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Express delivery required for a Net Zero Scotland

It took 30 years to halve Scottish territorial emissions – they must halve again in under a decade to meet Scotland’s 2030 emissions target. The targets are law; the Scottish Parliament has made clear its ambition. Now the Scottish Government needs to start delivering on its climate promises.

With most of the key policy levers in the hands of Scottish Ministers, consultations and strategies must quickly turn into implementation and rapid emissions reductions.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said:

“Scotland’s successful hosting of COP26 makes it particularly important for the Scottish Government to respond to the new Glasgow Climate Pact and show how serious it is about delivering Net Zero. Strategies alone won’t reduce emissions. Major changes are needed across the Scottish economy, requiring lasting, systemic action in most sectors. Clarity and transparency on policy, supported with detail on how these policies will be delivered has been lacking. My Committee cannot assess future progress without this vital assurance.”

Scotland’s annual emissions target was missed in 2019. A pandemic-driven fall in 2020 emissions is likely to be only transitory. Future annual targets will also be difficult to meet, but Ministers must try to prevent the gap to their achievement widening further. The credibility of the Scottish climate framework is in jeopardy.

To get on track, the focus must be on the transition to Net Zero, delivering the major changes required for Scotland’s 2030, 2040 and 2045 milestone targets. The Scotland Climate Change Plan update provides ambitious and stretching pathways for emissions reductions in key sectors. In critical areas of low carbon transport and heating, Scottish levels of ambition are now higher than the rest of the UK, but it has not been possible to determine how promised policies will deliver these laudable ambitions, nor how funding will be allocated to their delivery.

For agriculture and greenhouse gas removals, there are still uncertainties. There is still an urgent need to define a low-carbon agriculture policy to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. A significant proportion of the Scottish Government’s ambition for 2030 rests on carbon capture and storage (CCS), but with the Scottish CCS cluster announced as only a ‘reserve project’, a decision must be made about whether to continue to plan for CCS and removals to contribute to the 2030 target at the same scale.

The risks to meeting the 2030 interim emissions target are now acute, ambition must increase in those areas where rapid changes are still feasible, or where it is possible to lock in lower emissions after the pandemic. Peatland restoration could occur at a significantly higher rate than that committed to by the Scottish Government. Reduction in consumption of meat and dairy can improve the health of Scottish citizens and contribute to Scotland’s emissions targets. And none of the recent policy documents or consultations has set out an explicit intent to limit aviation demand growth.

The Scottish Government has made some positive strides in the past year. Most of the CCC’s recommendations from a year ago are in train or have been achieved. Scotland’s Programme for Government sends a strong signal that the Net Zero transition is being integrated into all areas of policy and the focus on a just transition and increased public engagement is commendable.

In some key areas of climate policy, consultations and strategy statements have also been published by the Scottish Government ahead of UK-wide equivalents. Reaching Net Zero will now require the Scottish and UK Governments to work together to deliver specific decarbonisation solutions in Scotland.

The CCC’s new report provides more than 70 recommendations to support Scotland in that transition. Scotland has the means and the methods to do so. The CCC will judge future progress on how well those strategies and policies are implemented.

Notes to editors:

  • On the basis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory published in June 2021, total annual Scottish emissions fell by 2% in 2019 to 47.8 MtCO₂e and by 44% compared to 1990 levels.
  • On the ‘GHG Account’ basis, against which performance against the legislated targets is assessed, emissions were 51.5% below 1990 levels, meaning that Scotland missed its 2019 annual target for a 55% reduction.[1]
  • Of the 30 recommendations with an expected timeframe of 2021 (or earlier), nine were scored as achieved, five as partly achieved, 13 as underway, two as not achieved and one as not yet assessed.

[1]   The GHG Account is a measure of Scottish emissions that is designed to be consistent with the methodology for estimating emissions that was in place when the Scottish targets were set, excluding any subsequent changes in the estimation methodology or scope of emissions in the published inventory.