9 February 2012

(S4O-00687) Emissions Reductions (2020 Target)

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab): 9. To ask the Scottish Executive what progress it is making in meeting its targets for reducing emissions by 2020. (S4O-00687)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
The latest available data shows that in 2009 Scotland’s emissions had fallen by two thirds of the target from 1990, ahead of the targets for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In March 2011, the Government published its first statutory report on proposals and policies. We plan to publish a second report on proposals and policies in 2012, which will set out the path for delivery of the emissions reduction targets from 2023 to 2027. We will refine the policies that were detailed in the first RPP and continue to develop proposals.

Neil Bibby: The minister will be aware of the report by the independent Committee on Climate Change, which questions whether those targets will be met and points out that it is likely that emissions rose in 2010. What effect will the recent progress report from the Committee on Climate Change have on the Scottish Government’s future policies and proposals?

Stewart Stevenson: We had a very encouraging report from the committee, which highlighted what we already knew about the nature of the challenges. One thing that has happened in the recent past is particularly relevant to Scotland. At Durban we got an agreement that the Kyoto protocol would change in respect of peatlands, so we will now be able to incorporate in our numbers our work on rewetting peatlands, including any work that has taken place since 1990. Given that we have a huge proportion of Europe’s peatlands and are already investing money in rewetting peatlands in the north of Scotland, that is a very helpful addition to the range of interventions that we have and which we can take credit for.

(S4O-00685) Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Enforcement Powers)

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): 7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take to ensure that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency uses the enforcement powers that it has. (S4O-00685)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
As part of its strategic oversight of SEPA, the Scottish Government works closely with the agency to ensure that agreed objectives are met and that it implements sound policies and procedures, including effective enforcement arrangements, that protect Scotland’s environment. SEPA’s strong framework for ensuring appropriate use of its enforcement powers includes an enforcement policy that defines how and when enforcement mechanisms will be applied, and detailed guidance for front-line regulatory teams to enable them to carry out their duties proportionately and consistently.

Angus MacDonald: The minister will be aware that, two weeks ago, the cabinet secretary visited the Avondale landfill site in my constituency. The site has enjoyed significant investment in its new waste transfer facility, but the minister might not be aware of significant disquiet in the nearby Polmont community about the smell that regularly emanates from the site. At the other end of my constituency, the west Carron landfill site, which is run by another operator, has also caused anger in the local community. How will the minister ensure that SEPA uses the powers that it has been given to ensure that local residents are not further inconvenienced by these landfill sites?

Stewart Stevenson: It is up to SEPA to decide when and how it uses its enforcement powers in line with statutory functions. I am aware that it is working on the significant concerns in Avondale and west Carron and engaging with interested parties to ensure that everyone is kept aware of progress.

SEPA is working with the operators of both sites and improvements are being made to Avondale’s gas management systems to address odour concerns. However, the agency has indicated that if satisfactory progress is not made in that respect, more formal action will be taken.

(S4O-00682) Air Quality (Glasgow)

Humza Yousaf (Glasgow) (SNP): 4. To ask the Scottish Government what progress is being made on reducing nitrogen dioxide levels and improving air quality in Glasgow. (S4O-00682)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
Glasgow City Council has produced an air quality action plan that contains a comprehensive list of measures for improving air quality in the city. The council is working closely with the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and other partners to implement the plan.

Humza Yousaf: When does the minister expect low emission zones to be introduced in Glasgow? What impact does he anticipate they will have on air quality during the 2014 Commonwealth games?

Stewart Stevenson: Low emission zones will be introduced around venues before the games and will be in place for the duration of the games. They should ensure that there is a reduction in pollution due to vehicle emissions in those areas. Monitoring of air quality is taking place at venues in the run-up to the games to ensure that we have comparable data. Both the Government and the council are confident that there will be no impact on the games.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): Serious concerns are being raised about the lack of progress on air quality in some Scottish cities, including Perth in my region. Scotland has breached European air pollution targets for the second year in a row. The Scottish Government, as part of the United Kingdom Government’s request to the European Commission, is asking for an extension of air quality targets, including an extension of 10 years for Glasgow. Is the expectation that the request will be accepted on the ground that all reasonable efforts have been made? If so, what will be the consequences for residents’ health? Finally, what are the consequences of breaching the targets? Does the Scottish Government foresee possible infraction proceedings?

Stewart Stevenson: The whole of Scotland is expected to comply with the limit values by 2015, with the exception of the missing link on the M8 between Newhouse and Baillieston, east of Glasgow. Within the city of Glasgow area, there are expected to be no exceedances of the limit values by 2015. On the remaining area on the M8, Transport Scotland is estimating completion by 2017-18.

(S4O-00681) Environmental Policy (2011 Interim Performance Targets)

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab): 3. To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will meet the 2011 interim environmental performance targets set out in its environmental policy. (S4O-00681)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
The 2010-11 data regarding the Scottish Government’s environmental performance is presently being compiled and will be published when available. However, previous reports have shown that good progress is being made in reducing business travel, and we are on track to meet our 2020 target to reduce the volume of waste material produced. We remain committed to improving the Scottish Government’s overall environmental impact.

Sarah Boyack: I welcome the progress that has been made, but I ask the minister specifically about energy consumption. The most recent environmental performance report published by the Government, in November last year, said that the Scottish Government is less than a third of the way to its 12.6 per cent target for March 2012, even taking into account the fact that some buildings were empty for part of the period. What is the minister doing to ensure that the Scottish Government catches up and meets its target by next month?

Stewart Stevenson: We are making significant progress. We are committed to reducing the size of our estate, and expect to have done so by 25 per cent by 2016. Already, 83 per cent of the electricity that is used in the core Scottish Government estate is from renewable sources, so we are making the kind of progress that members can reasonably expect.

(S4O-00680) Forestry Development (Upland Grazing Interests)

Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP): 2. To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made to accommodate upland grazing interests and forestry development targets. (S4O-00680)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): Cabinet secretary.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Minister.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I beg your pardon, minister.

Stewart Stevenson: Late advice from us, I think. I apologise, Presiding Officer.

We have established a woodland expansion advisory group to provide advice on which types of land are best for tree planting in Scotland, in the context of other land-based objectives. The group, which includes members from the farming sector, is giving careful consideration to the potential impact of woodland expansion on upland grazing. The group has recently concluded a public consultation exercise, and will be running regional stakeholder meetings later this month. It will report in June.

Rob Gibson: Given the considerable fall in sheep stock throughout Scotland over several years, has there been a measurable pressure on existing upland grazings from forestry development? Has the Forestry Commission bought former sheep farms that have been on the market for some time? Can today’s limited number of sheep, which are of higher value, continue to be reared successfully on the upland grazings that are available at present?

Stewart Stevenson: The decline in sheep numbers has not been uniform throughout the country—having been at its highest in the north and west—and there is still demand for upland grazing for sheep in some areas of the country.

Through Forest Enterprise Scotland, the Forestry Commission has planted nearly 2,500 hectares over the past three years. However, the woodland expansion advisory group will look at the issue in more detail and, as I indicated in my first answer, will report in June.

Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): Does the minister agree that upland grazing pastures are often critical to the local biosphere and, from the point of view of biodiversity, are preferable to big plantations of sitka spruce?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes. Biodiversity is an important issue for us. In upland areas and grazing pastures, there is often greater biodiversity than in the relative monoculture of the plantations that the member describes. It is important that we continue to ensure that upland grazing is in place.

I should have drawn members’ attention to the fact that I have a 3-acre field, which one of my neighbours uses for upland grazing.

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