Scotland’s climate targets at risk unless meaningful action starts now

The Climate Change Committee’s latest assessment of Scotland’s progress in reducing emissions concludes that the Scottish Government lacks a clear delivery plan and has not offered a clear and quantified assessment of how its policies combine to achieve its reduction targets.

The report, released on 7 December, recognises Scotland’s ‘extraordinary ambition’ to decarbonise the economy, with a welcome focus on a fair and just transition. But it notes that ‘Scotland has failed to achieve 7 out of 11 of its targets to date. The trend of failure will continue without urgent and strong action to deliver emissions reductions, starting now.’

The report calls for a number of actions across different sectors with an impact on emissions, including transport and buildings. Plans to decarbonise transport in Scotland are falling behind, with uptake of electric vehicles behind the rest of the UK and a lack of sufficient levers or comprehensive plan to deter car use and meet Scotland’s target to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030. When it comes to buildings, although Scotland has supported local energy and heat network planning, lack of adequate policies in place mean that low-carbon heat and energy efficiency improvements are not being delivered at the required rate. The report notes that buildings targets are set at double the annual deployment rate that is considered realistic by the Climate Change Committee, even in the most ambitious scenarios.

Issues in cross-cutting areas like governance and adaptation are noted, including insufficient cooperation with the UK government, despite the dependence of Scottish decarbonisation on sectors that are reserved to a greater extent. At a local level, not enough coordination from the Scottish Government, lack of powers and necessary levers to deliver on a local level, and need for clarity around local authorities’ role is holding back meaningful progress towards national ambition and risks Net Zero policy being rolled out at different speeds in different areas.

The report also notes that both policy design and public funding for climate-related programmes suffer from ‘fragmentation and short-termism’ which prevents longer-term action delivering on Net Zero outcomes. It calls for multi-year funding to provide the certainty to create longer-term workplans.

Zoe Holliday, CEO of Community Energy Scotland, said, ‘If Scotland is to meet its ambitious emissions reductions targets, then comprehensive and decisive action needs to start now. Our members have an important role to play in mobilising their communities and reaching out to fuel poor and vulnerable people in their areas by supporting uptake of energy efficiency improvements, low-carbon heat, and active travel. But this can only happen against a backdrop of a clear delivery plan for Scotland, with associated long-term funding.’

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