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Progress in reducing emissions in Scotland – 2021 Report to Parliament

1. Outline

This is the tenth annual Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament as required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. This year’s report shows that, in 2019, Scotland’s greenhouse emissions fell by 2% compared to 2018, and are now 44% below 1990 levels. The reductions were largely driven by the manufacturing and construction, and fuel supply sectors, with electricity generation remaining the biggest driver of emissions cuts over the past decade (2009-2019). The potential for further emissions savings from electricity generation has, however, largely run out.

The focus must now shift to ensuring that rapid emissions reductions are delivered with no further delay to allow Scotland to meet its legislated 2030 target.

2. Key messages

  • The Scottish Government has set laudable ambitions for emissions reductions in its Climate Change Plan update, supported to some extent by funding announcements in the most recent Programme for Government.
  • A comprehensive, detailed policy framework must now be completed, so the focus can be on implementation and delivery of real-world progress.
  • While the Climate Change Plan update sets out pathways for sectoral emissions to 2032 that meet the legislated targets, we have not been able to establish whether and how policies and proposals add up to the required emissions reductions.
  • Annual targets during the 2020s will be very difficult to meet, even with the strongest climate policies.
  • Climate policy in Scotland must focus on the transition to Net Zero and the need for rapid progress by 2030.
  • The Climate Change Plan update sets out extremely ambitious plans for reducing emissions from the transport sector. Urgent steps should be taken to ensure that emissions savings achieved through the response to the pandemic are locked in.
  • There is still an urgent need for post-CAP low-carbon agriculture policy. The Scottish Government will be introducing an Agriculture Bill in 2023, which will have to be sufficiently ambitious. A clear plan to move to healthy and low-carbon diets is also needed.
  • The Climate Change Plan update’s ambition for 2030 relies on a substantial contribution from engineered greenhouse gas removals (GGRs), but recent developments in UK climate policy increase the uncertainty around their timely delivery. Clear contingencies will have to be developed for meeting the 2030 target if it should turn out that GGRs cannot be delivered at scale on the necessary timetable.
  • The Scottish Government has made ambitious commitments in some areas that require going ahead of the UK-wide Net Zero pathway, often in areas where policy is not clearly devolved to Scotland.