The Climate Change Bill has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament, so what has changed as a result and what did the Greens get out of it?
Firstly, through cross party working and pressure on the Scottish Government we helped shift Parliament to increase ambition and support a 2030 target of 75%, while pushing for an even higher target of 80% by 2030.
The scientific understanding of the scale of the climate challenge is developing with emissions coming from Scotland’s degraded peatlands set to be included in Scotland’s greenhouse gas inventory going forward. As a result the new targets represent a greater reduction in emissions than those based on the current baseline. Hopefully they will require a major re-write of the existing Climate Plan especially in the areas of transport, housing and agriculture rather than tweaks to the status quo.
Greens also secured an amendment that will establish a Citizens Assembly. This will ensure that citizens voices are heard in the climate debate and will run in a similar way to the Irish Citizens Assembly which was instrumental in changing the content of the Irish Climate Plan. This was a key ask of the Extinction Rebellion campaigners and I am pleased that we were able to deliver on it. The first assembly will report by February 2021 with the Scottish Government to respond to the findings within 6 months.
We also delivered amendments on consumption emissions covering domestic emissions alongside those generated in the production of imported goods and services. This means that Scotland will report and take some responsibility for emissions related to all our consumption at home and abroad.
In tackling the emergency oil and gas must be phased out as soon as possible. We secured an amendment which requires the Scottish Government to set out it’s plans for oil and gas in the climate plans moving forward. This will ensure we have foresight and scrutiny over the Government’s intentions for the sector.
Housing is one of Scotland’s largest contributors to emissions while fuel poverty is still a major problem. A Green amendment to require actions to go into the Climate Plan to ensure all housing is EPC C rated, where possible was also passed. This should help make our housing more efficient and affordable.
Alongside housing and transport, agriculture is a major source of emissions. Agriculture can help lock up carbon through for example better soil management as well as being a major source of emissions from livestock production and chemical inputs. A cross party amendment based on an earlier Green proposal will now ensure this whole emissions picture is calculated for Scottish agriculture. The amendment also puts in place a framework for developing actions in the Climate Plan on farming. From research to knowledge transfer and advice, improving soil health and supporting organic farming we’ll be demanding new actions to transform agriculture so that it is profitable, low carbon and supports wider public goods including biodiversity.
It is crucial that our inevitable movement away from oil and gas and reform of agriculture is supported by a just transition. I introduced an amendment that strengthens the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensure a just and fair transition for workers and communities involved. We also worked constructively with Labour to attempt to put the Just Transition Commission on a statutory basis and give it the remit to plan and drive the transition. Unfortunately these amendments fell, but we will return to this theme in the future.
Finally, I was happy to work further with opposition parties to agree a series of amendments on low carbon infrastructure. Although these did not commit the government to the low carbon infrastructure targets we hoped for, the amendment will require government to lay out the impact of the Infrastructure Investment Plan. How we make budget decisions in light of the climate emergency will be critical going forward and we have won a further commitment from government to deliver research that will ultimately make the budget process more transparent on climate.
Ultimately the bill failed to deliver the urgency required and was drawn narrowly around percentage targets rather than the transformative action needed to deliver them. In the final vote didn’t want stand in the way of progress however unambitious, but we were also not able to endorse a bill that provides little certainty in the next 10 years. There is still much work to do and all eyes will be on the forthcoming update of the Climate Plan as we head towards COP26 in Glasgow next year.