Scottish Parliament backs strong Climate Bill

Raising the Bar for Climate Change legislation

With Falkirk campaigners Norman Philp, Corrie Cuthbertson, David Allinson

With Falkirk campaigners Norman Philp, Corrie Cuthbertson, David Allinson

Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie said that she was “extremely pleased that MSPs had voted for a strong Scottish Climate Change Bill” and that playing her part in the passage of the Bill had given her great satisfaction.

“As Deputy Convener of the Climate Change committee, I have been involved at every stage, working with the committee and other MSPs, and with the members of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, considering and submitting amendments to make this a world-class piece of legislation.”

Cathy worked with her Labour, Liberal and Green colleagues on the Committee, with the Labour MSPs group, and with members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, to put pressure on the Scottish Government to accept more ambitious targets and to strengthen the Bill’s provisions as it progressed through the Scottish Parliament (a list of the most significant improvements won during the passage of the bill is given below).

Cathy personally submitted and successfully moved a series of amendments at stage 2 and stage 3 that included: 

  • extending the duty on Ministers to improve energy efficiency; and ensuring
  • that Ministers have greater accountability to the parliament, with annual reporting on Scottish emissions and progress towards targets;
  • that all public bodies take account in their decision-making of what they can do, in the most sustainable way, to help achieve emissions targets and support climate change programmes agreed by the Scottish Parliament;
  • that the definition of public bodies is broad and flexible, based on those covered by the Freedom of Information Act;
  • that Scottish Ministers must give guidance to relevant public bodies in relation to climate change duties and those bodies must have regard to such guidance; and
  • that action is taken promptly following the Bill being passed.

She also spoke at stage 3 against attempts to weaken and undo these measures.  Labour, Liberals, Greens and independent Margo Macdonald combined to narrowly defeat – by 62 votes to 60 – two crucial wrecking amendments moved by the SNP with Conservative support (and as a result, other weakening amendments were withdrawn).

Scottish Parliament Debate

After speaking to her amendments earlier in the day, Cathy had a chance to take a broader view in her speech during the open debate – and to look to the future challenges that we face.

“There can be no doubt that the bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Scottish Parliament will ever pass. Not only does it define what Scotland can do to address the challenge of climate change—reduce emissions, build a green economy and adapt to change—it contributes to global action against climate change and allows us to set an example and raise the bar for climate change legislation. We have worked hard to incorporate many strands of policy and action into the bill to ensure that we encourage the best use of technology, the best practice in our public bodies and the best development of working practices and to ensure that we promote sustainable travel for work and leisure, public participation and awareness raising.

“Scotland can be proud of the bill. I thank the clerks for their hard work. They must have used candles to stay up late at night to make sense of our amendments. I congratulate all those who have campaigned and lobbied for a strong Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has been fantastic. I also thank everyone who is present at the debate, everyone who has written, everyone who is working to change the way that we live and everyone who is doing what they can to contribute to a more sustainable use of our planet.

“I am proud to have played a part in the bill, but the process does not end here; it is only the beginning of a new stage in our work to address climate change. The Copenhagen protocol has been published ahead of the forthcoming climate change talks. Reducing emissions will require a transition to an economy that is based on more sustainable production and consumption and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. That must be underpinned by a just transition for the workforce, which is central to achieving an agreement that is based on the active participation of all stakeholders. Anything else would simply repeat the mistakes of the past. Economic reconstruction should not neglect industries and communities. I hope that the United Kingdom negotiators will reflect the widespread support among trade unions and other civic organisations for a just transition clause.

“Of course, it is easy to be cynical about what people are trying to do to tackle climate change. People say to me, “Well, actually, it’s not a problem, so you’re talking nonsense.” Others choose not to think about the implication of not tackling climate change. Some people think, “Well, it’s just too big, so we can do absolutely nothing.” We have a real job to do to win hearts and minds in communities across Scotland and, indeed, across the world.

