Scottish Government accused of track record of failure as climate target missed for second year in a row

The Scottish Government has been accused of presiding over a track record of failure after it missed its own climate targets for the second year in a row, with greenhouse gas emissions on the rise.
The latest Scottish Government figures register an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Picture: ShutterstockThe latest Scottish Government figures register an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Picture: Shutterstock
The latest Scottish Government figures register an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Picture: Shutterstock

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens co-leader, said that while the Covid-19 crisis was the most pressing issue facing the Scottish Government, it “must not allow us to fail on the deeper, longer-term” crisis posed by the climate emergency.

Figures released yesterday showed that source emissions increased by 1.5 per cent in 2018, a trend attributed in large part due to the long-term shutdown at Hunterston nuclear power station and unseasonably cold conditions.

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Source emissions are down 45.4 per cent since 1990 but adjusted emissions, which are used against the government's targets, fell by 50 per cent, short of the target of 54 per cent.

With the government having set itself a legally-binding target to cut emissions to net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the date set for the UK as a whole, Mr Harvie stressed that the failure to meet the target for a second year in a row “wasn’t even a near miss.”

“The Scottish Government never misses a chance to congratulate itself for setting world leading targets, but it now needs to face up to the reality [that] it has not been taking the steps necessary to meet those targets,” he said.

Asked at First Minister’s Questions when she expected Scotland to start meeting its climate targets, and what her plans were to support the creation of renewable energy jobs, Ms Sturgeon stressed that Scotland remained one of the leading countries of the world in terms of reducing emissions.

She replied: “I expect us to meet our climate change targets on an ongoing and increasing basis.

“There will be fluctuations year on year in what is a long-term challenge, but actually the figures published this week - as well as the yearly increase, which is regrettable, but these will reflect different circumstances and different shifts in our energy mix - also show the long term 50 per cent reduction in our emissions.

“That actually gives us an incredibly strong foundation - probably one of the strongest in the world - to move toward our 2045 ambition of net zero.”

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Ms Sturgeon said existing and future investments in the economy would open up additional opportunities to invest in energy transition, and said the government was using the powers at its disposal to create renewable energy jobs.

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“We’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure not just that we’re meeting our environmental targets, but that we’re reaping the economic benefit of that along the way,” she added.

Mr Harvie said that while the first minister’s intentions of meeting targets were genuine, she had left the government with a track record where the best she could claim was “not being as bad as Boris Johnson’s government.”

Highlighting the failure to reduce transport emissions, he went on: “The truth is that this is a track record stretching back not just years, but decades. Either the government hasn’t been trying to reduce transport emissions, or it’s been trying and pursuing the wrong policies.”

He questioned what action Ms Sturgeon would be taking to prevent the aviation sector from breaching a “safe, sustainable level” of emissions as it begins recovering from the pandemic shutdown.”

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland, and the wider world, had a “monumental” amount of work yet to do, but pointed out the nation was second only to Sweden in terms of emissions reductions to date.

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