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Climate change target dropped by Scottish Government

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The Scottish government has announced that it is dropping its’ climate change target to achieve a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Speaking to Scottish parliament, the Net Zero and Energy Secretary Mairi McAllan stated that the 2030 target is now out of reach and that instead the nation would follow the lead of the UK and Welsh governments by adopting five-yearly “carbon budgets” to assist in achievement of Net Zero emissions by 2045, an earlier target than the rest of the UK, which still has the government’s “unwavering commitment”.

The Net Zero Secretary told MSPs present that the decision represented a “minor legislative change” which has been heavily influenced by the UK Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recent review of Scotland’s climate change ambitions, who stated that the 2030 target was no longer credible as a result of delays to the Scottish Climate Change Plan and the fact that the nation had missed its’ annual emission reduction target eight times in the past twelve years. The CCC also warned that “there is a path to Scotland’s post 2030 targets, but stronger action is needed to reduce emissions across the economy”, highlighting specific areas in which more rapid progress needs to be made.

While dropping the 2030 target Ms McAllan also confirmed that certain legislation will be expedited in line with the Climate Change Committees’ recommendations, announcing a raft of measures intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • A strategy to help farmers with food production while also lowering emissions
  • A consultation on carbon land tax, to incentivise peatland restoration, tree planting and renewable energy generation, to be launched over the summer 
  • A national integrated ticketing system for public transport
  • A 20% reduction in car use, with a “route map” set to be published
  • A plan to more than quadruple the number of electric vehicle charge points across Scotland, with 24,000 additional charge points planned by 2030.

Reacting to the announcement Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said:

“We are angry and disappointed that we are in this position – this must be a turning point. 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.”

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of the trade body Scottish Renewables, labelled the change as “extremely disappointing”, saying:

 “Scotland was the first country in the world to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions in line with scientific evidence and the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency. This has helped establish Scotland as a globally recognised leader on climate change action, which is why the rollback on our landmark 2030 target and wider climate change legislation is extremely disappointing.

“At this crucial time, we need to signal confidence to investors and our supply chain that Scotland is the best place in the world to build the renewable energy projects which deliver energy security, economic growth and carbon reduction at scale.

“We urge the Scottish Government to work collaboratively with industry and key stakeholders to deliver the coherent policy environment needed to realise Scotland’s full potential as a net-zero powerhouse.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, Imogen Dow, heavily criticised the change in strategy labelling it as “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament” and saying:

“Instead of using the past decade to deliver warm homes, reliable public transport and a fair transition away from fossil fuels, inept, short-termist politicians have kept millions of people trapped in the broken status quo that only benefits big polluters.” 

The Association for Decentralised Energy’s Policy Manager, Chris Friedler, said:

“Scotland’s 2030 target was set around the advice of experts such as the Climate Change Committee. Therefore, while we are greatly disappointed with the government’s decision, it greatly underlines the importance of long-term plans, effective policies, and critically, a keen understanding of what needs to be delivered and by whom.

“The target removal must not affect the government’s upcoming Heat in Buildings Bill, which is critical for the nation’s longer term 2045 net zero goal. It will unlock investment, warmth and comfort for millions of Scots, boosting energy efficiency, heat networks, and heat pumps, building resilience across the country’s homes and offices.”

Scotland is currently around halfway to reaching net zero emissions, having decarbonised faster than the UK average. The nation has also made huge strides the decarbonisation of its’ electricity, with 87.9% of this power coming from a zero carbon source in 2022.

The Net Zero and Energy Secretary’s full speech can be viewed on the Scottish government’s website.

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