Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Climate bill 'could lead world'

Grangemouth petro chemical plant
The bill sets reduction targets for all 60 greenhouse gases

A newly-published Scottish bill to help tackle climate change could be a "world leader", environmental groups have claimed.

The Scottish Government proposals would see an 80% reduction in the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

It also sets out measures to tackle shipping and aviation emissions.

Campaigners Stop Climate Chaos Scotland hailed the bill as potentially "the most significant for a generation", but said there was room for improvement.

The targets in the Scottish Climate Change Bill will include a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a cut of 80% by 2050.

If backed by the Scottish Parliament, it would also allow ministers to establish a Scottish Committee on Climate Change, or similar body, to exercise advisory functions.

The measures set out in the bill show that Scotland is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change
Stewart Stevenson MSP
Climate change minister

It will include international aviation and shipping within its targets, as well as emissions from all six greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

More than 21,000 responses were received during a consultation on draft legislation.

Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson said the bill would give Scotland the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world.

He added: "The measures set out in the bill show that Scotland is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change.

"Achieving these targets will be challenging, but I am confident that government, business and the people of Scotland are ready to rise to the challenge of climate change."

The Scottish Government has pledged to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

The minister admitted that the targets were not an end in themselves, but stressed the importance of delivery.

"This is why we are developing a range of short, medium and long-term policy options to drive the changes needed to meet our ambitious targets. These options will be published next year," he added.

"As a government we are determined to have carbon assessment at the heart of our decision-making. We are breaking new ground with our carbon assessment project which will ensure climate change impacts are considered in future budgets and spending decisions."

The bill sets out the role the forestry sector can play in reducing emissions, through areas like renewable energy measures and woodland creation.

It also includes measures on energy efficiency, waste reduction, recycling and packaging.

And it gives ministers the powers to make retailers charge for the supply of carrier bags, although it insists legislation will be a "last resort". Some shops already charge for such bags.

We can and should be leading efforts to shift to a more efficient and sustainable low-carbon economy
Mike Robinson
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

Mike Robinson, chairman of umbrella organisation Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said the bill "could be the most significant for a generation".

He said the group's 30 members, who include Friends of the Earth, the Church of Scotland, Oxfam, Christian Aid and the National Trust for Scotland, had given it a warm welcome.

But he added: "As Lord Turner's report for the UK Climate Committee showed on Monday, there is no reason to back down, and every reason to be even more ambitious in investing for a green economy.

"We call upon MSPs from all parties to back strong measures already in the bill, and to work constructively to improve it further so it becomes genuinely world-leading legislation.

"Scotland has had huge benefit from fossil-fuel based energy; we can and should be leading efforts to shift to a more efficient and sustainable low-carbon economy."

'Environmental limits'

Opposition parties also largely welcomed the bill, but Scottish Labour's climate change spokesman Des McNulty said his party would be scrutinising the bill to ensure its words would be matched with action.

Mr McNulty said: "We will insist that the Scottish Government reports to parliament every year about what has been achieved and that there are penalties available if agreements are broken."

Scottish Tory climate change spokesman Alex Johnstone added: "It remains important that this Scottish bill is developed alongside the UK Climate Change Bill, especially with regard to the Scottish targets on aviation and shipping."

Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the bill was a "worthwhile starting point" but warned there were still too many loopholes and too much vague language.

"During 2009 we will see whether parliament can rise to the challenge and build on this proposal", he added.

"I believe it can be the foundation for the most effective legislation yet delivered on climate change anywhere in the world, but it still needs a lot of work".

The Sustainable Development Commission Scotland, which advises the Scottish Government on sustainable development, said the publishing of the bill was a "landmark day" for the country as it would provide "more confidence that our future will be a sustainable one in which we have a healthy and just society, a resilient economy and are living within what we can now all see are very real environmental limits."

A spokesman for the energy industry body Scottish Renewables said: "The days of counting the public purse solely in terms of money are over, every pound spent must now be carbon costed so that public buildings and services are run efficiently using more renewable energy to meet targets."

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