I welcome the proposed amendments to the motion from both the Labour Party and the Scottish Green Party. I believe that, unless the debate takes an unexpected turn, we should be able to support both amendments.
In December, I represented Scotland on the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations framework convention on climate change summit in Durban. It was the second year in which a Scottish minister had been part of the delegation to the UNFCCC. The First Minister and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, sent a joint message to the UNFCCC calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the talks, which should witness a collective global raising of ambition on both climate change mitigation and climate justice.
I will return to the climate justice theme of today’s debate in a minute or two, but first I will update the Parliament on the outcome of the Durban conference. In July last year, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister supporting higher global ambition on tackling climate change, saying in particular that it was essential that we work towards European Union agreement to a second commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, given that the first commitment period comes to an end in 2012. David Cameron expressed gratitude for the Scottish ministers’ support and acknowledged that Scotland has a good example to share with European colleagues of low-carbon investments and policies creating jobs and growth.
A second Kyoto commitment period should be an interim step towards a single, legally binding agreement on all parties to deliver the necessary global action to tackle dangerous climate change. Clearly, we were delighted that at Durban the EU did indeed pledge a second commitment period for Kyoto and that, in return, it gained a timetable from the major emitter nations for a new global agreement on climate change to be negotiated by 2015 and ratified by 2020. That is a tremendous example of Scottish political support across all the parties contributing to influencing an outcome on a global environmental issue of the first importance.
In addition, in the months prior to setting off for Durban and in support of United Kingdom influencing efforts, I met a wide range of European ministers from, among other countries, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Hungary to promote the evidence from Scotland on the jobs, investment, trade and growth potential of the low-carbon economy in order to assist in moving thinking within the EU towards increasing the drive for green growth.
In Durban, as part of the UK delegation, which included two UK secretaries of state and a minister of state, I took part in speaking engagements and meetings with the business sector, states and regions, Governments, non-governmental organisations and members of the European Parliament to promote Scotland as a model of international best practice on climate change and to promote our messages about the economic potential of low carbon. I am very grateful for the support of Scottish NGOs and young people in Durban in promoting the positive messages about Scotland.
Over the past two years, international recognition of Scotland as a country pursuing high ambition on climate change and the low-carbon economy has undoubtedly increased markedly. We have a presence on the international climate stage, and we were struck this year by how many countries are beginning to echo Scotland’s messages, in particular the need to provide certainty in a framework for investment to drive low-carbon growth.
Durban has been widely hailed as a success for EU climate diplomacy, and its leadership position is underpinned by progressive EU countries such as Scotland setting high climate change ambitions. The fact that 120 countries formed a coalition behind the EU’s roadmap was key to securing the Durban platform agreement, which keeps the major emitter nations at the negotiating table and now has a timetable. Agreement was also reached in Durban on the establishment of the green climate fund. However, although the overall result was far better than expected, we acknowledge that concerns remain about the shortfall in pledges to limit global warming to 2°C.
Returning to the climate justice theme of today’s debate, I note that on the radio this morning Alan Miller and Mary Robinson suggested that this is the first ever parliamentary debate worldwide on the concept. All of us in the chamber are playing a role in that first.
What is climate justice and why does it matter? The Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice aims to secure global justice for the many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten: the world’s poor, disempowered and marginalised. By the way, I should point out that that does not exclude people in our own communities. This is not simply an international issue.
The following definition, provided by the foundation, captures the essence of the climate justice agenda:
“Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.”
Such an approach to combating climate change focuses on people, is informed by science and seeks both to protect the vulnerable by supporting developing countries to increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change and to ensure that they have access to the benefits that come from the developed world’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
What is the global problem that the climate justice agenda seeks to put right? Speaking in Edinburgh last September, Al Gore set out his belief that clear evidence from events in Pakistan, China, South Korea and Colombia shows that climate change is directly responsible for extreme and devastating floods, storms and droughts. He said that nearly every climate scientist actively publishing on the subject now agrees that there is a causal link between carbon emissions and the increase in intense and extreme weather events across the globe. Via television and the internet, we are all familiar with the effects of extreme weather events, but those events are experienced in all-too-vivid reality—and all too often—by those in developing countries.
Of course, there are examples of such severe effects being felt in the developed world, too; I think, in particular, of the increased death rate among older people in France during an unexpectedly very hot summer a couple of years ago. In the Pakistan floods of 2010, 20 million people were affected; several hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed, 6 million people were left without access to clean water, and 3.5 million children were at risk of contracting deadly water-borne diseases. An increase in extreme weather events, driven by climate change, will further drive widespread climate injustice.
