The UK General Election - 4th July 2024


Scotland sets out plans to cut carbon emissions by 90%

Emma Divers

Associate Director - Head of Scotland

The draft Climate Change Bill, published on the 24th May 2018, sets an ambitious target of a 90% carbon emission reduction by 2050 –with the aim of achieving 100% reduction as soon as possible.

Holyrood’s climate change secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, announced the target to the Scottish Parliament stating that:

“Our 90% target will be tougher even than the 100% goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy.

“By 2030, we will cut emissions by two-thirds and, unlike other nations, we will not use carbon offsetting, where other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal.”

The draft bill also sets out the ambition by the Scottish government to achieve a 100 per cent reduction in emissions “as soon as possible”, but creates no statutory requirement for it to do so. Instead, the legislation proposes that a date for the so called “net-zero” target should become legally-binding only when there is evidence available to show it can be achieved.

This comes after the UK Committee on Climate Change stated that a ‘net zero’ target is not currently feasible.

The failure to introduce a ‘net-zero’ target has been met with disappointment from campaigners, who say the Scottish Government has not gone far enough by failing to follow the example of countries such as France, Sweden and New Zealand, who have all committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 100%.

Commenting on this, Tom Ballantine, Chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said:

“It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to live up to its own rhetoric on global climate change leadership, by failing to set a net zero emissions target in the climate change bill.”

Despite this disappointment, the target remains highly ambitious, and is likely to have an impact on subsequent legislation, including the upcoming Transport Bill, where environmental considerations will have a much stronger focus.

Indeed, while much of the focus is on the long-term targets for reduction, many commentators have missed the challenging interim targets also set out in the Bill, with promises of a 56 % drop by 2020, a 66% drop by 2030 and a 78% drop by 2040. To achieve these interim targets the Scottish Government will have to take immediate and significant steps to reduce carbon emissions in Scotland. With the Programme for Government setting out a number of new pieces of legislation to be introduced in this Parliament, all eyes should be on how the Scottish Government will seek to thread environmental policy through all strands of legislation.

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