Presiding Officer, Climate Change is the single biggest threat to life on this planet as we know it and we all know that the time has passed to stand by and do nothing.
In Scotland we have had world leading climate change legislation and we hit our targets 6 years early thanks to a combined effort of cutting emissions, culture change and investment in renewable energy.
Through this new Climate Change Plan, or CCP for the purposes of this speech, we continue to set ambitious targets, encourage and legislate for change in all the sectors and encourage further societal and cultural change. But is it enough? Are our ambitions actually ambitious?
Presiding Officer, I am the Deputy Convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and you earlier heard the Convener, Edward Mountain very ably set out the committee’s position and explained our report in some detail. As a committee, we took evidence from many professionals and experts, listened to opinions and experience and worked together to produce this report. I must also commend my fellow committee members for their hard work and for the spirit of consensus in which this conclusion was reached.
As a committee, we have responsibility for the two biggest polluting sectors – transport and agriculture.
Firstly, I would like to touch on transport – it has generally been agreed that we should put more emphasis on active travel. The aim of making 10% of journeys by 2020 IS ambitious given the fact that we are currently only at 1%. Replacing car use wherever possible will have to be a huge cultural shift. Walking short distances instead of jumping in the car has to now be seen as the preferred option. No-one is saying that the Highland weather is always conducive to active travel but we do need to make more of an effort in this regard.
Public transport – Transform Scotland Tell us in their briefing that “there is no specific policy in the CPP which tackles the need to increase the use of buses as an alternative to car use. According to figures from Transport Scotland there has been a decline of 10% in bus usage in the past five years and therefore it is hard to see how a considerable shift away from private cars can be achieved.
Unfortunately, people in rural areas will tell you that they NEED their cars to get around. This modal shift needs to be accompanied by changes to the timetabling of bus services in rural communities, with frequent, reliable services on offer.
Moving on, Presiding Officer, we realise that agriculture as a sector faces huge challenges when it comes to decarbonisation. However, there are many who have taken steps to mitigate climate change with schemes such as peatland restoration, renewable energy and forestry, although it is acknowledged that more can and should be done to support famers and landowners to plant trees.
We have to plant more trees – we know this. We HAVE missed our targets year on year for various reasons but we understand what these are have now put plans in place to address this and improve planting rates in future.
My constituency is home to the biggest blanket bog in the world, the flow country. It has been referred to as the “Amazon of the Northern Hemisphere” due to the amount of carbon it sequesters. It’s at this point that I must pay tribute to my predecessor the Rob Gibson, the Moss Boss, for his tireless promotion of peatland areas and welcome the additional 8 million pounds to help restore peatlands and protect wildlife and sustain tourism and rural jobs.
The Cabinet Secretary has made clear her commitment to listening to all the feedback, considering each report in detail and bringing it back to parliament before the final draft. I look forward to engaging her further on this vital issue.
It was said before that the Climate Change Plan was “half baked”. Well, if we are going to put it in a cooking context, I would say that the ingredients are there, we just have to get the amounts correct in order for the recipe to work.