Scotland outpaces rest of UK in carbon reduction, halving emissions since 1990

Scotland has met its statutory annual climate change target for the third consecutive year, achieving a 49% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions against a 1990 baseline.

The latest Scottish Government figures, released on Tuesday (June 12), show that the country surpassed its 2016 Climate Change Act goal of emitting less than 44.9 MtCO2e in 2016, instead emitting 38.6 MtCO2e.

This puts Scotland on track to meet its 2020 target of a 42% carbon reduction as it continues to outperform the UK as a whole; the data reveals that England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland collectively achieved a 37.6% drop in emissions over the same timeframe.

Indeed, the only EU member state in western Europe to perform better than Scotland was Sweden, which achieved a 51% reduction in GHG emissions over the 26-year period.

“These statistics are hugely encouraging and show we have almost halved the greenhouse gases emitted in Scotland - underlining our role as an international leader in the fight against climate change,” Scotland’s climate change secretary, Roseanna Cunningham said.

“We all have a role to play in that fight and I want to thank the households, communities and businesses who are working hard every day to reduce their own emissions, but we must go further and faster if we are to meet our responsibilities to our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

Cunningham cited the nation’s draft climate change strategy, which has a headline target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 90% by 2050 and achieving a 100% reduction "as soon as possible", as a way to speed up Scotland’s transition to net-zero emissions.

The strategy outlines plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2030 as a milestone on the way to the ambitious 2050 goal, which has been hailed by the UK Committee on Climate Change as “at the limit of feasibility”.

The newly-announced figures were met with excitement from green groups, including Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack, who said the achievement proved that "setting ambitious targets is the best way to achieve results". 

"The energy supply sector has seen the largest reduction in CO2 emissions, with a 68.5% reduction since 1990," she added. "This demonstrates that phasing out fossil fuels in favour of clean, green alternatives is having the desired effect." 

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland chair Tom Ballantine echoed Mack's sentiments, adding that the results prove "setting stretching targets works by driving innovation and strong policy delivery". 

Steps towards net-zero

Scotland’s new climate change strategy aims are an increase on the current emissions target of 80% by 2050, with the country having already taken several significant steps towards decarbonisation.

The nation has additionally committed to delivering 50% of all energy from renewables across heat, transport and electricity, and has signed a joint agreement to tackle climate change with the US State of California.

The first quarter of 2018 saw Scotland smash its onshore wind record, with Scottish wind farms producing 5,353,997MWh of renewable energy – enough to power the equivalent of around five million homes. The unprecedented generation was announced off the back of data revealing that more than two-thirds (68%) of Scotland’s overall electricity demand came from renewables in 2017.

Other success stories from last year include the world’s first floating wind farm delivering electricity to the Scottish grid and the country’s largest solar farm receiving the green light, alongside the announcement of plans to phase out new polluting petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032.

More recently, the Scottish Government has granted planning permission for the country's largest solar PV project, which is expected to save 17,900 tonnes of CO2 per annum over grid mix.

Sarah George


carbon reduction | decarbonisation | Scotland


Climate change

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