Scotland hits 2020 emissions reduction target six years early

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 14 June 2016 in News

But campaigners question extent Scottish Government policy caused the reduction

The Scottish Government has hit its 2020 target to reduce emissions by 42 per cent against 1990 levels six years early.

The 2014 emissions figures also show Scotland hit its annual emission reduction target for the first time.

Emissions have fallen 45.8 per cent from the 1990 baseline.

But campaigners questioned the extent Scottish Government action had caused the reduction, pointing to declines in heavy industry and warmer winter weather, along with changes to the European emissions credits scheme.


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Scotland’s emissions fell by 12.5 per cent year on year to 41.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2014.

Transport emissions fell from 13.1 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents in 1990 to 12.9 megatonnes in 2014, while car vehicle kilometres travelled increased to pre-recession levels.

Meanwhile the figures show international aviation emissions more than doubled between 1990 and 2014.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaigner Jim Densham said the target was proof “it's possible to cut emissions while building a progressive and productive society”.

He said: “However, apart from the electricity and waste sectors, it's hard to see a bold fingerprint of Scottish Government policy driving the transition to a zero carbon economy.  This target has been met because of the loss of heavy industry, warmer winter weather, our changing share of European emissions credits and some government policies.”

Densham added: “Individual action is important but Scottish Government needs to lead with the big policies for major emission reductions. The challenge ahead is to tackle the sectors where there's been little change to date, like transport where our emissions remain stalled at 1990 levels and housing where emissions have reduced only 1 per cent since the Scottish Climate Change Act was passed.” 

Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “Scotland is making outstanding progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

She said: “The reduction in residential emissions in 2014 may have been due to people turning down their heating. This underlines that small individual actions, if repeated on a large scale, can have a big impact in tackling climate change

“This is an especially important time for climate change, in light of the international agreement reached in Paris last December and it is great news that Scotland continues to show ambition and demonstrate the progress that can be made.

“We will continue to rise to the challenge and the First Minister has already confirmed that the Scottish Government plans to establish a new and more testing 2020 target. We are not complacent and we will continue to take action and encourage others to do their bit to tackle climate change.”

Tory MSP Maurice Golden warned the Scottish Government it “must not become complacent”, while calling for a “more ambitious approach”.

He said: “There is still a lot more to be done within homes and transport and they need to recognise this and invest more in these sectors. There also needs to be new sector targets.

“Waste was a big win but an easy win, largely due to accounting changes. It is clear more needs to be done to protect the needs of this generation and future generations.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “The real test of action on climate change isn’t how figures get fudged from year to year; it’s whether people across Scotland have real choices to live in warm efficient homes or a transport system fit for the 21st century. That requires funding and action from the Scottish Government.

“Today's figures show we've moved in the right direction with the closure of incredibly polluting coal power stations and the shift away from using landfill and instead reducing and recycling waste. But transport remains the Scottish Government's weak spot, with road traffic back to where it was in 2007 and the hugely polluting aviation sector doubling its impact.”

Densham warned the Government has failed to introduce “any serious policies to reduce emissions”.

"Given the added urgency from the Paris Agreement last year, both the expected new climate action plan and the proposed new Scottish Climate Act are huge opportunities for all parties in the Scottish Parliament to show willing, work together and present a fresh plan with a clear timetable for all sectors to play their part.” 

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