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Holyrood urged to commit to climate scrutiny measures outlined by citizens' assembly

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Scotland’s Climate Assembly has said ministers should commit to annual check-ins on their progress tackling the climate emergency.

The Scottish Government is under pressure to accept robust new accountability measures to assess the country’s progress towards tackling the climate emergency. 

Scotland’s Climate Assembly, made up of over 100 members broadly representative of the country, has challenged ministers to commit to annual check-ins with the assembly, and outlined a new scorecard system with 10 key performance indicators to bring added accountability.

Last year, the Assembly set out 16 goals and 81 recommendations for how Scotland should tackle the climate emergency in a fair and effective way. 

The Scottish Government published its response in December, including a foreword by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and a range of actions it now intends to take in response to the Climate Assembly’s work.

As well as putting forward new proposals for public scrutiny, the assembly called for the Government to go further with actions across a range of areas, including increasing public control of land, retrofitting of homes to prevent fuel poverty, higher taxes for frequent fliers and supporting people with low incomes in accessing public transportation.

Ahead of agreeing their response last weekend, the assembly put questions to Patrick Harvie MSP, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights, and Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work.

The assembly’s statement calls on the Scottish Government to do more with its existing powers under the devolution settlement to tackle the climate emergency. 

They said: “We believe that the Scottish Government has failed to test how far it can utilise existing powers to deliver and needs to do so.

“We want the Scottish Government to create a scorecard for Scotland with ten key performance indicators (decided by independent experts) with clear numerical and measurable targets based on areas of greatest impact on climate change.

“This information should be updated bi-annually in an easily accessible and understandable format, and published in a one-pager. 

“We strongly believe the Government can upscale their current commitments further to meet the ambitions of our recommendations and shorten their current timescales. Going forward we expect the Government to ensure that we can hold them accountable for this via an annual review.”

The assembly’s report, published in June last year, sets out 81 recommendations agreed by an overwhelming consensus of members for tackling the climate emergency in a fair and effective way.

These recommendations cover a broad range of issues including domestic heating, emissions, environmental impact in public procurement, land use and agriculture, taxation, transport (including air travel) and the economy.

The assembly’s recommendations for action found broad support across the country. 

Scotland’s Civic Charter on Climate showed backing from the likes of the University of Aberdeen, City of Edinburgh Council, Oxfam Scotland, Iona Community, John Muir Trust, Rock Rose Gin, National Express, Scotland’s makar Kathleen Jamie, and bestselling crime writer Val McDermid. 

Assembly co-convenor Ruth Harvey said: “There is a huge amount of hope and potential for the future summed up in the response of the Assembly today.

“The real legacy of this process will be in how the Assembly is empowered to continue its courageous work, along with the Children’s Parliament, through annual check-ins with the Scottish Government.

“It’s a bit like the COP26 process which requires nations to make a regular commitment to meet together to account for their actions. An Assembly of over one hundred citizens of Scotland has asked for similar accountability internally within Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is proud of the work of the Climate Assembly, which will play a pivotal role in our journey to becoming a net zero nation.

“We are clear on the urgency of the climate emergency and started delivering on many of the assembly’s recommendations even before our official response was published. The assembly has also led to us increasing our ambition in other areas.

“We recognise that some members will be disappointed that we have not been able to progress all of their recommendations in full. Achieving some of the ambitions of the assembly will require changes at UK level or, in some cases, multinational agreement.

“However, it is right that members continue to press us to do more, and to do it faster. We remain committed to Scotland's Climate Assembly and their recommendations, and will now focus on delivering on the commitments set out in our response, continuing to examine where we can go further.”