system will be increasingly important as a power source for heat and transport. With our new Energy Strategy for Scotland, published in December, we are committed to delivering 50 per cent of all Scotland's energy needs from renewables by 2030.
By 2032 we will also have set the scene for the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage technologies.
Although the Plan does not rely on CCS to deliver our emission reduction ambitions, our support for the ACORN site at St Fergus – which will demonstrate how our North Sea infrastructure can be reconfigured and re-used to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere – shows our determination to do even more in the energy sector.
In transport, we will transform the way we travel. Scotland will be a safer and friendlier place for pedestrians and cyclists, and our plans for electric vehicles and infrastructure mean that we'll phase out the need to buy petrol and diesel cars and vans a full eight years ahead of the UK.
We will introduce low emission zones to Scotland's largest cities, improving the quality of our air - and we will take significant strides towards greener buses, HGVs and ferries.
Our buildings will be insulated to the maximum appropriate level, and will increasingly be heated and cooled by low carbon technologies – which will benefit consumers through lower heating bills, helping combat fuel poverty. An entire low carbon services sector will grow around the half billion pounds we're investing in Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme.
Over the lifetime of this Plan, we will end the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste, reduce food waste and both industry and consumers will benefit from a more circular economy.
By 2032, we will have transformed our landscape. New forest will be planted in the right places, and more of our peatlands will be restored to health – storing greater amounts of carbon, increasing biodiversity and making for healthier ecosystems.
By 2032 we will see the realisation of our ambition for Scotland to be among the lowest carbon and most efficient food producers in the world. Scotland will be a world-class producer of high quality food, with growing numbers of farmers and crofters moving to low carbon farming practices.
This will not only achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions but will generate improvements in animal health and welfare, provide cleaner water and air, and save farmers money.
Scotland's industrial sector will be more energy efficient, more productive, and will be using more innovative technologies, presenting significant economic and competitive opportunities. This will be supported by our Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme, through which we'll provide £60 million of new investment to maximise Scotland's enormous potential in the low carbon sector.
The significant decarbonisation needed in industry depends, of course, on our continuing access to the EU Emissions Trading System.
Sadly, the UK Government's unwillingness or inability to provide clarity here is risking investment and growth in our economy, and, as it prepares to remove Scotland from the EU, it is imperative that it moves to reassure industry that the level playing field provided by the ETS across Europe will be maintained for Scottish businesses.
Communities naturally have a critical role to play, and this Plan recognises that. I am particularly proud of the support we've provided through our Climate Challenge Fund, which has helped community-led organisations tackle climate change by running projects that reduce local carbon emissions.
Businesses also have a crucial role to play. Moving early to invest in energy efficiency will protect them against rises in fuel prices, and shifting operations to a low carbon footing will meet the expectations of an increasingly climate-aware consumer base.
With an estimated $23 trillion of climate-friendly investment opportunities by 2030, the direction of travel is self-evident, and our message to business is simple – we will do all we can to provide you with the certainty and stability you need to invest and grow in the low carbon economy. And with yesterday's announcement of the implementation plan for the Scottish National Investment Bank, we will provide flexible finance for our companies to innovate and grasp the opportunities of the low carbon economy.
The transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy may look daunting. To make sure it will be a positive experience for workers, communities and businesses, we are working towards the establishment of a Just Transition Commission later this year. The commission will provide advice to Ministers on how to proceed while helping to tackle inequality and poverty and promote a fair and inclusive jobs market.
Scotland has a particular responsibility to deal with climate change – it was a Scot, Greenock's own James Watt, who ushered in the industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels on a massive scale, and it's right that we demonstrate leadership on dealing with the causes and effects of climate change.
At the global climate negotiations in Bonn last year, the First Minister said that "our ambitions must live up to the scale of the challenge, and our actions must live up to our ambitions." This Government is already making a difference abroad – we're working with international partners to build and maintain the momentum for action, and, with our Climate Justice Fund, we're supporting some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Africa.
But it's our actions here at home that will give us the credibility to lead others, and with this Plan we set out our ambitions for Scotland.
These ambitions will be difficult to achieve; there will be bumps on the road ahead. But we choose this road willingly, meeting the challenge head on - with our stringent and demanding annual targets and our commitment not to purchase carbon allowances in the international markets. And soon we'll introduce a new Climate Change Bill, to raise our ambition even higher.
We are not taking any easy options, because this government believes that we have a moral obligation to act, and we are confident that Scotland's unique gifts – plentiful renewable energy resources, a strong legacy of innovation, and the ingenuity of the people of Scotland – will enable us to realise the opportunities that lie ahead.
My Cabinet colleagues and I are dedicated to delivering the vision set out in this Climate Change Plan to tackle one of the world's most challenging issues.
I commend this Climate Change Plan to Members.