The growth of low carbon electricity generation resulted in a drop in Scottish greenhouse gas emissions by almost a third in the decade to 2018, a new report revealed today.
The fall was faster than in other nations in the UK and among any of the G20 group of industrial nations over the same period.
Scottish fossil fuel electricity fell by more than 70%, while renewable generation tripled, between 2008-2018.
The findings are in the annual progress report to the Scottish parliament from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The report said the Scottish government must now become the first UK nation to set out how it plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
Scotland has committed to reach net zero by 2045, five years earlier than the UK government. The Scottish government’s updated climate change plan, due in December 2020, is expected to set out how it plans to achieve this.
But the CCC warned that success in the next 10 years is not a given. Scotland missed its annual emissions target in 2018, largely because of an increase in generation at the gas-fired Peterhead power station. The 2020 target is likely to be met only because of the Covi-19 lockdown, during which emissions fell by about a third.
The chair of the CCC, Lord Deben, said Scotland was “leading the rest of the UK” and had achieved “real success”. But he said:
“Scotland can no longer rely on electricity generation to reduce its emissions, so it must begin to make more meaningful progress in the other sectors of the economy.
“To reach net-zero emissions ahead of the rest of the UK and to earn its stripes as an international climate leader when the world looks to Glasgow [the COP26 meeting] next year, decisive action and clear policies are urgently required.”
The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said:
“We have done the job of closing coal-fired power stations.
“Progress from here on in for Scotland is going to be hard won.”
On achieving net zero, he said the Scottish government had done more than any of the UK nations so far. He praised the progress on peatland restoration and woodland creation. But he said a “glaring omission” was a rural and agricultural strategy, without which could be a barrier to net zero.
“[This is] a critical moment for Scotland, for the UK and probably also for the global mission for climate change.”
“If we protect and we defend high carbon activities and approaches, that we have at present in the Scottish economy, we’re going to set back progress. We will not be on the kind of trajectory that Scotland needs to be for its net zero target.”
Scotland has set itself a legally-binding interim target of 75% reduction in emissions by 2030. A change in the Scottish baseline, because degraded peatlands produce more emissions than previously thought, means the 2030 target reduction is more likely to be 80-85%, Chris Stark said.
“That is huge. That is an enormously difficult and stretching target that has been set by parliament.
“Reduction in fossil fired electricity generation drove the progress in the 2010s. The 2030 target is going to be extremely challenging. It is law and Scottish ministers have to meet it.”
As well as the updated climate change plan, the CCC recommended other priority areas including:
- Make it easy for people to walk, cycle, use public transport and work from home, eliminating the need to buy petrol or diesel cars by 2032
- Vision for low-carbon heating in homes and buildings
- Accelerate investments in low carbon and climate adaptation infrastructure
- Develop a new rural support scheme that builds towards Scotland’s climate goals
- Engage with people and businesses to develop skills for net zero transition
- Respond to climate change risks set out in the third UK climate change risk assessment, due in Summer 2021
- Develop an emissions trading system with other UK nations
“Get on track to meeting targets”
Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland responded to the progress report:
“The CCC have rightfully identified that we are in a unique position and at a pivotal moment. With only nine years left to meet the target of reducing emissions by 75%, it is absolutely crucial that the Scottish Government produces a Climate Change Plan which sets out the urgent action we need to achieve this target.
“The Climate Change Plan must deliver a recovery from the pandemic which is green and fair, by leading transformational change that secures jobs and ensures a Just Transition for workers transitioning to climate-friendly industries.
“We want to see new and detailed policies across all sectors that deliver rapid emissions cuts and a strong commitment to transformational action in underperforming sectors where emissions remain high, such as transport, agriculture and buildings. This means moving money from major road building to making public transport more affordable, and setting a target to make all homes easier to heat by 2030. This must be done in tandem with protecting and enhancing the things that help to reduce emissions, such as peatlands and woodlands.
“With just over a year until Scotland hosts the UN climate talks, COP26, we urge the Scottish Government to get on track to meeting our targets and show that we are world leaders in climate action.”