WORLD-LEADING climate change targets were announced yesterday for Scotland – but some critics warned that they did not go far enough.
The draft Scottish Climate Change Bill would set targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by 80 per cent by 2050. It would also see emissions cut by 3 per cent each year from 2020, with all six greenhouse gases included.
Emissions from air travel would be included in the targets from the start, making the bill more ambitious than the UK Climate Change Act.
The draft bill does not, however, contain any detail on how the ambitious targets would be achieved. And there were concerns over a lack of targets for emissions cuts from 2009 to 2020. For that period, the bill only lays out plans for a reduction in emissions each year. Only from 2020 would that reduction have to be at least 3 per cent.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said annual targets would be set from 2010 to 2020, after Lord Adair Turner's committee on climate change advised what they should be.
Some groups raised concerns about a lack of sanctions to ensure targets were met, and a lack of detail on whether the targets would have to be met by actually cutting emissions in Scotland, rather than offsetting them with credits bought from abroad.
Stewart Stevenson, the climate change minister, said the measures "show that Scotland is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change".
He added: "This government has taken the bold decision to include all six greenhouse gases and emissions from aviation and shipping within an ambitious 80 per cent target. We are also setting rigorous annual targets."
Mr Stevenson said new policies would be developed to drive the changes needed to meet the targets. He added: "Achieving these targets will be challenging. But I am confident that government, business and the people of Scotland are ready to rise to the challenge of climate change."
Environment groups and opposition politicians were worried by potential "loopholes" in the legislation.
Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth, Scotland, said: "We warmly welcome the introduction of this bill and are confident MSPs of all parties will support its principles and work to strengthen it. This would deliver genuinely world-leading legislation.
"Most importantly, to deliver early significant cuts in line with climate science advice, the annual targets between 2010 and 2020 must be much higher than the bill provides."
Des McNulty, climate change spokesman for Scottish Labour, said: "Labour is particularly concerned that the lack of detail regarding annual targets in this bill could allow the SNP to make it easy on themselves in the short term, allow climate change to continue out of control and leave major reductions to be achieved by future administrations."
The Green MSP Patrick Harvie said it was a "very worthwhile starting point" but added: "There are still too many loopholes.
"I believe it can be the foundation for the most effective legislation yet on climate change anywhere in the world, but it still needs a lot of work."
Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, said the target of a 50 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 looked "a little unambitious" when the UK government was considering a target of 42 per cent by 2020.
But he added: "This is still the best piece of climate change legislation proposed anywhere in the world. It's better than the UK legislation because it includes aviation and shipping from the start."
The bill, if passed, will enable the Scottish Government to insist on charges for carrier bags and to set enforceable targets for shops to reduce packaging.
It makes controversial provisions for 25 per cent of the forests in Scotland owned by the Forestry Commission to be leased to private companies, to bring in cash to spend on measures to tackle climate change.
People can plan ahead and get ready for emissions cuts
THE targets of 50 per cent emissions reductions by 2030, and particularly 80 per cent by 2050, are very ambitious. However, they have come out of a good consultation process, and they are robust.
The science shows we need at least an 80 per cent reduction from nations like ours.
I do think it is an exemplar bill and the inclusion of annual reductions up to 2020 and 3 per cent reductions from then on, makes it a world leader.
Scotland is well-placed to achieve this, given its renewable resources and expertise.
After 2020, a 3 per cent reduction year on year would be where it really does start affecting everybody. That is when we will start feeling it – industry, individuals, in the public or private sector. That's when things are going to bite.
It's going to be cutting into every facet of our lives because it is ambitious.
But at least we know what's coming. A great thing about the Climate Change Bill is that it means people can plan ahead and get ready for what will be quite radical emissions cuts year on year.
There is huge potential in terms of low-cost reduction in emissions from retrofitting housing.
Hard decisions will be needed. Even if transport gets an easier ride, so you cut emissions from transport by 70 per cent and make up for it with 90 per cent from another sector, it's still going to mean that commuting to work every day in your fossil-fuelled car isn't going to be possible.
In terms of renewable energy sources, there will need to be a huge growth. They will be crucial for supporting the Scottish economy.
If the international community goes the way it looks like it will in Poznan and next year in Copenhagen, we won't just be in a position of the UK having tough targets to meet but much of the world.
So the demand for renewable sources of energy will increase and the price of emitting carbon will increase.
This is the perfect time to look to growing our economy in a green way.
If you have to pick a nation in the world to try to do this, Scotland is the one you would go for because we have got a great combination of natural resources and some of the world's leading experts in terms of technology and climate science.
• Dr David Reay is a climate change expert at the University of Edinburgh.
Jenny Haworth - Radical change needed along the road to 2050 to meet challenging targets
WE MAY become a nation of vegetarians, an army of under-sea turbines could be powering our homes, and we might all be driving electric cars.
It is difficult to predict the changes needed between now and 2050 to meet the ambitious targets to cut emissions by 80 per cent.
However, most experts agree they will have to be radical.
Some research has suggested we should all consider becoming vegetarians in order to reduce emissions from the farming sector.
Air travel, many believe, is likely to become a luxury, rather than a standard way to travel.
And there will either be far fewer cars on the roads, or all the vehicles will be run on electricity or clean fuel.
There will have to be a mass programme to address the inefficiency of millions of homes in Scotland – adding insulation, home energy devices and other measures to cut emissions.
Conventional gas- and coal-fired power stations will have disappeared or have been kitted out with innovative technology – currently in the earliest stages of development – to capture the carbon dioxide so it is not released into the atmosphere.
And it is likely there will be a mass increase in the amount of electricity provided from renewables.
In the short term this is expected to come from huge numbers of new onshore wind turbines, but then offshore farms will start to spring up.
As wave and tidal energy devices come into their own, the seas around Scotland – particularly the Pentland Firth – could be full of futuristic gadgets that capture the energy from the oceans.
If Scotland grasps the opportunities offered by the renewables sector, particularly emerging areas such as marine technology, it could boost the country's economy.
Indeed, some experts predict many positive outcomes could come from efforts to cut emissions. Fuel poverty could become rarer as homes become more energy efficient.
People could become more likely to grow their own vegetables rather than travel to shops – producing emissions from the journey.
If there were fewer cars on the roads, it could become safer to walk and cycle.
And although air travel may have to be tempered, some predict a sense of community could be revitalised with more people forced to stay closer to home for holidays and their social life. Others predict innovative scientific advances will mean few changes are needed and we will all be able to continue living as normal.
Nuclear fusion – where light atomic nuclei join together to form a heavier nucleus, creating huge amounts of energy – if developed could produce all the energy we could ever need, emission free.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, summed it up. "Sitting in 2008 and trying to think what 2050 is going to be like is a fun game but you are bound to be totally wrong," he said.