Greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland increased for the first time in four years, new figures have revealed.
The Scottish Government blamed the rise on a spate of cold weather, though insisted it is still on track to meet climate change targets.
But critics have seized on the recorded jump, which they say points to a failure to take measures to cut emissions.
Official statistics released by the government showed that in 2010, emissions of the six greenhouses gases were estimated to be at 55.7 million tonnes. This was 5.8 per cent higher than 2009 – but is still down 22.8 per cent on the figure in 1990, the date which global emission reduction targets are measured against.
During 2010, parts of Scotland saw the coldest temperatures in 91 years, prompting government to pinpoint homes keeping heating on for longer periods as a cause of a “significant rise” in emissions from power stations and residential properties.
The Scottish Parliament has signed up a pledge to cut emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson said: ““The Scottish Government remains fully committed to delivering ambitious and world-leading climate change targets. We always knew it would be a challenging path to follow when these were set and that year to year fluctuations were inevitable.
“It is therefore no surprise that domestic heating emissions rose as a result of the extreme weather. Scotland faced its coldest winter temperatures in almost a century – and quite rightly people across Scotland needed to heat their homes to keep warm and safe.
“The longer term trend reveals Scottish greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by around a quarter since 1990, signalling we are still on track to achieve the 2020 target. “While the 2010 weather was exceptional, this early experience highlights the need to not just plan to meet the targets, but to build in some contingency as well. We remain fully committed to delivering our climate change targets and I am confident that the underlying trend remains downward.”
The government announced last month plans for a National Retrofit Programme to improve energy efficiency in homes. Later this year further plans are set to be put before parliament on how to further reduce emissions. Provisional figures from the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have shown emissions fell back again by 7 per cent in 2011.
Green co-convener Patrick Harvie today accused the government of a failure to tackle emissions from homes and transport in the wake of latest figures.
He said: “The government can’t get away with expressing shock that Scotland has cold winters some years. This failure of government policy can’t be pinned on bad weather when they have delayed year after year the national, street-by-street effort we need to insulate Scotland’s leaky homes. Cutting energy bills and carbon emissions at the same time should be a no-brainer.
“Today’s figures highlight our damaging reliance on coal and the need for a plan to phase out fossil fuel use alongside the growth in renewables. We need a clear timetable set for taking fossil fuels out of the system, but the SNP are still intent on extracting every last bit they can find.
“Scotland’s transport emissions remain higher now than before climate change was even accepted by most political parties, and the SNP’s failure to show the slightest interest in making sustainable transport work for people is the biggest single threat to future progress toward the climate targets.
“It’s clear that a transformation of our transport system is needed but there is a serious lack of leadership at cabinet level.
“The next climate change plan must mark a bold shift in transport thinking or there is little hope of meeting the targets and Scotland’s self-promoted status as a climate leader will unravel within a few years.”