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Gross greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by almost 10% in Scotland – 25 March 2014

Scotland has continued to make good progress towards meeting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Committee on Climate Change announced in its latest report.

Emissions in Scotland fell by 9.9% in 2011 – the latest year for which data is available – compared with 6.9% in the UK as a whole. In particular there were large reductions of over 20% in the power and residential sectors, and almost 15% reduction in the public sector in 2011. While much of this reduction was due to the weather, and a switch from coal fired electricity generation to nuclear and renewable sources, it also reflected good progress investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Despite a reduction in emissions, Scotland narrowly missed the legislated annual target of 53.4 MtCO2e by around 0.8 MtCO2e. This is as a result of recent improvements to the method of calculating estimated emissions (Scottish greenhouse gas inventory) which resulted in an addition of 1.2 MtCO2e to 2011 emissions. It should not distract from the assessment of underlying progress reducing emissions.

To allow for the effect of this revision, the Committee suggests either that currently legislated targets should be revised, or additional opportunities for reducing emissions be found.

Progress has been good in some sectors, but meeting future targets remains very challenging, and will require further action:

  • Renewable power. 2012 was a record year for adding renewable capacity to the power system, with 1 GW coming on to the system, compared to the previous record of 0.6 GW. However, sustained investment at a rate of 1.2 GW per year is required if the Scottish target for renewable generation is to be achieved.
  • Renewable heat. While there is a healthy project pipeline, this is insufficient to meet the 2020 renewable energy target. It will be important for Scotland to leverage funding provided under the Renewable Heat Incentive to support required investment.
  • Residential energy efficiency. The move from Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) has led to a significant decline in installation of insulation measures in 2013. There is a need to leverage funding under ECO and to make continued progress on insulation. There may also be a need for the Scottish Government to increase levels of funding, given the recent reduction at the GB level.
  • Surface transport. The electric vehicle market needs to be developed further through investment in charging infrastructure, and Scotland needs to consider next steps to build on Smarter Choices Smarter Places pilots.
  • Land use and forestry. Pilot projects on new farming practice are promising and consideration should now be given to how these will be scaled up. The Scottish Government has announced additional funding to support peatland restoration for 2014/15 and 2015/16; it is important to decide now how this money will be spent to preserve significant carbon stocks in the peatlands. Higher planting rates will be required in order to achieve afforestation rate target of 10,000 hectares per year, planting rates were low in 2013 due to poor weather conditions.

David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the CCC said:

“There has been good progress in Scotland on reducing emissions in key sectors of the economy, notably through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This should not be obscured by the fact that emissions in 2011 were above the level targeted because of a change to the accounting methodology. But much remains to be done in terms of policy development and implementation to achieve very challenging future targets, and to unlock the benefits for Scotland of building a low-carbon economy.”

Overall, despite the first two legislated targets being missed, underlying progress appears on track in most sectors. However, challenges remain to achieve the stretching targets set out by the Scottish Government.

These findings are from the Committee on Climate Change’s third progress report to the Scottish government, as requested under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009).