Scotland misses legally binding climate change target
Scotland has missed its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, with a bounce back in transport use following the pandemic contributing to a rise in 2021 – the year Glasgow hosted global climate change summit COP26.
Although emissions at the end of 2021 were 49.2 per cent lower than they were in 1990 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its First Assessment Report – that fell short of the legally binding target of 51.1 per cent set down in the 2019 Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act.
Official statistics published by the Scottish Government showed that 41.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted from a basket of seven greenhouse gases in 2021, up from 40.6 the previous year – a rise of 2.4 per cent.
The report said that the main contributor to the year-on-year increase was domestic travel “following the impact of the Covid lockdown in 2020”.
The energy, business, and international aviation and shipping sectors all saw emissions decrease.
The Scottish Government has set itself bold climate change targets, pledging to become a net zero emitting nation by 2045 – five years ahead of the date set by the UK Government.
To get there, it has set itself interim targets of seeing emissions reduce by 75 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040.
In a progress report published earlier this year, the Scottish Government admitted the targets are ambitious and said that achieving them would require “a collective effort from all corners of society to play their part, including governments, businesses, organisations, communities and households”.
Its forthcoming agriculture bill is expected to put a heavy emphasis on those in the agriculture sector engaging with mitigation strategies in order to receive key subsidies.
Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said that, to ensure targets are met, the government would be publishing an even more ambitious climate change plan later in the year.
“As the real-life impacts of climate change become increasingly clear, we must go further and faster, and we will be introducing a draft of our new climate change plan later this year, which will contain even greater ambition while steering our emissions reduction pathway out to 2040," she said.
Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow net zero secretary, said the figures show that “the SNP-Green government’s rhetoric on tackling climate change has not been matched in reality”.
“After only meeting their 2020 targets due to lockdowns, SNP-Green ministers are once again going backwards when it comes to hitting crucial targets,” he said.
“It is particularly galling that they missed their emission reduction target in the year that the UK Government brought the COP26 summit to Glasgow.
“If there was one policy area you would expect the Green tail to be wagging the yellow SNP dog, then it would be on the climate emergency. Instead, the Greens have sold out environmentalism for nationalism, and targets have failed to be hit.”
Scottish Labour net zero spokesperson Sarah Boyack called the figures "an embarrassment for the SNP-Green government" and "a disaster for our planet".
“The SNP’s record on the environment is one of empty rhetoric and broken promises, and the Green party are no longer worthy of the name," she added.
The charity Oxfam called the failure to meet the target "a reckless misstep" and noted it would be the most vulnerable in society that would pay the price for impact of climate change.
“The Scottish Government’s latest failure to meet its own annual climate target is yet another reckless misstep in a very dangerous dance with climate destruction, one that threatens all of our futures, but particularly those of people living in poverty," said Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland.
“The government’s climate rhetoric is alarmingly out of sync with the speed and level of action required. Ministers must now deliver the urgent and decisive new investment that’s needed to drive down Scotland’s emissions, including by making polluters pay for the damage they’ve caused.”
Despite the criticisms of the government, the Scottish Greens said the statistics show the importance of taking "transformative climate action".
“These statistics are not good enough," said Green climate spokesman Mark Ruskill. "They underline the scale of the challenge that we face, and are exactly why the Scottish Greens went into government in the first place.
“Today’s stats reflect yesterday’s choices, sometimes choices made decades ago. So it tells us that tackling the climate emergency won’t be achieved by business as usual but. It will need concerted effort and the kind of long-term changes that we are putting in place now.
“The decisions we make today will have an impact for years to come. So we need to get them right. That means decarbonising our economy by investing in renewables and ensuring a just transition away from oil and gas."