ECCLR Committee evidence session on the Climate Change Plan Update
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give evidence on behalf of SSN to the Scottish Government’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR). This was on the Climate Change Plan Update (CCPu) that had been published in December. “Giving evidence” sounds terribly grand and conjures up images of courtroom dramas and nervous witnesses. In reality, it’s a much more bureaucratic affair (and I didn’t get a chance to shout “You can’t handle the truth!” whilst bashing my fist against a copy of the latest IPCC projections).
The format is a cross-party group of MSPs asking a list of pre-prepared questions to a small panel of experts. My session covered Waste, Circular Economy and the Public Sector, and my fellow panellists included representatives from Zero Waste Scotland and Friends of the Earth. It was always going to be difficult trying to tackle three topics in a one-hour session, when each would warrant a session of its own. The tight timing also meant there was no opportunity for MSPs to ask follow-up questions or to dig more deeply into important issues.
Despite this, with the help of SSN Director, George Tarvit and Vice-Chair, John Wincott, I had prepared answers that we’d honed down to cover our main concerns. After the session, we submitted written evidence to ensure the ECCLR had all the information we wanted to get across.
Overall, our message was one of support. We welcomed the CCPu’s publication and expressed our intention to facilitate its delivery across the SSN network. But we did raise three main concerns:
Defining ‘Net-Zero’ and Offsetting: The CCPu still does not provide each public body with a clear definition on what emissions sources they should be measuring and how these should be measured, particular in relation to Scope 3 emissions. Without this, we risk every public body reporting on different things. Once we have that definition, we need further information on Scottish Government’s policy on offsetting. Even with our best efforts, most public bodies will have some ‘unavoidable’ emissions in 2045, and any public body setting a net-zero target in advance of this date will need to have an offsetting strategy in place.
Availability and Implementation of Funding: The announcement of £95million to decarbonise the public sector estate is welcomed, but is a fraction of what is required. Nevertheless, we need to understand how this funding is being made available, and we stated that the funding must be in the form of grants (not loans), be technology agnostic, and be flexible to project timelines (not deadlines such as the end of the financial year).
Supporting capacity: Most public bodies do not have sufficient in-house expertise or capacity to develop a detailed route-map towards decarbonisation, and to deliver against that route-map. This in-house capacity needs to be increased, but also backed with more dedicated central support.
Which brings us back to SSN. The SSN is well-placed to provide the necessary CCPu support to the public sector, so we are seeking better long-term core funding to enable us to produce guidance and resources to assist public bodies in meeting Scottish Government’s net-zero aspirations.
George and the team are working on these now, and would welcome any suggestions from SSN members.