Scotland politics

Tough new climate targets proposed for Scotland

Smoking chimneys (generic image) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The committee wants emissions to be cut by 90%

The Scottish government has been urged to significantly increase its long term target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when it introduces new legislation later in the year.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said it should consider aiming for a 90% reduction in emissions by 2050. The current target is 80%.

It suggested tough interim benchmarks, in line with the Paris Agreement.

The Scottish government said its approach is based on "best evidence".

The Paris Agreement saw global leaders pledged to hold temperature rises to "well below" 2 degrees.

The current Climate Change (Scotland) Act, given royal assent in 2009, set an interim target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020.

That target has now been met and ministers have pledged to bring forward a new Climate Change bill this year with more ambitious goals.

'Stretch' target

Ministers asked the CCC, which advises the UK and Scottish governments, to examine how the new bill might look.

Its report suggests two options for a long term target.

  • Option 1 involves keeping the 2050 target at 80% of 1990 levels but keeping open the option to increase that target.
  • Option 2 sets a 'stretch' target of 90% which would be more in-keeping with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement but which would be much more difficult to achieve.

Committee member Prof Jim Skea said: "Scotland has been leading the way in reducing emissions while continuing to grow its economy. The Paris Agreement represents a landmark change in global action to tackle climate change.

"The proposed legislation could allow Scotland to build on its own progress and international changes.

"In doing so, the Scottish Parliament should reflect on the right balance between ambition and achievement, as well as the range of direct and indirect benefits that come with acting to reduce carbon emissions."

The report also recommends changes to the way progress is monitored.

Buy and sell

At the moment, account is taken for an EU-wide "trading scheme" which has been much criticised for failing to reduce overall emissions.

The scheme allows big polluters to buy and sell the right to emit carbon.

The committee suggests that a shift to "actual emissions" would be "more transparent than the existing framework and would encourage decarbonisation in all sectors of the economy."

Responding to the report, a Scottish government spokesman said: "Scotland is already a world-leader in tackling climate change, having reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 45% since 1990.

"Our approach to climate targets is based on best evidence, which is why we commissioned independent, expert advice on the Bill from the Committee on Climate Change. We welcome the Committee's publication today and look forward to studying its recommendations over the coming weeks."

Ministers will soon begin consulting on the Scottish Government's approach to the bill with a consultation expected to follow in the summer.

A draft Climate Change Plan was published in January setting out policies for meeting the current targets for reducing greenhouse gases.

Ambition

It was criticised by four parliamentary committees for not being ambitious enough.

Environmental group WWF Scotland has welcomed the move towards a more transparent monitoring system which it says will provide a "truer reflection" of the progress being made in tackling climate change.

Senior Climate and Energy Policy Officer Gina Hanrahan, said: "This CCC report re-emphasises the need for greater policy to be introduced by the Scottish Government to cut emissions from across the economy just to hit existing targets, let alone stronger ones.

"Four Committees of the Scottish Parliament recently criticised the Scottish Government's action plan for hitting current climate targets and provided many constructive suggestions for increased action.

"The Scottish Government should now bring forward a new Climate Bill that gives MSPs from across the Parliament the opportunity to bring forward their ideas for new policies, targets and tools that will drive Scotland more quickly towards achieving the many benefits of a zero-carbon future."

Friends of the Earth Scotland said it thought the committee could have done better.

Head of Campaigns Mary Church said: "The UKCCC's advice is bitterly disappointing, lacking both urgency and ambition in its proposed approach to new climate legislation for Scotland.

"Effectively the Committee has said don't bother trying to do more before 2030 and just try a little harder for 2050, letting this generation of politicians off the hook and kicking serious climate action into the long grass."