14 June 2012

(S4O-01134) Public Bodies Climate Change Duty

Gavin Brown (Lothian) (Con): 6. To ask the Scottish Executive how it is meeting its climate change public sector duty to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. (S4O-01134)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Officials in the energy and climate change directorate lead work to co-ordinate the Scottish Government’s own compliance with the duties in part 4 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. That includes both operational action and appropriate policy responses, as set out in the guidance that the Scottish Government published in February last year to assist all public bodies in complying with the duties. Particular progress has been achieved in embedding carbon emissions reduction measures across the operation of the estate, and in improving governance, target setting, reporting, public engagement and acting sustainably—for example, through sustainable procurement.

Gavin Brown: I have looked at the minutes of the public sector climate action group, which the minister chairs, I think. It is stated in those minutes that

“Zero Waste and Sustainable Procurement are to be taken forward at a lower level of priority”.

Can the minister expand on that statement?

Stewart Stevenson: I chair that group jointly with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities environment representative. That representative will be someone new, as the previous one was not re-elected.

What Gavin Brown has read, of course, reflects how relative priorities will change over time as progress is made on activities, and we move our primary focus to areas in which greater attention is required. That is an example of progress having been made and of a refocusing on areas in which progress is less satisfactory.

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP): How are local authorities performing in contributing to meeting climate change targets? In particular, how is Glasgow City Council performing? Following an Audit Scotland report in 2010-11, that council was shown to have the worst record of all 32 local authorities.

Stewart Stevenson: The guidance on public bodies’ duties is very clear, and it applies to all public bodies—including all Scotland’s councils. All the councils, including Glasgow City Council, signed a declaration in 2007 to work on that subject. It is, of course, for Glasgow City Council to determine how it delivers on that aim, but I certainly expect every council and every public body to demonstrate significant progress now. I am disappointed to hear what James Dornan has reported.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab): Will the Scottish Government undertake an assessment of the overall progress of the public sector under all three parts of the public sector duties? If so, how will that be done and when will the results be published?

Stewart Stevenson: We monitor all the activities from the 21 reporting streams under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. That progress is monitored in significant part through the COSLA and Government joint body, to which I already referred. For the time being, that appears to be the best way of tracking what is happening in local authorities.

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