Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
16 June 2020
Scotland misses 2018 climate emissions reduction target


Scotland misses 2018 climate emissions reduction target

There has been a total reduction of climate emissions of 50 per cent since 1990, but the 2018 target “has not been met”

The Scottish Government missed its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2018, newly released figures show.

Overall carbon source emissions increased by 1.5 per cent in 2018 compared with 2017 and the yearly target that was set in the Climate Change Act was missed.

The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2018 report shows there has been a total reduction of climate emissions of 45.4 per cent since 1990.

By another measure used by the Scottish Government to assess performance against its targets, emissions had reduced by 50 per cent in the same period.

But the 2018 target of a reduction by 54 per cent “has not been met”, the report says.

This means that in 2018 Scotland was off track to meeting the legally binding target to be net-zero on carbon emissions by 2045.

The increase in CO2 output in 2018 was largely a result of an increase in emissions from the energy sector, “primarily from a major power station, which “approximately doubled its CO2 output between 2017 and 2018,” the report says.

This is likely a knock-on affect from the result of the closure of a nuclear power station that year, leading to a greater reliance on gas.

Emissions from home heating increased by 3.4 per cent that year as well, which the report says was “possibly” driven by a colder winter, as the ‘beast from the east’ hit the UK in February 2018.

The transport sector remained the largest source of emissions in Scotland and has reduced by only one per cent in 28 years, something the sustainable travel organisation Transform Scotland called “shocking”.

Responding to the date, the Scottish Greens called for a “transformative shift” in spending priorities on transport, while the Scottish Liberal Democrats called for “world-leading action to match the world-leading rhetoric”.

Scottish Green environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “This is what happens when politicians congratulate themselves over targets but won’t commit to serious action to meet them.

“This is a climate emergency, and instead of cutting emissions Scotland continues to hurtle towards climate breakdown.

“The sharp rise in energy is partly due to the closure of Hunterston nuclear power station being replaced by fossil fuels.

“This shows why we can’t rely on expensive and unreliable nuclear power and a new generation of gas power stations, instead we need a step change in investment in Scotland’s renewable energy generation, storage and grid infrastructure to meet our targets and create green jobs.

“Transport remains the biggest contributor to Scotland’s poor record. It’s now indisputable that the Scottish Government’s agenda of massive road investment at the expense of public transport, cycling and walking has failed.

"The Scottish Greens are calling for a transformative shift in spending priorities on transport, we can’t afford to lock-in high carbon transport choices for generations to come.

“The COVID crisis has encouraged people to take up walking and cycling. That opportunity to invest in that infrastructure is now, not after our roads become choked with traffic again.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur said: "Today's news of another missed annual target shows the importance of government taking world-leading action to match its world-leading rhetoric. Too often it hasn't.

"Liberal Democrats played a critical role in strengthening Scotland's landmark 2030 target. Early action is critical to stopping irreversible damage to our environment and having a hope of achieving net zero in time.

"There needs to be a green recovery to the coronavirus crisis.

“We've got record low borrowing rates and a rock bottom oil price. To get the economy firing on all cylinders we can make a record investment in green infrastructure, taking advantage of our experienced engineers and groundbreaking science.

"Transport emissions are rampant so the Scottish Government must today withdraw its support for an expansion of Heathrow – already the single biggest emitter in the UK.

“It is utterly incompatible with the First Minister's declaration of a climate emergency."

Asked about the findings during the daily Scottish Government coronavirus press conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she still believed that the net zero target is “realistic” and “essential”.

She said: “The climate crisis has not gone away because of the pandemic, if anything as we come out of this it becomes more important that we complete the transition to a net zero economy and  indeed to a net zero society.

“The figures today, although for particular reasons that I know the Environment Secretary will cover in Parliament later on, the beast from the east and some issues around Hunterston, there was an increase in the annual statistics.

“Annual statistics will sometimes fluctuate. Overall the reduction is around 50 per cent already in Scotland’s emissions, so we are very well placed to now go forward towards that greater ambition.”

Sturgeon added: “This is also a key part of our economic recovery from the pandemic, because that is where Scotland not only has a real environmental and moral imperative, but real competitive and relative advantage as well if we do the right things and invest in the right places.

“So we remain as committed as we have ever been, if not more so, to meeting that 2045 target, and also meeting the very challenging milestones along the way.”

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by - The dangers of disinformation.



Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top