Scottish Government draws up plan for green recovery from Covid-19

The Scottish Government has put forward a draft policy programme for aligning its economic recovery plans for Covid-19 with its long-term climate, nature and social targets, developed under an agreement with the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group.

The draft policy programme, called the Bute House Agreement, was published late last week as the agreement between the SNP Government and the Scottish Green Party, which has seven MSPs, was confirmed.

Included in the Agreement are measures to help decarbonise some of Scotland’s most-emitting sectors, including energy, transport and buildings.

There are commitments to launch a £500m Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray, to be spent over a ten-year period. The aim of the Fund is to protect those who will be most affected by Scotland’s transition to net-zero by 2045, such as oil and gas workers. The UK Government’s own North Sea Transition Deal was widely criticised by green groups for over-emphasising the role that oil and gas will play in the energy mix in the coming decades, thereby placing workers in Scotland at risk.

Elsewhere, the Bute House Agreement binds the Government to invest at least £1.8bn in energy efficiency and renewable energy for heat this parliamentary session; to revise the framework of support for the offshore wind, wave and tidal energy sectors and to increase investment in active travel and public transport.

There are also measures to improve nature, including a review of the marine environmental protection framework and a commitment to designate at least one new National Park. Both of these actions should be taken this parliamentary session.

On the social sustainability piece, there are commitments to deliver 110,000 new affordable homes by 2032; develop and implement a national rent control system and to put forward a second referendum on Scottish independence, “after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed”.

The Government said in a statement that the Agreement is designed to encourage “collaboration on the climate emergency, economic recovery, child poverty, the natural environment, energy and the constitution”.

“The challenges we face have rarely been greater – the climate emergency, recovery from a global pandemic and an assault by the UK government on the powers of our Parliament,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

“Today’s politics can too often feel small – polarised, divided and incapable of meeting the moment – and this agreement is intended to change that in Scotland. It is about doing politics and governance better to find the solutions needed to solve the problems confronting the world today.

“The spirit of cooperation and consensus-building is very much in keeping with the founding principles of our Scottish Parliament. We do not agree on everything, but we are coming out of our comfort zones to focus on what we do agree on.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater added: “The stakes could not be higher – with the COP26 climate conference coming to Glasgow, Scotland is in a position show real leadership on climate. But this deal is about people as well as the planet… That’s why we are pledging to work together to build a greener, fairer and independent Scotland.”

Environmental advisors

Shortly after the Bute House Agreement was published, the Scottish Government announced that it has convened a new group of advisors to guide policymaking on environmental issues. The SNP had promised to take this action within the first 100 days of this government, in its most recent election campaign.

Sir Ian Boyd, former chief scientific advisor to the UK Government’s Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), has been selected as co-chair of the new advisory group. Sturgeon will be the second co-chair.

Other members of the group include Dame Julia Slingo, former chief scientist at the Met Office, circular economy advocate Dame Ellen Macarthur and wildlife presenter Gordon Buchanan. There are 14 members altogether.

Members of the group, called the First Minister’s Environment Council, will present their proposed areas for future work at COP26. The Scottish Government said in a statement that the Council’s work will “advise Ministers on international best practice” on tackling the twin climate and nature crises.

“As well as acting as a sounding board for our near-term policies, the group will advise us on the long-term policy trajectory for Scotland – taking into account the opportunities that becoming a net-zero society presents: growing our economy, improving our health and wellbeing and protecting Scotland’s iconic natural environment,” Sturgeon said.

She emphasised the timing of the Council’s creation – less than a month after the publication of a major new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report has been described as a “code red” warning. It states that the window in which to deliver the “deep emissions cuts” needed to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis is closing rapidly. meaning that our best chance of delivering the Paris Agreement is to reach “at least net-zero” globally by 2050. The report also urges more action on climate adaptation, warning that, even if emissions do decrease rapidly, temperature increases could take decades to reverse.

By Sarah George

This article was originally shared on edie.