Nicola Sturgeon says there "may well be merit" in having each minister report on climate change efforts

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 25 October 2017 in News

Nicola Sturgeon said calls for a 100 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was something ministers would “think very carefully about”

Nicola Sturgeon - image credit: Scottish Parliament

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested there “may well be merit” in the idea of having each cabinet secretary report to parliament on the action they have taken to tackle climate change, but warned it could lead to a less holistic approach in Scottish Government efforts to reduce emissions.

Appearing in front of the Conveners Group of the Scottish Parliament to take questions on her Programme for Government, the First Minister pledged to consider proposals to have each relevant minister appear in parliament to be held accountable for emissions reductions in their area.

With the Environment Committee tasked with scrutinising the upcoming climate change bill, convener Graeme Dey asked the FM about the role played by ministers responsible for areas such as transport, land use and the electricity sector.


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Sturgeon said she was “open minded” to the idea of holding each minister accountable for emissions reductions, while also telling the group of conveners that calls from campaigners for the forthcoming climate change bill to include plans for a 100 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was something ministers would “think very carefully about”.

Discussing calls to go beyond current plans for a 90 per cent emission reduction by 2050, she said: “That comes down to whether we do now what there is an evidence path to with the flexibility to go further, or do we commit to do something now even though we don‘t have the clear evidence path towards it. That is obviously something the Scottish Government will think very carefully about. Even the 90 per cent [target] though is massively ambitious, in terms of the spending that will take to deliver, over that long time period, is significant. It is definitely an ambitious target.

“Your point about how the government approaches it, in an all-government way, is important, though obviously we have a cabinet secretary responsible for climate change, but she can’t deliver this on her own. The efforts of every part of government are essential. The most important forum here is the cabinet subcommittee on climate change – that is the place within government where we ensure the action needed to tackle climate change is hardwired into every area of government policy.

“In the past year the focus of the subcommittee has been overseeing the development and production of the climate change plan, which is the plan to deliver current targets. That has meant, very, very tangibly, that ministers have had to work together to make sure that not only the activity within their own portfolio contributes to meeting those targets but also that what every individual minister is doing is adding up to the sum of its parts. That is an important discipline in government and our discussions around the cabinet table on climate change would reflect the fact there is a real recognition it is a cross-government challenge.”

But while Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham holds responsibility for climate change, areas with a major bearing on emissions such as agriculture, transport and energy policy sit outside her portfolio.

Under plans suggested by environmental groups, the October statement from the Environment Secretary would be replaced by a series of statements from each cabinet secretary or minister, explaining the progress made in their own sector.

Responding to questioning from Dey, Sturgeon said: “I suppose I think it is important to have a person in cabinet who is accountable to parliament and to the country more widely for our performance on climate change, [while] absolutely recognising that in order for us to perform against our targets we need everyone across government to be doing and playing their part.

“There may well be a merit in having individual cabinet secretaries reporting on the action within their own portfolio. I suppose if I was to express any scepticism on that it, counter intuitively, it may lead to more of a silo approach to this, rather than everyone feeding in through the cabinet subcommittee, into the report that the relevant cabinet secretary is required to give.”

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