Updated Apr 19, 2024

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Scotland ditches the 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target

The Scottish Government is planning to ditch its flagship target to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 75% by 2030.

This decision follows a damning report from the Climate Change Committee which concluded that the Scottish Government "is failing to achieve Scotland's ambitious climate goals" and the target set is "beyond what is credible". On top of that, the report highlighted that Scotland has missed its eight annual legal targets in the last 12 years, and failure to publish a required plan which would outline how those targets would be met.

Despite maintaining the final aim of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, there is speculation that even the government's annual climate targets may be abandoned.

Initially hailed as a great success during the COP26 in Glasgow, where the Scottish politicians were portrayed as climate leaders under Nicola Sturgeon's leadership, the retreat from these targets is viewed as a setback for the SNP and the Scottish Greens. The targets, first announced in 2019, were the subject of a heated debate, viewed as overly ambitious and lacking realism.

Despite Scotland making some good progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in sectors like energy production and waste, the overall emissions have not fallen to sufficient levels to meet the required targets.

Scrapping the targets may lead to adopting a system of "carbon budgets" and could mean a shift away from focusing solely on greenhouse gas reduction targets toward more comprehensive policies tackling climate change.

However, this decision poses a significant challenge to the Scottish Government, who are legally obliged to produce a climate change plan, which now seems unfeasible given the revised or potentially scrapped targets. The Scottish Government was also the first government in the world to officially declare a climate emergency.

The Minister for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy, Mairi McAllan, set out a new focus of the Scottish Government to address climate change, including:

  • tripling the number of electric vehicle charging points across Scotland by 2030;
  • introduce a national integrated ticketing system for public transport to encourage more frequent use;
  • work with businesses to transition away from petrol and diesel vans;
  • improve uptake of methane-suppressing feed products or additives at farms;
  • accelerate peatland restoration;
  • launch a consultation on carbon land tax on the largest estates, which would incentivise peatland restoration, afforestation and renewable energy production;
  • consider and publish green heat finance analysis of non-domestic rates reliefs;
  • publish the final energy strategy this summer, followed by draft plans for transport, agriculture and land use, as well as buildings and construction;
  • increase efforts to make sure that net-zero is fully considered in the public sector plans.

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