Westminster ‘must follow Holyrood green energy lead’

The Scottish Government has committed to making Scotland a low-carbon society. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The Scottish Government has committed to making Scotland a low-carbon society. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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CHARLES Yates of Grant Thornton says the UK Government must follow the initiative set by Holyrood on green energy.

ON 14 March 2011, the Scottish Government put itself on the international stage when it announced that it was aiming to transform Scotland into a low carbon society.

Since that day, the focus has been on creating a green nation where growth and sustainability could reinforce each other.

Scotland’s statutory targets are some of the most ambitious in the world and there have undoubtedly been some challenges.

For the last two years targets have been narrowly missed. However, officials insist the figures are among the best in Europe, with a reduction of almost 30 per cent in emissions from the levels witnessed in 1990 and they are on the right track to ultimately meet the overall goal of 42 per cent by the end of the decade.

In contrast, a lack of clear strategy and commitment in Westminster has led to increasing uncertainty.

Supporters of fresh targets have argued that a 2030 target on emission reduction is essential to avoid rising energy prices and uncertainty. Despite this, the targets have been left out of legislation, due largely to a belief that the renewable energy sector is not a long-term sustainable solution.

The consequence of this failure to act is not just environmental. Businesses across the UK are left waiting and wondering. Without a convincing vision from political leaders, businesses are less likely commit to significant long-term projects, fearing that they won’t make returns they’d hoped for if regulations are changed.

Scottish ministers will soon publish their latest plans to cut emissions in an attempt to meet their far reaching targets and combat climate change.

Once again, the country is presented with an opportunity to make Scotland a global leader in tackling the burning issue of how we deal with climate change and fuel growth. The challenge, as ever, will be matching the rhetoric with real action.

What is clear is that carbon reduction targets are becoming an accepted part of global efforts to create more sustainable economies. Scotland has already come within touching distance of delivering on this pressing requirement. It is now time for our politicians to take the lead and restore the confidence that is so urgently needed.

• Charles Yates is Associate Director at Grant Thornton