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The ‘Big Ask' for Scotland

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets Bill.

UNISON Scotland's response to Mark Ruskell MSPs consultation paper on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets.

September 2005


This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland response to the above consultation.

UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 150,000 members working in the Scottish Health Service, local government, utilities, further and higher education and other public sector providers throughout Scotland. We are also the largest trade union in the energy industry.

The challenge of global warming has led the UK government to make commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The UK is attempting to reduce its emissions from a basket of gases: Methane; nitrous oxide; sulphur hexafluoride; perflurocarbons; hydrofluorocarbons; as well as carbon dioxide by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12, and the government has set itself a domestic target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation exercise on greenhouse gas emissions.

Response by UNISON Scotland

1.      What are your views on the proposed approach:

UNISON Scotland broadly supports "year-on-year " targets to reduce Climate Change emissions. We believe that these would compliment the long-term goals set by the UK government and under our treaty obligations.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has reported that the UK is likely to fall far short of international targets for renewable energy. The UK still produces less than 3% of its energy from renewable sources. They highlighted "the conflicting priorities of market liberalisation and cheap electricity as against our Kyoto obligations”. Whilst largely thanks to hydro-electric power Scotland's renewable record is the best in the UK, Scottish Executive targets of 18% by 2010 and 40% by 2020 are optimistic.

The Executive has to provide sufficient, affordable energy and tackle fuel poverty in Scotland while meeting its Kyoto targets. It will need to change the way energy is supplied, decrease demand by making more efficient use of energy, bringing in new technologies and changes to the whole infrastructure of the industry. Major programmes are being introduced to promote the development of renewables and increase energy efficiency. However, with our current nuclear power stations (which produce low carbon energy) due to decommission over the next 10-20 years, our emissions could begin to rise again.

We support the proposal in line with the Scottish Parliament Environment Committee's inquiry into Climate Change.

2.      At what level(s) and over what time frame(s) do you think targets should be set?

UNISON Scotland believe that the Kyoto Protocol is an essential first step in tackling climate change. The measures set out in the Kyoto Protocol, while not the complete solution, is at least a step in the right direction.

UNISON Scotland also believes these targets will only be achieved by generating more electricity from renewable sources, supporting clean coal technologies and maintaining at least some nuclear provision. All of these measures will require government support. The market alone will not respond in time.

The Scottish Executives' targets appear to be extremely challenging given the current state of technology, the availability of suitable sites and increasing local opposition to wind farms in particular. Wind and wave power appear to be the most viable medium term options and the necessary transmission infrastructure should be strengthened to support these developments.

The legislation must recognise that in achieving gas emission targets many elements lie outwith Scottish Executive control.

3.      What measures would you like to see included in a plan of action?

UNISON Scotland believes that there is a scope for the development of a Scottish Energy Strategy within the context of the UK. Scotland has a distinct energy position within the UK because of its integrated electricity industry, different generation structure and the opportunity to develop extensive renewable energy resources.

The Scottish Parliament also has an important role to play in supporting a Scottish energy strategy, having devolved responsibilities that both impact and interface with UK energy policy. These include; the environment, planning, education and training, economic development and, not least, sustainable development.

UNISON Scotland would urge policies that support a balanced and sustainable approach to energy generation and use, and which promote further investment across Scotland. We believe that a Scottish energy strategy should be based on a planned market for energy combined with security of supply, as well as social, employment and environmental objectives. Key principles should be:

·        A balanced electricity generation policy from a number of sources to minimise volatility and ensure security of supply.

·        Increased support for renewable energy sources.

·        For the foreseeable future, to continue with gas and coal generation at current levels, subject to the introduction of clean coal technologies.

·        Given Scotland's current dependency on nuclear generation there is no medium term viable alternative if Scotland is to meet its climate change obligations.

·        Demand for electricity should be reduced by promoting energy efficiency, with new resources for local government and revised targets including new building standards. This should be coupled with a better co-ordinated drive against fuel poverty. Government targets for the growth of Combined Heat and Power should be increased with appropriate support.

 UNISON Scotland believes that any proposal to expand the generation of electricity from renewable sources must be seen in the context of the Scottish energy industry as a whole. This industry is vital to the Scottish economy and provides significant numbers of quality jobs. Any emission targets should take into account the economic consequences. We regret that to date there is very little evidence that ‘green jobs' are much more than a paper strategy.

Transport is a major contributor to climate change and if the government is to fulfil its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol more needs to be done to reduce transport's impact. Road traffic and aviation are the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases. Emissions can be reduced with the use of non-polluting technologies, such as fuel cells in motor vehicles. Flying should pay he full environmental costs of its activities. Travel habits must be changed if we want to alleviate the worst effects of air and noise pollution.

UNISON Scotland would agree that there is significant scope to reduce the generation of waste. There are many examples of innovative local authority strategies that should be supported and resourced by the Scottish Executive. We would particularly highlight the current interpretation of environmental regulations that could bring to an end the combustion of Waste Derived Fuel produced from sludge at Daldowie and burnt at Longannent Power Station. This is an environmentally sound method of fuel generation and its loss would result in extra coal emissions and landfill for the sludge.

We agree that the buying power of the public sector has huge potential to stimulate and support the market in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The public sector frequently has to compete with private sector organisation so there must be an equal playing field on environmental targets for public and private contracts. UNISON would support the public sector taking a leadership role in this area so long as appropriate funding was secured. Many "green schemes” require high initial cost and a long lead time before the financial benefits accrue.

We are concerned that the ‘efficient government' initiative could lead to greater centralisation of services including purchasing. This has been the experience of the private sector with shared services causing greater employee travel and purchasing squeezing out smaller local suppliers.


4.      How frequently do you think reporting should take place?

UNISON Scotland supports a comprehensive and independent audit of progress under the Scottish programme, commissioned by the Executive and repeated every five years. We also agree that the Executive should also report annually to the Parliament on progress towards meeting targets.

5.      Is there anything else you would like to add?

Privatisation and liberalisation of the energy market will not deliver a planned energy policy or achieve emission targets. Comprehensive planning is required if alternative generation is to make a significant contribution to our energy requirements, integrated public transport to cut car use and deliver effective waste management.


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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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