Greenhouse gas emissions fall by 10% in Scotland

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Scotland has continued to make good progress towards meeting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions in Scotland fell by 9.9% in 2011 – the latest year for which data is available – compared with 6.9% in the UK as a whole. In particular there were large reductions of over 20% in the power and residential sectors, and almost 15% reduction in the public sector in 2011.

While much of this reduction was due to the weather, and a switch from coal fired electricity generation to nuclear and renewable sources, it also reflected good progress investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

These findings are from the Committee on Climate Change’s third progress report to the Scottish government, as requested under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009).

But despite a reduction in emissions, Scotland narrowly missed the legislated annual target of 53.4 MtCO2e by around 0.8 MtCO2e. This is as a result of recent improvements to the method of calculating estimated emissions (Scottish greenhouse gas inventory) which resulted in an addition of 1.2 MtCO2e to 2011 emissions. It should not distract from the assessment of underlying progress reducing emissions.

To allow for the effect of this revision, the Committee suggests either that currently legislated targets should be revised, or additional opportunities for reducing emissions be found.

Progress has been good in some sectors, but meeting future targets remains very challenging, and will require further action:

Renewable power. 2012 was a record year for adding renewable capacity to the power system, with 1 GW coming on to the system, compared to the previous record of 0.6 GW. However, sustained investment at a rate of 1.2 GW per year is required if the Scottish target for renewable generation is to be achieved.

Renewable heat. While there is a healthy project pipeline, this is insufficient to meet the 2020 renewable energy target. It will be important for Scotland to leverage funding provided under the Renewable Heat Incentive to support required investment.

David Kennedy, Chief Executive, Climate Change Committee, said: There has been good progress in Scotland on reducing emissions in key sectors of the economy, notably through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This should not be obscured by the fact that emissions in 2011 were above the level targeted because of a change to the accounting methodology.

“But much remains to be done in terms of policy development and implementation to achieve very challenging future targets, and to unlock the benefits for Scotland of building a low-carbon economy.”

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Scottish Environment Minister, commented: “This report highlights how Scotland is doing much better in reducing climate change emissions than the UK as a whole – with almost a 10% reduction in Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also emphasises the good progress that has been made despite the challenges resulting from improvements in calculating estimated emissions”.

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