Scotland fails to hit climate change targets

SCOTLAND’S climate change target has been missed for the second year in a row, latest figures have shown.

Picture: Andrew Stuart

Greenhouse gas emissions exceeded their target by almost a million tonnes in 2011, with 54.25m carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) released into the atmosphere. It is the second year that ministers have missed the legally binding target set by the Scottish Parliament.

Climate campaigners urged the Scottish Government to “up its game” and warned Alex Salmond’s reluctance to take tougher action on transport emissions and coal production had contributed to the failure.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The Scottish Government said the figures, which take 18 months to calculate, were still the best in Europe, with a 29.6 per cent reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2011 – greater than any of the 15 pre-2004 EU member states.

However, fo Scotland to meet the long-term goal of a 42 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, it would have to reduce emissions to 40.7m tonnes.

Paul Wheelhouse, the environment minister, said the government faced a tougher challenge in hitting the 2020 target as previous carbon data had been revised, meaning Scotland must achieve a 44 per cent reduction instead. At present, carbon is falling by 9.9 per cent year on year.

“Despite changes to the historical data on emissions making this year’s target harder to achieve, we have come within touching distance of it, and the revised targets mean we will all need to focus our efforts in the future to stay on course,” he said.

Dr Sam Gardner, from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, an

umbrella group for environment organisations, charities, trade unions and church groups, said the missed target was “disappointing”.

He said: “We recognise that this is due in part to complicated changes in how we count our emissions, but the headline of another missed target strongly underlines the need for a much tougher climate action plan – expected out later this month – that will drive down emissions year on year and give confidence that future targets can be met.”

Claire Baker, Labour’s environment spokeswoman, called on Mr Wheelhouse to address parliament on the reasons behind the failure before the summer recess.

“The SNP continually herald their climate change targets as world-leading, so to fail to meet them for the second year in a row is deeply embarrassing for this government,” she said. Patrick Harvie, Green party co-leader said: “This latest failure should be ringing alarm bells at the Scottish Government, but instead ministers are showing breathtaking complacency.

“To claim we’re on course to meet the target in 2020 is utter spin. The need to compensate for their failure will clearly make things harder.”

However, Mr Wheelhouse insisted there was reason for optimism. “In 2011, unadjusted emissions fell by 9.9 per cent – the largest year-on-year drop since records began. They also show large decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply, residential and public sectors,” he said.

“The long-term trend shows we will achieve our world-leading target of a 42 per cent emissions reduction if we continue on the course we have set.”