Yesterday I was able to contribute to the debate in parliament on the Government’s revised report on climate change proposals and policies, known as RPP2.
Last week I warned the plan lacks ambition and is worryingly dependent on unproven technology.
Here’s what I said in yesterday’s debate:
As a member of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, I was pleased to help scrutinise our section of the RPP. It was unfortunate that the final meeting took place on a day of public sector strikes against the cuts. Personally, in supporting those who were striking, I felt unable to cross the picket line. I thank the convener, my committee colleagues and the clerks for their flexibility in taking on board some of my input and comments in my absence.
I share some of the concerns that were raised by Rhoda Grant that, in voting down some sensible recommendations, Scottish National Party back benchers have not assisted their own Government colleagues to ensure that the finalised RPP2 is as robust as possible. I am sure that the minister is willing and able to accept constructive input.
The task of meeting our ambitious climate targets is not easy. It requires changes—small ones, bigger evolutionary ones and a few large-scale transformational ones—if we are to play a fair part in tackling the climate crisis. Transport did not form part of my committee’s scrutiny, but it is one area where poor choices are compromising the plan. It is impossible to double-think our way into a future of more motorways and to expect to meet our climate targets, too. I invite the minister to comment on what more can be done in that respect.
The RPP almost entirely neglects demand management or the possibility that the policies and the investment decisions that we make can reduce the number and distance of journeys that are taken by car. Such decisions are largely devolved, but the only transport policy in the current draft RPP is based on EU directives. We can see from transport that the Government’s scale of ambition is falling away. Comparing RPP1 with RPP2, we see that 500,000 tonnes of abatement have been lost every year from 2014 to 2018. The necessary policy changes have just been pushed further into the future, and emissions from transport have risen, not fallen. We largely know what needs to change.
Maureen Watt (SNP): Does the member not think that if we can move to hydrogen fuel cell or electric vehicles or to using other forms of fuel, that does not mean that we cannot build motorways to get people to their destinations?
Alison Johnstone: Although technological advances that reduce emissions will be welcome, traffic jams could still add to congestion, and not all vehicles will be so powered. What we really need to do is to spend more than just 1 per cent of the transport budget on cycling and walking. I hope that the final RPP2 will have active travel, car clubs, travel planning and ambitious demand management included as policy.
As the RACCE Committee has recognised, the only way in which we will meet our future targets is if all the policies and proposals are implemented and if the EU shifts to the 30 per cent reduction target. There is no margin built into the plan. We heard real concern from witnesses that the EU will not move to 30 per cent, so the RPP needs explicitly to work out domestic actions to mitigate that risk. The EET Committee recommended that.
The same risk exists for carbon capture and storage. Witnesses fear that the 2020 target will not be met. Peterhead now has preferred bidder status, but the RPP is predicated on CCS and we cannot put our heads in the sand about the risk.
Electricity gets lots of attention, but the provision of cheap and clean heat is important too. After all, heat accounts for more than half of our energy demand. I hope that the final RPP will provide more ambition and detail on delivering district heating. From the evidence that we heard in scrutinising the RPP and in previous committee work, it is clear that the public sector has a key role to play in that.
The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee looks forward to the forthcoming heat policy and has asked the Government to provide more details on how it will support community district heating schemes and off-gas-grid properties to get out of fuel poverty. I hope that the minister will confirm that the Government will provide that in due course and will listen carefully to the recommendations of the expert commission on district heating.
Cheap, low-carbon heat will be important in tackling fuel poverty, but high-quality insulated homes are essential too. Stop Climate Chaos, the existing homes alliance and others have all called for the proposal for minimum efficiency standards in the private sector to be upgraded to a policy and implemented by 2015. That would help to bring our existing housing stock up to standard, lever in investment and jobs for local trades and help to meet targets in a difficult sector.
Scotland has played a leading role in setting the bar high, promoting climate justice and inspiring ambition, but we missed our first target. That is not the end of the line, but it is a clear signal that we need to match ambition with a credible plan with fully funded climate policies that have headroom built in to address the possibility of long, cold winters, clear milestones to track our success and bold Government action on the big challenges of, and opportunities for, ending our dependence on fossil fuels.