Al Gore praised Scotland’s leadership on climate change and the First Minister has received the South Australia international climate change leadership award. It is important that we capitalise on Scotland’s enhanced international profile on climate change to make the case for those on the front line of climate impacts. In his speech to the Central Party School in Beijing in December, the First Minister joined Mary Robinson in championing climate justice and highlighted in particular the gender dimension to the issue. In situations of poverty, women suffer more than men from the effects of climate change. In the less developed world, it is generally women who travel increasing distances to forage for diminishing quantities of wood and who go further to get water for their families and villages. We must take account of the fact that the impacts are differential.
As I said at the outset, the First Minister and Mary Robinson sent a joint message to the UNFCCC, calling for climate justice to be reflected in the outcome of the Durban talks, and the First Minister has also urged world leaders to make this year the year of climate justice.
Our actions go beyond simply championing a concept. For the past two years, we have been strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change. The Scottish partnerships that were announced in Copenhagen and Cancún support developing countries on renewable and clean energy through, for example, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. Our international development fund has supported the University of Strathclyde’s work on community solar power in Malawi. To coincide with the Durban conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and I announced the next call for project proposals to the international development fund for renewable projects of a value of up to £1.3 million in the countries of Zambia, Rwanda and Tanzania. Most recently, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs announced a significant contribution to our efforts on climate justice—a £1.7 million programme of renewable energy activity in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, to help set it on the road to green growth.
I will say a bit more about our support on climate change mitigation, in particular through the Scottish Government’s international development fund, which is already bringing Scotland’s world-renowned knowledge and expertise in the area of renewable energy generation to communities in vulnerable countries such as Malawi. In a fast-developing world, it would be easier for countries such as Malawi to adopt high-carbon solutions to their energy needs, but it is imperative that, as they aspire to western standards of living, they benefit from our knowledge and go straight to cleaner, low-carbon energy, rather than duplicating our processes and causing further damage to the climate. In addition, that will give them the opportunity to acquire leading-edge skills that may well, in time, surpass those in what we term the developed world.
As I have mentioned, a great example of that is the work that is being done in promoting sustainable energy and providing access to reliable electricity in rural areas of Malawi as part of the University of Strathclyde’s renewable energy acceleration programme, to which the Scottish Government awarded more than £1.7 million in February. The programme has multiple benefits, including those of reducing poverty and tackling climate change, which are two of the key themes of climate justice. The project will enable disadvantaged communities to be empowered to address their own energy needs and to develop their own renewable energy projects, which will provide access to more reliable electricity for rural towns and villages. In the comfort of the western world, we forget how little reliable electricity there is in the less developed world.
By providing research technology, collaboration, educational and training support and entrepreneurship, the University of Strathclyde will work with the people of Malawi to develop their renewable energy capabilities and climate change policies, thereby putting Malawi on the path to green growth. In addition, the programme will provide support at an institutional level in Malawi to support the formation of policies, including Government policies, for renewable and community energy projects. Our approach and expertise fit with the European Commission’s priorities as set out in “An Agenda for Change”, as well as the work of the United Nations high-level group on sustainable energy for all.
In addition to providing increased support for climate change mitigation, we have already recognised the need to enhance our support for climate adaptation. In our manifesto last year, we committed to establishing an international climate adaptation fund. Given the clear link between the need for adaptation in developing countries and climate justice, I can announce today that we are renaming that commitment as Scotland’s climate justice fund and that we will launch the fund in the next few months.
I said to the Parliament in December, ahead of the Durban talks, that we believe that action is needed now to grasp the opportunities that are presented by higher ambition on emissions reduction to drive and incentivise investment in new low-carbon markets, and to deliver our energy security, environmental and climate justice objectives. I hope that the Parliament agrees that Scotland can make a meaningful contribution to championing and delivering for climate justice worldwide.
That the Parliament understands that it is poor and vulnerable people in developing countries who are most affected by climate change and are least equipped to respond to it; supports Scotland acting as an international model of best practice on climate change and promoting the moral, environmental and economic reasons for action by other countries; strongly endorses the opportunity for Scotland to champion climate justice, which places human rights at the heart of global development, ensuring a fair distribution of responsibilities, and welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring respect for human rights and action to eradicate poverty and inequality, which are at the heart of Scotland’s action to combat climate change both at home and internationally and strengthening Scotland’s support for developing countries on climate change as part of Scotland’s international profile.