Friday, 17 October 2008

Speech at Conference on tackling climate change

While top of the agenda is how to respond to the global financial crisis, alongside it sits the key issue of how to tackle climate change. This afternoon I had the chance to remind Conference of the leading role Scotland and our Scottish Government are playing in this regard and to reemphasise the point that much more needs to be done through an internationally coordinated effort.

In moving the topical resolution on behalf of the Cromarty Firth Branch, I underlined the extent to which the EU stance on climate is and has to remain an ambitious and far reaching programme within which the Scottish Government’s ambitions for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 fit comfortably. I also welcomed yesterday’s announcement that London has decided to follow Scotland’s lead in matching our Government’s commitment to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week there was a lot of talk about leadership in the face of global crisis, however its important to recognise that on climate change policy and renewable energy it is Scotland that is taking the leading international role in addressing the greatest challenge that we have ever faced.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the largest emissions trading scheme in the world and is a pillar of the EU’s climate policy. It covers more than 10,000 installations in the energy and industrial sectors and is collectively responsible for close to half of the EU’s emissions of carbon dioxide and 40% of its total greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change can’t successfully be tackled unless there is an internationally coordinated effort. From my perspective in Brussels the role of the EU in setting and enforcing tough climate change legislation is vital. There must be no backsliding on this on the part of EU member states.

The role of the European Parliament here is crucial since it is the EP that will wield significant influence over the final shape of EU climate change legislation. I believe it is vital for Scotland’s MEPs work to make that legislation reflect our ambitions and our commitments for effective action on climate change. It is also for Scotland’s MEPs to guard against attempts to water down this legislation from any source – corporations, countries, and governments.

Next June’s European elections offer an opportunity for Scotland to once again take a lead in tackling the causes of climate change by voting SNP. We have to make it clear to Scotland’s voters that only by voting SNP in that election can they be assured that their commitment to tackling climate change at the EU level will be heard in Brussels.

Since May 2007 our party, and our Government, has demonstrated a commitment and a leadership in tackling climate change that has no equal anywhere in the EU. Our commitment to tough emissions targets is matched by our investment in renewable energy and investment in the green technologies that will be the basis of sustainable economic growth in the future.

Scotland is the green energy powerhouse of the EU and this is recognized in the EU. Indeed the EU is looking to us to take a lead so we have nothing to fear from climate change legislation and everything to gain. Not only will our actions directly lead to better climate change legislation both in the UK and the EU but our scientists, our researchers and our industries are world leaders in the new technologies that will become an integral part of a greener future for the world.

All of this means that the SNP Government is shaping a better future for the people of Scotland and beyond. Our Government, Scotland’s Government is showing real leadership on a truly global scale. Indeed, I was also glad to hear the announcement this morning from our Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, MSP for all international air travel and shipping to be included in the ETS as well as all six greenhouse gases and that “
Scotland will have a Climate Change Bill able to lead international action”.

As John Swinney also said, “
we face immediate economic challenges but we face a massive generational challenge of reducing our impact on the environment. We accept the responsibility to do that and we will put in place the legal framework to live up to that responsibility”.

With this in mind, delegates backed the Cromarty Firth resolution on climate change:

“Conference backs the tough action proposed by Scottish, UK and European Governments that sets an example to the rest of the world in tackling climate change.

Conference demands that the European Commission resists and all pressures placed upon it to compromise the EU Carbon Trading Scheme (ETS), a policy that is absolutely vital if we are successfully to tackle climate change. In particular the EU institutions must stand firm in the face of pressure from industries faced with meeting the compliance costs of this policy and who wish to weaken the prospective EU legislation in this crucial area.

Conference calls on our SNP Government and parliamentarians to campaign for an increased pace in the development of renewable energy delivery which is needed to make early progress towards a target of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and introduce energy efficiency measures to climate proof Scottish homes whilst opposing the dilution of climate change plans that must be agreed in full by the European Union to maintain a world lead in tackling global warming”.

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