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Scotland can become the first UK nation to deliver a net-zero roadmap

Scotland must become the first UK nation to set out a net-zero-compatible plan, the CCC says today.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19, the Scottish Government is in a unique position to detail how it plans to deliver a green recovery when it publishes its updated Climate Change Plan in December. Doing so would put it ahead of the rest of the UK, as Scotland seeks to become the UK’s first Net Zero economy by 2045.

That’s the finding of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2020 Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament. The report shows that Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 31% in the decade 2008 to 2018, faster than any other nation of the UK and any G20 nation over the same period. This was led by action in the power sector, where Scottish renewable generation has tripled and fossil-fuelled generation has fallen by more than 70% in the last decade.

But success in the next decade is not a given. Over the same decade, emissions in the other sectors of the Scottish economy fell by just 14%. Scotland missed its annual emissions target in 2018 – and the 2020 target is only likely to be met because lockdown restrictions have constrained emissions temporarily. Sustained action over the long-term is now imperative to meet Scotland’s demanding targets.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said:

“Scotland faces an extraordinary challenge in dealing with COVID-19, but we must not lose sight of the climate crisis. The decisions to secure a resilient recovery are pivotal. Scotland can no longer rely on electricity generation to reduce its emissions, so it must begin to make more meaningful progress in the other sectors of the economy. To reach net-zero emissions ahead of the rest of the UK and to earn its stripes as an international climate leader when the world looks to Glasgow next year, decisive action and clear policies are urgently required.”

The Committee welcomes the 2020-21 Scottish Budget, published before the pandemic, and the Programme for Government, published in September 2020. Both were framed around Net Zero and contained strong policy commitments. The Scottish Government has already taken meaningful actions against each of the CCC’s six key principles for a resilient recovery from COVID-19.

The challenge for the Scottish Government is to maintain this focus in the longer-term. That will require further strengthening of efforts to embed Net Zero and climate adaptation at the heart of government policy.

The priority areas for the Scottish Government are to:

  • Deliver an updated Climate Change Plan which puts Scotland firmly on course to become a Net Zero economy by 2045.
  • Develop a UK Emissions Trading System that is aligned to Net Zero, in partnership with the UK Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive.
  • Set out a vision for the future of low-carbon heating in Scotland’s homes and other buildings, integrated with UK Government decisions on the future of the UK gas grid and energy taxation.
  • Develop a new rural support scheme that builds towards Scotland’s climate goals.
  • Make it easy for people to walk, cycle, use public transport, and work from home in Scotland, and ensure electric vehicle charging infrastructure and other enabling measures are in place to eliminate the need to buy a petrol or diesel car in Scotland by 2032 at the latest.
  • Lead a strong cross-government response to the most urgent national climate change risks set out in the third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment due to be published in summer 2021.
  • Accelerate investments in low-carbon and climate adaptation infrastructure to stimulate Scotland’s economy, build long-term productive capacity and improve climate resilience.
  • Engage with people and businesses in Scotland to develop skills for the net- zero transition, help people understand what the transition means for their lives, and make it easy to make low-carbon choices.

The updated Climate Change Plan is due in December. It should set the foundations for a new era of climate change action in Scotland.

The Committee will provide further guidance on the appropriate pathway for Scottish emissions over the period to 2045 as part of its advice to Government on the Sixth UK Carbon Budget, due to be published on 9 December 2020.