Malcolm's thoughts on the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill
The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill is the most important bill of the parliamentary session and climate change is the most urgent issue of the age. Climate change not only threatens the future of our children and grandchildren, but is already affecting millions of people throughout the world. For example, the UN tells us that in the first five years of this century, 262 million people—of whom 98 per cent were in the developing world—were adversely affected by climate change.

Malcolm with a constituent at the April Climate Chaos Lobby at the Scottish Parliament So urgent, challenging and potentially unpopular is the issue that we must come together across the political divide to lead together in a new-politics approach, as advocated by Shirley-Anne Somerville. She and I are the co-conveners of the cross-party group on climate change, which is showing how we can act together on the issue across the political divide.

Equally crucial is community involvement and action. I am sure that all members have many groups in their constituencies that are acting on climate change. When we debated eco-congregations on 17 December 2008, I mentioned churches in my constituency, so I will not repeat their names. However, perhaps I can be forgiven for mentioning groups that have won awards from the climate challenge fund - Greener Leith, the North Edinburgh Trust, the Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust and the Pilmeny Development Project. Those groups illustrate the importance of local people coming together to take action at the grass roots. In due course, the bill should be amended to promote public awareness and engagement in meeting the climate change targets.

Of course, the 80 per cent headline target is an excellent start. It is one of the main reasons why the bill was widely welcomed when it was published. However, I was given pause for thought when I read the Royal Society of Edinburgh's submission on the bill, which begins by saying:

"The endpoint target of an 80% reduction by 2050 is an irrelevance unless there are appropriate intervening milestones."

That encapsulates a main point that has been made by several members, including Sarah Boyack. The key issue for climate change is cumulative emissions. That is why emissions reductions must as far as possible be front-loaded rather than end-loaded, as the bill proposes.

In all the submissions that I read, two of the most interesting pages were the last two in the Royal Society of Edinburgh's submission, which incorporate a table—I know that the minister, as a mathematician, will have studied it—that indicates that even with 3 per cent annual reductions starting next year, we would not reach the 80 per cent reduction by 2050. When I read that, I concluded that we certainly need 3 per cent annual reductions without delay. The only good effect of a recession is that it allows an easy start through recession-linked emissions decline.

More fundamentally, we must get on urgently with the immediate action that is required on key issues if we are to have any chance of meeting the 2050 target. Many people have flagged up energy efficiency as a key issue on which to get started - we need the Government's energy efficiency action plan without delay. We also need other measures such as the green new deal and the excellent proposals in Sarah Boyack's member's bill. As we scrutinise the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill in the next few months, we must simultaneously develop the programmes and actions without which the bill will be empty rhetoric.

I welcome some of the commitments that the Government has made, such as that on the inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions in the national target. We must ensure that a proper multiplier is placed on aviation emissions from the start, to recognise the greater climate change damage that emissions at altitude cause.

Stewart Stevenson:

Like me, does the member wish to have appropriate expert advice that reflects the different aviation sectors, so that we encourage moves to the more sustainable forms of aviation that will increasingly be available?

Malcolm Chisholm:
We certainly need expert advice, but we also need radical action on aviation and other forms of transport. Transport is a big concern. Those who read the editorial in The Herald this morning will have seen the quotation from Maf Smith of the Sustainable Development Commission, who said:

"Travel is the policy area where there is least alignment between current action and long-term sustainability".

At the beginning of my speech, I referred to unpopular action, which we need. Aviation issues will not be solved just by using the planes to which the minister referred. We also need action on car travel, as well as the promotion of public transport. We must quantify emissions reductions in the transport sector, as in other major sectors, such as energy generation and energy efficiency.

I welcome the limits on international credits. It is right that at least 80 per cent of emissions reductions should be achieved by domestic effort. I hope that that will be put in the bill.

Finally and crucially, part of the acting together that I emphasised at the outset must be action by other public bodies. An enforceable duty must be placed on such bodies to reduce emissions in line with national targets.

I hope that the minister will look seriously at Oxfam Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland's proposals for a public sector budgetary regime that involves incentives and disincentives.
May 6th 2009, (Column 17112-4)