January 25, 2023

Nicola Sturgeon has been warned that Scotland’s highly ambitious climate targets are “in danger of being meaningless” as her government still has no clear plan for meeting them.

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an official advisory body, said the Scottish government will almost certainly miss its leading 2030 carbon reduction targets by a significant margin, despite Sturgeon’s repeated promises of radical action on climate.

In its annual report on Scotland’s climate strategy, the CCC said there were “glaring gaps” between its ambitions to cut emissions by 75% by 2030 and its success. It failed on agriculture, building emissions, recycling, peatland restoration, and reducing car use.

Lord Deben, the chairman of the CCC, said he was becoming increasingly annoyed at the faltering progress of the devolved government, which the committee has repeatedly warned about.

“In 2019, the Scottish Parliament committed the country to some of the most demanding climate targets in the world, but they are increasingly at risk with no real progress towards the milestones previously set by Scottish ministers,” said Deben.

“A year ago I called for more clarity and transparency about Scotland’s climate policy and its implementation. That plea remains unanswered.”

Following the criticism from the CCC last year – days after Sturgeon reiterated her pledge to be a global climate leader at the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow – Scotland’s net-zero secretary, Michael Matheson, said the ministers were “resolutely focused” on delivering on their promises. Sturgeon also brought the Scottish Green Party into government last year and appointed both co-leaders as ministers, promising to prioritize climate.

The CCC’s latest report echoes many of last year’s criticisms, but this time the prime minister warns there is an “urgent need” for a dramatically accelerated and detailed strategy to move closer to meeting the 2030 targets.

It was now “extremely challenging” to achieve that goal. Emissions only fell in 2020 due to the Covid crisis; as things stand, Scotland’s emissions would likely fall by 65% ​​to 67%, leaving the country with up to 8 megatons of CO22equivalent below the legally binding target of 75%.

It also reported that if the climate effects of Scotland’s consumption of imported goods and energy were included, rates in Scotland were 22% higher than the UK average, at 13 tCO2.2per person in 2018.

It found that:

  • Despite a commitment to end sales of all petrol and diesel cars by 2030, electric car sales in Scotland had lagged behind England.

  • Scotland’s plans to rapidly decarbonise heating for buildings have still been grossly inadequate despite recent increases in funding.

  • Scottish ministers failed to address high meat and dairy consumption, the main drivers of CO2 emissions from agriculture.

  • Scotland met only half of its target of restoring 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of peatland per year.

  • Scottish ministers did not work with other British governments on shared climate strategies.

Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s Net Zero spokesperson, said the report has left the Scottish Government’s “empty rhetoric in tatters. On the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions – transport, heat in buildings and land use – the Green SNP government report is a resounding failure, failure, failure.”

Matheson said the CCC’s report was “a timely reminder of the magnitude of the challenge facing government, industry and civil society,” and said it would influence the government’s forthcoming climate strategy.

He insisted the government knew it had to drastically step up its action. It spent £1.8bn on decarbonising buildings, on renewables and on free buses for under-22s. “We are now entering the most challenging part of the journey yet, with the need to halve our emissions again within the next eight years,” he said.

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