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Scottish Government confirms plan to scrap 2030 climate target

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan will make a statement to parliament this afternoon | Alamy

Scottish Government confirms plan to scrap 2030 climate target

The Scottish Government is scrapping its 2030 target to reduce emissions by 75 per cent in a major blow to climate ambitions.

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan confirmed the change in a statement to the parliament on Thursday afternoon, stating the government was “recasting the trajectory” to 2045 based on “what is achievable”.

It follows a critical report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month which said reaching that milestone was no longer credible. 

A fresh bill will be brought forward to adjust the legally binding targets, removing the 2030 interim target but keeping the ultimate ambition to hit net zero by 2045.

McAllan said: “We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and a scale that is feasible, fair and just.

“With this in mind, I can today confirm that working with parliament on a timetable, the Scottish Government will bring forward expedited legislation to address matters raised by the CCC and ensure our legislative framework better reflects the reality of long-term climate policymaking.

“That narrowly drawn bill will retain our legal commitment to 2045 alongside annual reporting on progress, whilst introducing a target approach based on five-yearly carbon budgets.”

Climate campaign groups have dubbed the decision “shameful” and a “global embarrassment”.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.

The group's head of campaigns Imogen Dow said: “The 2030 target could and should have been met, but instead politicians are going to break their promises and betray both their constituents and the most vulnerable people already enduring the impacts of climate breakdown... Government must come clean about what they can achieve by 2030, scale up action to get back on track, publish the delayed Climate Change Plan and apologise for their colossal climate failure.

“Instead of significant response and a ramping up of action, the Scottish Government has presented a weak package of re-heated ideas, many of which were already pledged years ago and never delivered.”

The 2030 target was to reduce emissions by three-quarters from 1990 baseline levels from 2030. 

The government has repeatedly failed to meet its annual targets, missing eight of the last 12. 

In its report last month, the CCC said the acceleration required to meet the 2030 target was “beyond what is credible”. 

It also urged the government to urgently bring forward its climate change plan. The plan was set to be published last year but was postponed. 

McAllan was unable to provide a date for publication of that plan, though did confirm the energy strategy and just transition plan would be published this summer.

She also blamed “severe budgetary restrictions” and the “limits” of devolution for hindering the Scottish Government efforts.

Scottish Conservative climate spokesman Douglas Lumsden said the move was an “absolute humiliation” for the SNP and “even more humiliating” for Greens. His colleague Graham Simpson said he was “astonished” the two Green ministers had not resigned over the matter.

Lumsden said key sectors requiring emissions reductions were in devolved areas, adding: “When we saw the news last night the Scottish Government were scrapping their climate targets, we all knew what was going to be in the cabinet secretary’s statement – a lot of smoke and mirrors, rehashing announcements, and blaming everyone else they can for their own failure.”

Labour’s Sarah Boyack said today would go down in history as “the day that Scotland officially went from a world leader in climate targets to a world leading in scrapping targets”.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie – who is also a junior minister within the Scottish Government – said he was “angry and disappointed” to be in the position of having to scrap targets.

But he insisted the government was accelerating climate action as a result of his party’s influence.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “We cannot undo decades of inaction and bad decision making, but what we can do is ensure that Scotland goes further and faster in delivering the rapid and fundamental change that is so vital.

“Ever since the first Climate Change Act, I’ve said that world-leading targets are not enough, especially if there aren’t credible and robust plans in place to deliver them. We have a responsibility not just to advocate for accelerated action, but to make it happen.

“Today's announcement is a big step towards delivering that… We must see urgent and accelerated climate action across all areas and levels of government, and those parties who vote for targets but then block the action needed to reach them will have no credibility.”

The Scottish Lib Dems have accused the government of a “generational betrayal”. Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “If the government had got on with tackling these issues years ago, the 75 per cent target would have been achievable. Instead they traded environmentalism for nationalism.”

Immediately before the statement, presiding officer Alison Johnstone reprimanded ministers for information about the content of the statement being leaked to the media before parliament.

McAllan said the permanent secretary has been instructed to conduct an investigation into how the leak happened.

Climate groups have responded with disappointment at the news.

Head of Oxfam Scotland Jamie Livingstone said: “The Scottish Government’s abandonment of its legal 2030 and annual emissions reduction targets is a reprehensible retreat caused by its recklessly inadequate level of action to date… The announcement of largely recycled measures represents baby steps forward rather than the giant leaps needed and are a thinly veiled distraction from Ministers’ failure to deliver their existing climate commitments.” 

And Liz Murray, of Global Justice Now, said: “The First Minister has in the past spoken out about the catastrophic negligence of rich countries’ failure to act on climate change, so he should be totally ashamed of his own government’s failure take the action needed to meet its own targets. But now, rather than pulling out all the stops to get things back on track, it looks like the Scottish Government is just going to move the goalposts. This is shameful.” 

Thinktank Future Economy Scotland has urged the government to use the announcement as a “wake up call” and match rhetoric with “credible policy implantation”.  

Co-direct Laurie Macfarlane said: “Scotland’s target to reach net zero by 2045 is still well within reach – but only if the Scottish Government starts to match rhetoric with delivery. Achieving it is not only a climate imperative – it is also Scotland’s greatest economic opportunity. The time for talking the talk on climate is over. Scotland must start walking the walk.” 

Meanwhile a consortium of businesses has urged ministers to bring forward the Heat in Buildings Bill by the autumn. 

That legislation will help decarbonise buildings across Scotland, a vital element of being able to reach net zero. 

In an open letter to McAllan, business leaders said the bill must be introduced soon to provide “the certainty needed to invest and grow”. 

It added: “We urgently need a clear policy and regulatory framework that creates viable cases for investment.  In line with creating a just transition, that policy framework should be designed to support the use of local products and materials. 

“The earlier we see the regulations in place, along with the necessary support for compliance, the more time we have to plan, invest and grow to meet the challenge ahead.” 

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