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Scotland to miss major climate change target

Storms - like Storm Babet, which caused flooding in Brechin - are increasing in severity and frequency due to climate change | Alamy

Scotland to miss major climate change target

The Scottish Government will miss a major emissions reduction target, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said. 

The CCC had said it does not believe Scotland will manage to reduce emissions by 75 per cent from 1990 baseline levels by 2030. 

This was one of the interim targets the Scottish Parliament had agreed on the journey to reaching net zero by 2045. 

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said the government had “always been clear” that the targets were “extremely challenging, and may not be feasible”.

Opposition parties and climate campaigners have said the report is “damning”, and urged ministers to “redouble efforts” to reach net zero. 

The CCC’s report to parliament says the acceleration required to meet the 2030 target was “beyond what is credible”. 

Interim chair Professor Piers Forster said: “Scotland has laudable ambitions to decarbonise, but it isn’t enough to set a target; the government must act. 

“There are risks in all reviewed areas, including those with significant policy powers devolved to the Scottish Government. Scotland’s climate change plan needs to be published urgently, so we can assess it. We need to see actions that will deliver on its future targets.” 

Scotland has missed its annual target in eight of the last 12 years for which there is data. 

The most recent figures covered 2021, indicating emissions were 49.2 per cent lower than 1990 levels. Only two sectors had reduced emissions that year – electricity and industry. 

Progress on other areas, including tree planting, peatland restoration and heat pump installations, are off track. 

Scottish ministers postponed the publication of its draft climate change plan, which will set out the path to reaching net zero, towards the end of last year. 

It was supposed to be published in November. Blaming the UK Government, McAllan said the Scottish Government needed to “take the time” to get the plan right. 

In its new report, the CCC said that while the interim 2030 target would be missed, there was still a path to 2045. It called for “stronger action” in a range of areas, with transport and buildings in particular needed to rapidly increase the rate of reduction. 

The report adds: “The Scottish Government should implement policies as soon as possible to ensure Scotland reaches the 75 per cent reduction target at the earliest possible date.” 

McAllan said her government remains “fully committed” to reaching net zero.

She added: “We are under no illusion that the hardest part of this journey is ahead of us which is why our ambitious proposals for delivery include publishing a final route map setting out our approach to reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030 and decarbonising buildings through our plans for a Heat in Buildings Bill. These underline our commitment to further reduce emissions whilst ensuring fairer, greener transport and homes as well as high quality green jobs.

“However, over the past 12 months Scotland has faced a series of unprecedented changes by the UK Government, who have reneged on their net zero commitments, and rolled back on policies already announced and accounted for.

"We are also expecting a real-terms cut to our UK capital funding of almost 10 per cent over five years, totalling around £1.3bn, which is deeply concerning given it has implications for the delivery of climate ambition in Scotland and our ability to produce a draft Climate Change Plan as intended.

“We have also faced opposition to modest measures in tackling the crisis, such as low emission zones, workplace parking and the deposit return scheme at a time when consensus is crucial to ensure that we have a sustainable planet.”

The Scottish Greens said their MSPs had been pressing their partners in government to “be bolder and act fast”. Mark Ruskell said there had been “big steps forward” since the establishment of the Bute House Agreement between his party and the SNP, but there was “still a major gap in action”. 

He added: “This is particularly true for farming and transport, which for too long have seen too little progress. This is where the biggest challenge now lies, and Scottish Green MSPs will be pushing hard for progress in these areas over the coming months.” 

The report has been branded “utterly damning” by Scottish Labour. Net zero spokesperson Sarah Boyack said: “The SNP’s environmental record is made up of empty rhetoric, missed targets and broken promises, and the Scottish Green Party is no longer worthy of the name. 

“This lack of progress is not only an environmental travesty but an economic one too, with jobs and communities being put at risk by a clueless government with no strategy.” 

Convener of the cross-party Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee, Edward Mountain, said the report was a “reality check”. He added: “Clearly insufficient action has been taken to date. We urge the Scottish Government to present, as soon as possible, a coherent and practical delivery plan.” 

Scottish Lib Dem climate spokesman Liam McArthur said: “Experts on the UK Climate Change Committee have thrown a bucket of cold water over any claim nationalist ministers had to climate leadership. 

“They are very clear that in devolved policy areas there is much to do while questions must be asked about the effectiveness of green ministers in government as target after target is missed.” 

Climate campaign group Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said the failure was due to “a damaging mix of party politics, policy delay, and lack of investment”. Chair Mike Robison added: “Put simply, after declaring a climate emergency, the Scottish Government has failed to deliver anything close to an emergency response, and must now redouble efforts.” 

Scottish Renewables has said this latest warning will damage the confidence of investors when more is needed to deliver renewable energy projects. Moray Watson, director of policy, said: “Time is running out for Scotland’s 2030 goals. We urge the Scottish Government to work collaboratively with industry and stakeholders to deliver a stable and predictable policy environment and maintain investor confidence to realise Scotland’s full potential as a net-zero powerhouse.” 

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