Scotland on Sunday can reveal that a commitment to raise Scotland’s 2020 climate target from the current 42 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions to more than 50 per cent will be put at the heart of the SNP manifesto.
The announcement will be made by Sturgeon on Wednesday at an event, which will see 1,400 invited guests attend the launch of the SNP’s election prospectus.
The new target will be contained in a Climate Change Bill, which will be put before Holyrood if, as expected, the SNP returns to government on 5 May.
Despite the SNP’s commitment to wind and wave power, the announcement comes at a time when the party’s green policies are coming under increasing scrutiny.
Unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP has not committed to an all-out ban on fracking, the controversial technique used to extract oil and gas from below the earth’s surface. The SNP’s position is for a moratorium on fracking until all the evidence is considered, although Sturgeon recently described herself as “highly sceptical” and promised to block the technique if there was “any hint” of environmental harm.
The precise figure for the new target will be set following discussions with the UK Committee on Climate Change, the Scottish Government’s independent adviser on the issue. Setting a target of beyond 50 per cent by 2020 will exceed the EU’s ambition to make a 40 per cent cut by 2030 and the UK’s intention to drive down emissions by 35 per cent by 2020.
Yesterday climate Change minister Aileen McLeod said: “Last year’s UN climate summit in Paris sent the clear message that all countries need to further increase ambition and action on cutting emissions.
“It has not always been easy, but Scotland has been a genuine world leader in the area of climate change and green energy and the latest evidence shows that we are on track to exceed our 42 per cent target.”
The SNP’s opponents are likely to react with some cynicism to the proposal and will point out that the Scottish Government has missed its interim emission targets for the last four years.
Most recently in 2013, official figures showed Scottish emissions of the basket of seven greenhouse gases are estimated to be 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This was 3.6 per cent lower than the 2012 figure of 54.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent – but some way short of the target of 47.9 million.
Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “In the coming week world leaders will sign the climate deal agreed in Paris in December. The Paris deal has yet to make any real difference to national plans on climate change so Scotland aiming for 50 per cent plus by 2020 sends a strong signal to others.
“The government has struggled to meet annual targets, so this strong pledge … must be matched by strong proposals for action in the SNP manifesto on more efficient homes, shifting transport priorities and reducing emissions from waste.”