Scot-Govt must do more to de-carbonise heat and transport sectors to meet ‘ambitious’ climate change targets

A supporter for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland calls on the Scot-Govt to aim for zero climate emissions by 2050.

The Scot-Govt has been told it must take more – and more meaningful – action on de-carbonising the transport and heating sectors if it is to remain in the vanguard of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the main finding of the ‘report card’ on Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse’s draft Scottish Energy Strategy published today by the UK Committee on Climate Change

To date, Scotland has made good progress in reducing its emissions and is performing well compared to other parts of the UK. Scotland’s emissions fell 3% between 2014 and 2015 to 38% below 1990 levels. This is compared to a reduction of 35% since 1990 for the UK as a whole in 2015.

The Scottish Government’s draft Climate Change Plan sets out policies and proposals to reduce emissions into the 2030s in order to meet Scotland’s legislated carbon targets. It also seeks to lay the foundations for deeper emissions cuts beyond 2030. The final plan, due in February 2018, will need to set out firmer policies to meet these targets.

 Action taken now will also need to pave the way to meet Scotland’s higher ambition to reduce its emissions by 90% in 2050 on 1990 levels (previously set at a minimum reduction of 80%). This is a suitable contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change as required by the Paris Agreement.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act (2008) to advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change

The Committee’s new report, Reducing emissions in Scotland: 2017 progress report, also finds that:

Scotland met its emissions target in 2015. ‘Actual’ (physical) emissions, including international aviation and shipping, fell 3% between 2014-15. Progress was largely driven by action to reduce emissions in the electricity sector. Scotland also hit its ‘net’ emissions target, achieving a 41% emissions reduction on 1990 levels. An interim target of at least a 42% reduction in net emissions by 2020 is well within reach.

More effort is needed to reduce emissions from other sectors of the Scottish economy, alongside the good progress made in electricity. Emissions from agriculture, transport and non-residential buildings have not fallen in recent years. Scotland’s ambitious emissions targets will require broader, economy-wide progress in future years. 

'Could do better': Paul Wheelhouse, MSP.
Could do better’: Paul Wheelhouse, MSP.

The balance of effort in the draft Climate Change Plan between the transport and buildings sectors is unrealistic. However, the recent Programme for Government announcement indicates stronger action to reduce emissions from the transport sector. At this higher level, transport emissions would be commensurate with ambitious Scottish emissions targets. This could allow for less reliance to 2032 on the rapid deployment of low-carbon heating in buildings. While ambitious deployment of low-carbon heat is essential, it is unlikely to be feasible at the rate or level envisaged in the draft plan.

The draft Climate Change Plan contains limited new policy to deliver emissions reductions to 2032 beyond existing commitments. Without effective new policies, progress seen in recent years is unlikely to continue into the 2020s. The credibility of the proposed 90% emissions target for 2050 will be compromised if Scotland fails to lay the groundwork over the period to 2030.

Plans to further decarbonise the electricity sector are suitably ambitious and align with the Committee’s analysis. The draft plan’s commitment to the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is also welcome as are plans to increase tree planting to 15,000 hectares per year by the mid-2020s.

Ambition on BPVs. The draft Climate Change Plan envisages ultra-low-emission vehicle (ULEV, e.g. electric vehicle) reaching 40% of new car and van sales by 2032, which would not prepare sufficiently to achieve the deep decarbonisation required by 2050 given the time it takes to turn over the vehicle stock. The recent Programme for Government announcement that petrol and diesel vehicle sales will be phased out by 2032 is a far stronger commitment, and is commensurate with the challenge set by Scotland’s ambition on climate change.

The final version of the plan will need to set out the policies that will build the market for ULEVs over the next 15 years to the point that sales of petrol and diesel vehicles can be phased out.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Scotland’s level of ambition in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change is amongst the highest in the world. Our report shows that Scotland continues to lead the UK in this area, as Scotland’s emissions continue to fall year on year. 

 “The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan will deliver the next chapter of emissions reductions into the 2030s and beyond.

“It’s therefore essential that further work is done to ramp up emissions reductions right across the Scottish economy and think through how to reduce emissions from heating Scotland’s buildings and from transport, amongst other areas.

“The process of review and revision should enable this to happen in time for the adoption of the final Climate Change Plan early next year.”

Tom Ballantine, Chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, commented: “This report shows that if Scotland is to step up to the moral challenge posed by climate change, the Scottish Government must strengthen its plans for the new Climate Change Bill”.

Meanwhile, in order to reach the collective Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rises to “well below 2°C”, countries need to submit more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

This requires focusing not only on countries’ aggregate emission levels, but also on the sectoral transformations needed to drive decarbonisation, according to a new report delivered to the EU Commission by the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

25 Sept 2017

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