Climate change targets face cash threat

Funding cuts to pivotal climate change projects could derail Scotland's efforts to meet world leading emissions targets, MSPs have warned.

Cuts could halt progress. Picture: Alan Richardson
Cuts could halt progress. Picture: Alan Richardson

The overall cash being devoted to tackling greenhouse gas emissions is rising by almost £100 million to £558m this year. But key areas are facing major cuts, Holyrood’s environment committee has warned.

The Scottish Government last year unveiled ambitious new plans to reduce its emissions by 90 per cent in 2050 on 1990 levels as part of the drive to tackle global warming.

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The draft budget set out by Derek Mackay includes a proposed cut of 30 per cent in support to reduce emissions in agriculture from £8.3m to £4.6m. The total agricultural budget in this area is down by almost 50 per cent.

Cash for the Public Good Advisory Service is also down by £3m, along with the Land Manager’s renewables fund.

The concerns are set out in a letter penned by Graeme Dey, convener of the environment, climate change and land reform committee.

“The committee is concerned that without a concerted effort and direction of resources, Scotland will struggle to meet its ambitious emissions reduction targets.”

The Scottish Government has set out major plans to ban bigger “gas guzzling” vans and cars from city centres through the creation of low emission zones (LEZ’s).

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also set out plans last year for a shift towards the use of electric cars in Scotland, with the creation of battery charging points for the vehicles across the country. But the report says it is “unclear” whether measures set out aimed at improving air quality are adequate.

“The committee is concerned that Scotland may not be investing sufficiently in low carbon infrastructure and is concerned about the potential difficulties in meeting the current (and potentially extended future) climate change targets,” Mr Dey states.

Scotland also receives millions of pounds from the EU every year for environmental objectives and there are concerns that this could dry up after Brexit.

Funding for research analysis which funds scientific research has also been cut by £10m since 2014.

“At a time where, globally, climate change and its consequences is seen as one of the greatest challenges and threats, it’s crucial that Scotland continues to take action and lead from the front, including around research, on these very real issues,” Mr Dey added.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the increase in overall budget was recognition of the “fundamental importance” of climate change and that Scotland was making “sustained progress” in meeting its targets.