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Scotland hits latest emissions reduction target, but action needed in transport, buildings and agriculture to maintain progress

Scotland is leading the UK in greenhouse gas emissions reductions, but much more needs to be done to ensure future targets are met, according to a new report for the Scottish Government published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today.

The report reveals that Scotland’s annual emissions reduction target for 2014 was met, with gross Scottish greenhouse gas emissions, including international aviation and shipping, falling by 8.6% in 2014. This compares to a 7.3% fall for the UK as a whole. Since 1990, gross Scottish emissions have fallen nearly 40%, compared to nearly 33% at a UK level.

There has been good progress in deploying renewable electricity generation capacity in Scotland, and excellent progress in installing community and locally-owned energy projects (meeting the target for 500 MW of capacity five years early). Energy efficiency policy is well developed and has been designated a National Infrastructure Priority, although this is yet to be reflected fully in emission reductions. Progress has also been good in the waste sector with emissions falling 13% in 2014 and the introduction of a circular economy strategy and a food waste reduction target.

However, to meet Scotland’s ambitious targets beyond 2020, much more will be required, says the CCC’s report. Whilst emissions have fallen by an average of 3.3% per year since 2009, this has been mostly due to progress in the power sector with reduced coal and expanded renewable generation. Other sectors now need urgent attention:

  • There has been little progress in reducing emissions from transport, where emissions are largely unchanged from 1990 due to improved vehicle efficiency being offset by increased demand for travel as the economy has grown and fuel prices have fallen.
  • In agriculture and land use, emission reductions have been slow. In forestry 8% fewer hectares of new trees were planted in 2014 compared to 2013 and annual planting targets have yet to be met.
  • There has also been a slow uptake of renewable heat with projects tending to be small-scale, although capacity is increasing and district heating is more advanced than other parts of the UK.

The Scottish Government will publish a Climate Change Plan this winter, setting out specific policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in key sectors. The CCC’s report makes the following recommendations for this plan in order to keep Scotland on the lowest cost path to meeting its targets:

  • Ensure objectives are specific, outcome-focused, and measurable to allow effective monitoring and evaluation.
  • Focus on the core set of policies and actions that will have the biggest impact, particularly in transport, buildings and agriculture.
  • Take into account wider benefits as well as the costs of climate change actions, e.g. improving health, saving money, alleviating fuel poverty, preserving Scottish ecosystems and biodiversity, providing local jobs and services, and helping the economy of Scotland grow.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change said: “Scotland continues to lead the UK both in performance and ambition when it comes to tackling climate change. Emissions are reducing and the latest targets have been hit. Scotland has set out its intention to meet the challenges of climate change and its contribution to the ambition agreed at the Paris climate conference last December. New policies are now required for Scotland to continue its commendable path to decarbonising its economy.