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Environmental groups "disappointed" with Scottish Government draft climate change plan

The Scottish Government’s draft climate change plan has come under fire from environmental groups, which used a public consultation to express their disappointment with the ambition of proposals for emission reduction in agriculture, public transport and active travel.

With the Scottish Government consultation on its draft plan closing, both the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland used submissions to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee to question the ambition of proposals to reduce emissions in agriculture, while transport group Transform Scotland said the draft proposals for promoting walking, cycling and bus use were “weak”.

The groups welcomed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66 per cent by 2032.

But the Scottish Wildlife Trust said it was concerned the targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction in agriculture sector seemed to ignore the recommendations from the UK Climate Change Committee, while warning they were the lowest reduction goals set for any of the sectors covered by the plan.


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Meanwhile the RSPB said it was “disappointed with the ambition set for the agriculture sector, and the clarity and credibility of many of the policies as set out in the draft plan”.

Describing the ambitions for the agriculture sector as “poor when compared to the greenhouse gas savings expected from the majority of other sectors”, the RSPB warns the plan “gives little indication that Government is willing to provide the leadership and strength of policy needed”.

The NGO says the agricultural policies in the plans are so vague it is very difficult to make a judgement as to whether they will credibly help meet targets.

Calling for a “wholesale rethink of all policies” relating to agriculture, it urges the Government to create a nitrogen budget, with measurable indicators to show how progress has been made in agriculture.

Its response also warned that, although it welcomed the Government’s aim of planting 15,000ha of trees per year, the policy “lacks some credibility given that the existing lower target has been repeatedly missed”.

The submission calls on the Scottish Government to fund further research into Scotland’s marine carbon sink habitats, and develop a policy mechanism to restore and protect them at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile Transform Scotland, which campaigns for sustainable transport, warned the plan is heavily dependent on technological change, such as the uptake of electric cars, while it “largely ignores” opportunities provided by walking, cycling, public transport, and car sharing.

The group said the plan is “extremely weak” on road traffic demand management.

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said: “Very little progress has been made in transport over the past 25 years, and this new Climate Change Plan is certainly better than the previous two plans. However, the plan is far from perfect. Once again, the proposals have largely ignored the need to get people out of cars and start walking, cycling or taking public transport. The focus on vehicle technology means that few if any benefits will be felt for equalities, public health, congestion or the economy.

“It’s well-known that lower income groups own fewer cars, so a focus on vehicle technology does little to help households with no car access. This is all the more so the case with electric vehicles given their current higher purchase prices. A switch from petrol cars to electric cars will certainly do nothing for congestion, and with none of these cars manufactured in Scotland, there will be no benefit for the Scottish economy.

“On the other hand, we do have bus manufacturing in Scotland, so it is disappointing that the climate plan is so weak on promoting bus use. This would also have a greater equalities impact given that lower income households are much more dependent on buses, and could reduce congestion by getting people to switch from car to bus.

“The weakness of the plan on promoting walking and cycling for short journeys is also disappointing. Most travel is very local, and many of these trips could be switched to walking and cycling. The Scottish Government has many other policies in place for promoting these healthiest modes of transport, so it is strange that they are largely ignored in the Climate Change Plan.”

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