Four Holyrood Committees that have been analysing the Scottish Government's draft Climate Change Plan have today published their recommendations for the final plan. Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland and Rebecca Bell, Senior Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland, bring us this latest blog looking into those recommendations and outlining what RSPB Scotland would like to see happen next.
Last month we asked you to Show the Love for nature and special places by contacting MSPs and asking them to support Scotland’s wildlife through a stronger Climate Change Plan. Thanks to all of you who did that because today saw the recommendations by four Holyrood committees about how to improve the draft Climate Change Plan.
The draft plan, laid out the Scottish Government’s policies to meet Scotland’s climate change targets to 2032. We found that it does set out a positive vision of a low carbon future, but is weak on the detail of how it will be realised, and the committees seem to have agreed with us. Here are some highlights where committees agree with our recommendations on actions that we feel passionately can benefit the climate and wildlife.
Like us, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) were ‘delighted’ to see Government’s commitment and new ambitious target for restoring peatland habitats. This is close to our heart at RSPB Scotland as we aim to bring life back to degraded peatlands at our Forsinard Flows, Airds Moss and other reserves, for the benefit of the climate and fantastic wildlife like curlews and hen harriers.
The ECCLR Committee echoed our calls for compulsory soil testing by farmers, saying that it is a ‘vital stepping stone to changing behaviours’. Testing soil acidity level (or pH) gives information to farmers about the amount of lime they should apply to land and helps them calculate the correct amount of costly fertiliser to use. Excess fertiliser spreading is wasteful and easily turns into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2. Not testing soil for pH is like a builder not using a spirit level, a doctor not having a thermometer, a barber wearing a blindfold – it’s the basics.
Technology and behaviour change
The plan relies heavily on new technology becoming widespread in Scotland before 2032. Some of them haven’t even been proven, like Carbon Capture and Storage, or are in their infancy, like electric vehicles. Committees, like us, pointed this out and the need to seek alternative back up approaches – especially a greater focus on finding ways to help us all change our behaviours and find the right ways to trigger low-carbon lifestyle choices. An interesting snippet from the ECCLR Committee’s report is that the “Climate Conversations” held with members of the public in the run-up to the plan’s publication found that people are very keen on improving public transport. Making public transport better is a key way to change people’s travel choices. The affects of climate change on children and wildlife was also a common concern in the Climate Conversations.
We want to see renewable energy in Scotland that is planned and installed in harmony with nature. Our Energy Vision sets out how renewables can be sited in a way that doesn’t harm our special habitats and species. The Local Government and Communities Committee agreed with us that there needs to be a clearer role for the planning system in meeting our climate change targets. We think that that should mean that the most suitable sites should be identified for renewables, rather than waiting for developers to propose where they should go.
Next for the plan
On the whole, we are pleased with the reports that the Holyrood committees have written. There will now be a debate in Parliament after which Government will go away and consider the changes it needs to make. For us, that means more vital work to keep up the pressure on Government and to make sure the final Climate Change Plan complements all the other climate related plans and strategies it is working on: planning reform, energy strategy, fracking, district heating, energy efficiency. We will be influencing these over the next couple of months, continuing to make the case for a low-carbon Scotland in harmony with nature.
You can read the evidence that we submitted here: ECCLR, EJFW, REC, LGC