Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth
June 21, 2007
Unchecked climate change is one of the most serious threats facing us today. It is not just an environmental challenge. Climate change threatens people and our economies, our societies and indeed our very existence.
It is a challenge that transcends all traditional boundaries. This is a truly global issue. It can only be tackled if we all work together: in this parliament; in Scotland; in the UK; and across the world.
We recognise that every country has a responsibility to take action to cut emissions and different actions will be appropriate for different countries. So we must take the action that is required for Scotland and make our contribution to the international effort.
Climate change is not just a threat for the future. Scotland is already feeling the effects of climate change with, for example, increased frequency and intensity of rainfall.
This government wants Scotland to show leadership in tackling climate change. We pledged in our Manifesto we would introduce ambitious legislation to tackle climate change. Other parties made similar commitments. This is now the time to take action.
Today, I am pleased to announce the Government's intention to bring forward a Scottish Climate Change Bill.
The Bill will:
- set mandatory targets for emission reductions
- include monitoring arrangements to ensure we are on course to meet those targets
- set out mechanisms to ensure that we achieve and are accountable for our long term goals
We will also use the opportunity of this bill to bring forward other compatible legislative measures.
Our planned Scottish Climate Change Bill will set a mandatory long-term target to achieve an 80% reduction in our emissions by 2050.
This target is equivalent to emissions reductions of 3% each year.
To ensure sustained progress towards this goal, we will consult on proposals in the bill for targets based on average annual reductions over a 5 year period. This means we will be held to account each year on the trend of emission reductions.
Scottish Ministers must be accountable for their actions.
We intend that future legislation should set out mandatory requirements for reporting to Parliament on performance in achieving the targets.
There should be a vigorous parliamentary process that fully involves the committees and the chamber in assessing the performance of the government in tackling this issue.
In the event of failure to meet emission reduction targets, the government will propose that the bill should include a statutory and mandatory process of Parliamentary accountability for Ministers. The government does not see any value in creating a structure of penalty fines to be paid in the event of failure to achieve targets but an effective and demanding process of parliamentary scrutiny seems the most effective way to focus minds on delivery. A key aspect of this would be a requirement on Ministers to identify the compensating action to be taken to remedy any failures to perform.
To meet the 2050 target - and to move us along the trajectory towards that target - new policies will be needed.
The legislation will therefore need to introduce new powers to deliver such policies in future through secondary legislation.
We recognise also that we will need independent, expert advice to inform interim targets and climate change policies.
There are, at this stage, two options in terms of obtaining this expert advice. We could either establish a Scottish Committee of Climate Change experts to fulfil this role or we could obtain the services of the UK Climate Change Committee that UK Ministers intend to establish. Over the coming months we will consult on how best to meet Scotland's needs for this expert advice and reflect the outcome of that consultation in our Bill.
In addition to including measures that will bring about a reduction in emissions we also intend that our legislation will include measures that help us adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
Earlier in my statement I made clear there are a number of consequences of climate change with which we are already wrestling. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, who is working closely with me on this whole question but who is attending the Royal Highland Show today, has had to wrestle with the issue of significant flooding in his Moray constituency as I have had to do in my North Tayside constituency. An increase in the risk of flooding is one of the ways climate change will manifest itself in Scotland. The legislation that is currently in place to deal with flood alleviation is not adequate and needs to be updated.
I am pleased therefore to announce that flood risk management will also be consulted on with a view to legislation. The Government will take these consultation exercises forward together but we reserve our position to legislate separately if legislative proposals on either Climate Change or Flood alleviation can be considered in a swifter timescale.
Let me emphasise that our Bill will not just be about regulation and reductions. We will propose a framework within which Scottish industries can invest with certainty in world-beating, low-carbon technologies. That is why we want Scotland to become a global leader in developing solutions to the challenge of climate change. That is why we want Scotland to become the pre-eminent location for clean energy research and development in Europe. That is why we want Scotland to become the green energy capital of Europe.
This Bill could provide huge opportunities for our economy by providing business with the certainty that it needs to make investment decisions.
Our plans for a Scottish Climate Change Bill are ambitious.
We recognise that meeting these ambitious targets is a huge challenge. We are under no illusions about the level, breadth and depth of action that is required. That is why we need to build a broad parliamentary and national consensus in moving forward to realise our ambitions and capitalise on our opportunities.
We intend a full and open consultation on this Bill, in this Parliament and beyond.
These targets will set the framework for policy long after most of us have left this Chamber. We must make the right choices
We believe that those choices are best made through discussion and engagement to deliver a consensus.
We have started that process by working to establish consensus across every political party. The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, has already met spokespeople from the other parties in this Parliament. We are encouraged by the recognition of, and commitment to, tackling climate change that we have heard during those discussions. I hope that other members of this Parliament will similarly be able to offer their support to the principles of our planned Bill.
I say principles because this Bill must be a product of all our contributions to the debate. We do not have all the answers about how to meet these targets. We welcome good ideas, from all sources.
I know that my announcement today has been eagerly awaited by many. I must caution however that it will take some time to take this process forward: this is a long term effort. We must build the consensus in support of our proposals. We must carry out the detailed consultation required for the formulation of such a Bill. It is not possible to give a date for introduction of a Bill in advance of these processes, but we might not be able to bring forward a Bill for introduction to Parliament until late 2008.
Having studied the detailed processes that are required I can assure Parliament that this timetable looks the most realistic. But I also assure Parliament that the Government will be doing everything it can to accelerate this timetable.
I mentioned earlier that the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change has had initial discussions with spokespeople from other parties. We will begin informal talks with other stakeholders over the coming weeks. And we will begin formal consultation at the earliest opportunity.
Let me assure Parliament however that we will not wait until introducing the Bill to take action. We acknowledge the good work that the previous administration did in tackling climate change - in particular in committing Scotland to go beyond its equitable share of the UK's emission reduction targets. Our intention is to build on that work and go further - as amply demonstrated by our commitment to the 80% emissions reduction target.
Working with the UK
As part of our approach, I want be clear that we intend to work constructively as part of the UK effort. David Miliband and I both recognise that we need to work together on the challenges faced by the UK and the wider international community.
On Monday, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, and Stewart Stevenson, met David Miliband, other Defra Ministers and representatives of the other devolved administrations. This was a constructive and helpful meeting. Defra Ministers are keen to hear the views of Scottish Ministers and to ensure there are appropriate links between the UK and Scottish Bills.
We intend to work with Defra Ministers and our colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland to contribute to the UK emission reduction target.
We have indicated that we wish to explore:
- how Scotland should engage with the UK Climate Change Bill
- how best to access the expertise and knowledge necessary for decision-making in Scotland
- how to ensure that Scotland is able to take full and effective action on climate change
- how to ensure that reporting mechanisms are aligned and sensible
We want to continue to build on this constructive dialogue to ensure that we all understand how best to help each other to help the climate.
We want our efforts to inspire others. We want to send a signal to the rest of the world to show the importance Scotland places on tackling climate change.
We want to show that a prosperous and low carbon economy is possible.
We acknowledge that, in itself, reducing Scotland's emissions by 80% will make no difference to the global environment unless similar reductions are realised in global emissions. But by taking a lead, Scotland can demonstrate to others what can be achieved.
I believe that all Members understand and recognise the need for action. I acknowledge that we might differ in our views of the detail. It is right that we air and share those differences.
But this is not an issue that should become a political football. There will be many issues on which the members of this Parliament will disagree over the next 4 years. This should not be one of those issues. Climate change is a global threat and we need to show how we as a Parliament, as a country and as part of the international community can work together.