ANALYSIS: How Scot-Govt. plans to meet its new climate-change targets

The Scot-Govt. released its new climate plan last week, setting out how it plans to meet its emissions targets over the next 15 years.

The plan includes measures to significantly cut emissions from transport, buildings and industry to help the government meet its target of a 66% cut on greenhouse gas emissions by 2032, compared to 1990 levels.

Scotland’s current Climate Change Act sets a target to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

However, in its proposed Climate Change Bill, which would amend the 2009 Act, the Scottish government has put forward a more ambitious 90% target for emissions reduction by 2050.

Launching the climate plan, Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish climate change secretary, said: “Across the Scottish government, we are working hard every day to [provide leadership on this vital issue] and in the coming months we will bring forward a new Climate Change Bill which will raise the bar higher still.”

However, the debate over exactly how high the bar should be raised continues in Scotland, with campaign groups, such as Stop Cllimate-change Chaos, arguing for a net-zero target by no later than 2050, and the Scottish Greens calling for net zero by 2040.

SCCS also call for a nitrogen budget for 2020 to be included in the new bill, as well as a commitment for all homes to meet at least Energy Performance Rating C (EPR C) by 2025 and a phase out of new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030.

The Scot-Govt is due to unveil the new climate bill, which is likely to apply from 2021, in May or June this year. If the 2050 target is changed, the government would then need to produce a new climate change plan.

However, some climate campaigners were disappointed about its roll back of previous targets for low-carbon heat, as well as a lowering of ambition on reducing emissions from Scotland’s agriculture sector.

The new plan

The new climate plan, which covers the period 2018 to 2032, is the third to be published since Scotland’s Climate Change Act was first passed in 2009. It follows a draft plan released in January 2017 for consultation.

The 222-page plan sets Scotland’s strategy for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 66% compared to 1990 levels by 2032. This target, set by the Scottish Parliament in accordance with the Scottish Climate Change Act, means greenhouse gas emissions in 2032 should be no more than 26.4m tonnes CO2e (MtCO2e), including Scotland’s share of international aviation and shipping.

Unlike the UK as a whole, which has five yearly carbon budgets, Scotland has yearly targets, set by parliament, to reach this goal.

Scotland’s emissions were already 38% below 1990 emissions in 2015 compared with the UK’s reduction of 35%. Scotland is also on track to meet its 42% emissions reduction target by 2020.

The plan targets, in particular, emissions reductions from transport, industry and buildings.

The Scottish government aims to reduce transport emissions, including those from international aviation and shipping, 37% by 2032. In 2015, Scotland’s transport emissions sat at 13.1MtCO2e, slightly below the 1990 baseline year of 13.3MtCO2e. This represented a quarter of Scotland’s emissions.

A major part of its plan to reduce transport emissions is Scotland’s planned phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars or vans by 2032, eight year earlier than the equivalent UK government target. The government also promises to introduce low-emissions zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities, electrify 35% of Scotland’s rail network, as well as ensure a third of the ferries owned by the Scottish government are low carbon by 2032.

The plan says Scotland’s electricity sector – already largely decarbonised as the chart shows – will become increasingly important as a low-carbon power source for heat and transport. Half of all Scotland’s energy needs will be delivered by renewables by 2030, it says.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s industrial emissions should fall 21% by 2032 to around 8 MtCO2e, the plan says, beyond the 49% cut already seen between 1990 and 2015.

This is broadly consistent with the existing EU and UK regulatory frameworks, the plan says, and will be driven by diversification of the fuel supply, increasing energy efficiency and fuel recovery, and participating in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

On buildings, the plan promises a 33% reduction in emissions. Emissions in this sector largely come from energy used to heat and cool houses and businesses, and stood at 9.5MtCO2e in 2015, a fall of 14% since 1990. They account for around a fifth of Scotland’s emissions.

The plan includes goals for 35% of homes to be heated by low-carbon technologies (including heat supplies by low-carbon electricity) and a 15% reduction in residential heat demand through energy efficiency measures. Emissions will fall 23% over the lifetime of the plan, it says.

The plan also promises the government will publish a route map setting a long-term ambition for the development of “Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme” (SEEP) in 2018.

Ambition shortfall

The new climate plan follows a 175-page draft version published in January 2017. However, it differs in several key ways, which campaigners say reduce ambition.

Most significantly, perhaps, the plan significantly lowers ambition on reducing emissions from buildings. While the draft plan outlined plans to reduce emissions from homes by 75% by 2032, the final plan has rolled this back significantly to 23%.

This comes despite the Scot-Govt. designating energy efficiency a “national infrastructure priority” for the country in 2015.

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which assessed the draft plan in September, said its milestone of an 80% share of low-carbon heat by 2032 is “very unlikely to be feasible”, but recommended a 50% target. The new plan targets 35%.

Sarah Beattie-Smith, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland, said the new target is “desperately unambitious” and means locking in an extra 3m tonnes of CO2 from Scotland’s homes.

She said: “It’s a huge rollback on ambition from last year from the draft plan that we saw in January last year.

“When the Scottish government back in 2015 declared that energy efficiency would be a national infrastructure priority, we all cheered…But what we’ve actually been seeing is the same amount of money going in towards energy efficiency that we get every year and, if anything, a slight drop since the infrastructure priority was declared three years ago. So the money is going down, or at least not going up, and the ambition is rolling back as well.”

Beattie-Smith adds that the plan is short on details about how the Scottish government is going to meet any low-carbon heat target.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government is targeting only a 9% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2032. This is despite it contributing around a fifth of Scotland’s emissions, with almost half of these coming from methane.

Lawyer Susan Shaw said she is also concerned by the heavy reliance on electric vehicles in addressing the transport sector.

She said: “In many respects, Scotland has already made the “easy wins” on climate and now has to grapple with the more difficult challenges if we are to actually meet our Paris and other equally important international legal obligations.

“The Scottish government should be under no illusions that meeting the de-carbonisation challenge requires much more than building renewables.”

6 Mar 2018

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