Climate change Scotland: Watchdog warns Scotland set for ‘very dangerous moments’ after target abandoned

Scotland’s climate watchdog has warned SNP ministers to prove its commitment to tackling the climate crisis after scrapping its 2030 target

The outgoing chief executive of Scotland’s climate watchdog has warned the nation is entering “very dangerous moments” after scrapping its legally-binding 2030 emissions target.

Chris Stark, who will leave the Climate Change Committee (CCC) this week, has warned SNP and Green ministers must prove they are still committed to net zero by bringing forward policies over the next year.

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SNP net zero secretary Mairi McAllan announced the Climate Change Act will be redrawn to remove the interim 2030 target to cut emissions by 75 per cent after acknowledging the aim could not be reached.

Reducing the number of cars on the roads is one way to ramp up action on climate changeReducing the number of cars on the roads is one way to ramp up action on climate change
Reducing the number of cars on the roads is one way to ramp up action on climate change

Ms McAllan told The Scotsman she had tasked her officials to set out how the target could be met, but the modelling, which included “taking petrol and diesel cars off the road”, was “not feasible, legal or in line with a just transition”.

Speaking in front of Holyrood’s net zero committee on Tuesday, Mr Stark said “the time had come for us to call that target out”. But he said “credit is due to the Scottish Government for acknowledging that the 2030 target cannot be met”.

“These are very dangerous moments,” he said. “This is the first part of the UK that has felt it has to withdraw targets over any of the climate change legislation that we have.

“My biggest worry is that we find ourselves in the position where we have, in a sense, an empty vessel act. We have a 2045 net zero target in law, but we have nothing much beyond that for the next few months. When we have a vacuum around a topic, it is often filled with the nefarious voices on this. I would not wish to see that happen.”

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change CommitteeChris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee

Mr Stark told MSPs that although ministers have described the legislative alterations needed as “a minor change”, the overhaul will be “pretty fundamental”.

He said: “Keeping the 2045 target is reassuring, but not having something to guide the short-term concerns me. We need to look at the strength of the policies the Scottish Government brings in the next 12 months to this Parliament of a test of how serious the Scottish Government really is now of its climate credentials.”

Pressed over when the CCC know the 2030 target could not be met, Mr Stark said “the honest answer to that was this year”. He said: “This year felt like it was a bridge too far.”

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He also suggested that with a legal requirement on ministers to produce a plan that sets a pathway to their targets, the lack of ability to reach the 2030 target had held up that plan.

Mr Stark said: “This over-ambitious target has been holding up genuine action on this from policymakers.”

He was also asked about the Scottish Government’s pledge to cut car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030, which remains intact. Ms McAllan said her Government would publish a delivery plan for the aim by the autumn.

Mr Stark warned “it’s an extraordinary difficult target to hit”. He said: “You would need to see, every year, between now and 2030, a scheme with the success of the first year of the London congestion charge in reducing traffic.”



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