“The idea that 2050 is too far into the future to think about is nonsense. Forty years is not a long time, looking back. This is my ruby wedding anniversary—I do not want presents or drinks. On this day, 40 years ago, I married as a teenager. I had no idea then what would happen in 2009. Indeed, apart from nuclear weapons, I was not interested in the possibility that anything might destroy our world. I might not be here in 2049, but I hope that my children and grandchildren – I am getting emotional now – will be, and I care about the world that they will inherit. Let us pass the bill so that we can get on with the task of making this world a better place, both now and in the future.”

Improvements secured during the passage of the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill

  • Pressure at stage 1 from Scottish Labour MSPs forced the SNP to bring forward the interim target date for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 to 2020.
  • In the course of the Stage 1 debate, Labour secured agreement from SNP Ministers that they would automatically raise the interim target from 34% to 42% if the Copenhagen agreement delivers an agreement for Europe-wide action. Labour then put forward a Stage 3 amendment, with the backing of Stop Climate Chaos, which required the Scottish government to seek expert advice on the interim target and argued that the percentage target in the Bill should therefore be raised from 34% to 40%. This led to a final agreement on a 42% interim target in the Bill, adjustable up or down on the basis of expert advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change.
  • a requirement that annual targets must be in line with the goal of hitting the longer-term targets, to prevent the government putting off early action.
  • a legal requirement for local authorities to reduce Council Tax by at least £50 for those homes who install energy efficiency measures (e.g. insulation or microgeneration like mini wind turbines or solar panels). The schemes will apply across Scotland and to all Council Tax bands.
  • We worked with other parties to bring in business rate reductions for those businesses taking action to improve the energy efficiency of their  premises (e.g. by installing insulation or microgeneration like mini wind turbines or solar panels).
  • Scottish Ministers now have to produce concrete provisions regarding emissions of greenhouse gases from international aviation and international shipping by 1 June 2010 or as soon as practicable thereafter.
  • We amended the Bill to ensure that the reduction on climate contribution is predominantly through action in Scotland rather than through the mechanism of international credits. The SNP however weakened these restrictions by creating a loophole.
  • We amended the Bill to require Ministers to have regard to jobs and employment opportunities in setting their climate change targets and objectives.
  • We put forward clauses introducing duties on public bodies which will require all public bodies to consider climate change in their decision-making.
  • We amended the Bill to require Ministers to have regard to the impact on poorer and deprived communities, and on remote rural and island communities in setting their climate change targets and objectives.
  • We worked with the Church of Scotland and other political parties to have a requirement for a public engagement strategy included in the Bill.
  • We added to the functions of the advisory body to provide advice, analysis, information and other assistance to Scottish ministers in respect of setting and delivering the interim target.
  • We set tight limits on Scottish Ministers crediting carbon units to the net Scottish emissions account in the period 2013-2017.
  • We put in place effective reporting arrangements, including a requirement that ministers should attend parliamentary committees to give evidence, the publication of advice and additional reporting requirements on cumulative emissions and consumption.
  • We added a clause requiring a 2015 reporting date on how Scotland is doing on early action, ensuring that between now and 2015 the Government will be under pressure to make the necessary progress on meeting the interim target.
  • We secured  support for an amendment that obliges public bodies to report on how they use procurement policies and wider workplace policies to comply with their climate change duties.
  • We ensured that employers and trade unions are involved in and consulted upon adaptation policies and that there will be public engagement on adaptation policies.
  • We amended the Bill to require the production of a land-use strategy.
  • Through amendments on behalf of the Energy Committee we ensured targets are put in place for the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency plan.
  • Through amendments on behalf of the Energy Committee we ensured the assessment of the energy efficiency of living accommodation is included in the energy efficiency plan.
  • We introduced amendments which enable the planning and building control systems to encourage increased energy efficiency.
  • We proposed regulations removing the burden of non-domestic rates on distribution pipes and risers, thereby making it easier to take forward combined heat and power schemes in Scotland.
  • We ensured permitted development rights would be brought in, to encourage the use of air source heat pumps and mini wind turbines in domestic properties and non-domestic buildings.
  • We amended the Bill to require the identification of expected contributions towards annual targets from the energy efficiency, energy production, transport and land use sectors.
  • We introduced a sustainability duty on Ministers and on the advisory body.
  • We amended Schedule 1 of the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 to include the installation of insulation as “maintenance”.

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