Watchdog warns Scotland must slash transport and agriculture emissions

Scotland must urgently strengthen its plans to cut greenhouse gases in order to meet its climate change ambitions, according to an independent climate watchdog.

Scotland has made slashing emissions a priority.
Scotland has made slashing emissions a priority.
Scotland has made slashing emissions a priority.

In its latest annual report on Scotland’s progress towards statutory emissions reduction goals, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns that the Scottish Government needs to act decisively across every sector to ensure the country meets its existing commitments and prepares for higher future targets.

The 2018 report shows Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but successful strategies for energy and waste mask a lack of progress in other parts of the Scottish economy.

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Cutting emissions from transport, agriculture and domestic heating remain the biggest difficulties, the committee has found.

The report shows Scotland met its annual emissions targets in 2016, with a 49 per cent reduction from 1990 levels.

The country was also ahead of the rest of the UK for green power in 2016, with 17.8 per cent of total energy coming from renewable sources – the EU average was 16.7 per cent

The current Climate Change Bill demands emissions to fall by 80 per cent by 2050.

The CCC report concludes that the interim target for at a 56 per cent drop by 2020 is within reach.

However, the new Climate Change Bill is expected to raise the 2050 target to 90 per cent, with a view to reaching net-zero as soon as is practicably possible.

CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “The Scottish Government has made some progress on tackling issues raised in the committee’s report in 2017.

“However, challenges remain. Achieving a 90 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, as envisaged within the new Climate Change Bill, means greater effort is now required across other areas of Scotland’s economy.

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“This includes policies to drive down emissions in sectors where they are either flat or rising, such as transport, agriculture and energy-efficiency in buildings.”

Chris Stark, CCC chief executive, added: “Emissions have roughly halved since 1990. We should be very happy with that. However, it’s mainly a story of successful reductions in emissions from energy and waste. Now Scotland needs to get its act together to deal with a new set of challenges.

“Transport is going in the wrong direction. It’s the single biggest sector for emissions and should be top of the agenda.

“The First Minister has committed to the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. There are great intentions but it’s not clear at all that 
they have put in place appropriate policies to make that happen.

“Agriculture also presents a major opportunity, as most current measures are voluntary.

“Targets for tree planting and restoration of peatlands have been consistently missed, and funding reduced. That needs to change.

“There are still areas where Scotland can claim to be in the lead but a new set of policies is needed to keep that up.”

Environmental campaigners say the CCC’s findings support calls for net zero emissions by 2050.

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Tom Ballantine, chair of the coalition group Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “With the new Climate Change Bill now before parliament, MSPs have an important opportunity to increase Scotland’s climate action by setting ambitious targets that increase action over the next decade.”