Scotland continues to beat rest of UK in reducing emissions

Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but needs fresh measures to meet its own recently introduced targets, according to parliament's climate change watchdog.

The Committee on Climate Change’s annual progress report on carbon reduction north of the border is published 24 September.

It says Scottish net emissions were 41.5 MtCO2e in 2016, the last year for which data is available, below the climate target figure of 44.9 MtCO2e. Total emissions fell by 10% in 2016 alone.

This means that net emissions, which account for the trading of allowances in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, were 45% below 1990 levels. Scotland is outperforming its interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020, the report shows.

Actual emissions in 2016 were 49% below 1990 levels, meaning that Scotland is on track to meet the separate target in the Scottish parliament’s own Climate Change Bill for a reduction of at least 56% by 2020.

The biggest factor in the decline in emissions is the power generation sector. Electricity generation provided the lion’s share of this latest drop in emissions with 17.8% of Scotland’s total energy in 2016 coming from renewable sources; a higher proportion than in the UK and EU overall.

However, following the closure of Longannet, the final coal plant located north of the border, Scotland’s strategy must now move on decisively, says the CCC.

And given the lack of “significant” emission reductions outside electricity generation and waste over the five years to 2016, other sectors need to pick up the slack in order to meet Scotland’s ambitious climate targets.

The Scottish bill has set a target of cutting emissions north of the border to 90% of 1990 levels, compared to the figure of 80% enshrined in the UK-wide Climate Change Act.

The CCC judges that the 90% reduction target is “at the limits of feasibility identified to date” and that more measures may be required to achieve this goal.

Low-carbon heat and transport are two of the areas where policies must improve it says, including a clear plan for rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “Scotland continues to lead the UK in reducing its emissions and has ambitious targets which aim to go further.

“Decarbonisation of Scotland’s electricity sector, and reductions in emissions from waste, have seen Scotland outperform the UK overall as emissions continue to fall year-on-year to nearly half of 1990 levels.

“The Scottish government has made some progress on tackling issues raised in the committee’s report in 2017. However, challenges remain. Achieving a 90% in emissions by 2050, as envisaged within the new Climate Change Bill, means greater effort is now required across other areas of Scotland’s economy.

“This includes policies to drive down emissions in sectors where they are either flat or rising, such as transport, agriculture and energy efficiency in buildings.

“Without real action in these areas, Scotland may fall short of its long-term goals.”

David Blackman

This article first appeared on edie sister title’s website, Utility Week

Comments (9)

  1. Scottish Scientist says:

    I’m afraid that a pep talk from Lord Deben is no substitute for granting to the Scots the powers, the means to get the job done.

    The UK refuses to allow the Scottish Parliament and Government the necessary fiscal and energy sector powers to transition our economy to 100% renewable energy.

    The Scottish government simply isn’t allowed by its UK fiscal framework to borrow a significant percentage of Scottish GDP with which to invest to re-purpose the economy to 100% renewable energy usage. The investment purse strings are still held by the UK, which throws bones of local "deals" with Scottish cities and regions, as if the UK can make friends with Scots by treating us like dogs.

    The closure of Longannet without any provision whatsoever for Scottish dispatchable renewable energy back-up power – for example, from biomass generation or from energy storage – for times of low wind has left Scotland occasionally requiring to import power from England, mostly generated by burning fossil fuels.

    The UK National Grid does not deserve a pat on the back for reducing fossil fuel burning in Scotland that must be substituted for fossil fuel burning in England. What they deserve is a kick up the backside!

    Although the UK National Grid has supported building new wind farms in Scotland, the UK National Grid has given no priority whatsoever to offering incentives for Scotland’s self-sufficiency and security of supply.

    We need incentives for grid-scale energy storage pumped storage hydro – why is the construction of SSE Coire Glas still stalled?

    We need incentives for farm-scale energy storage, instead of curtailment payments.

    I could go on and on but to cut a long story short Scotland is being HELD BACK not assisted by UK mismanagement of our energy and fiscal policies.

    As Churchill said, "Give us the tools and we will finish the job".

  2. Scottish Scientist says:

    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    * Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    * Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme
    * Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power
    * World s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?
    * Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power
    * Scotland Electricity Generation my plan for 2020
    * South America GREAT for Renewable Energy

  3. Keiron Shatwell says:

    @Scottish Scientist – agree with you there needs to be more investment in new Pumped Storage Hydro and in converting existing single direction hydro into PSH. Looking at the investment and development of the hydro schemes in the 30 years after WWII it was amazing what was achieved. Scotland needs that kind of investment and energy again but not just in building wind turbines.

    We have enormous potential in tidal stream, PSH, water source heat pumps (thanks to the Gulf Stream bathing the West Coast) but they are being overlooked for the darling that is wind. And don’t get me started on the waste that is biomass, this is simply not green at all unless it is using the waste sawdust from the timber industry. Chopping down trees just to turn them into wood pellets a green idea tis not.

  4. Scottish Scientist says:


    I am pleased to note that we agree on so much. However …

    Neither the Gulf Stream nor any other stream flow past my house so "streams" are not of any use as a heat source for a heat pump that could heat my house.

    In the summer, my house could use the air as a heat source for a heat pump but in the winter the air is too cold.

    Here’s a better heating suggestion for houses in winter – supply the gas network with hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water using surplus wind etc. power.

    In winter, use the hydrogen gas boiler exhaust and water vapour / condensate as an air (nitrogen mostly) & water heat source for a heat pump.

    I don’t want to "get you started" on biomass Keiron. I want to you to STOP until you get yourself fully educated.

    Please read the comments by Dr Nina Skorupska for the Renewable Energy Association (REA) in this
    "Biomass ‘carbon neutrality’ debate continues to divide opinion"–carbon-neutrality–debate-continues-to-divide-opinions/

    and read this blog post by the Renewable Energy Association

  5. Keiron Shatwell says:

    @Scottish Scientist – thanks for the links, always good to read around a subject but I still stand by my assertion that cutting down trees to make pellets to burn to heat a house or generate electricity is not green.

    The waters in Loch Linnhe, near my house, steam some winters mornings. Is it not beyond the realms of engineering to capture some of that heat to warm the buildings of Fort William? And with the tidal currents at the Loch Eil Narrows, Corran Narrows and Ballachulish Narrows running at up to 6kts is it not beyond the realms of possibility to harness them to help power the immediate locality?

    No point talking about gas to heat homes where I live as we are not on the gas main and never will be. I don’t think there will be sufficient excess electricity to electrolyse Hydrogen from water to the volumes needed for domestic, commercial and industrial heating especially if we are charging all our electric vehicles. It takes twice as much energy to create the hydrogen than you get back from burning it. Better to just heat your home by electricity in that case. I may be proved wrong but I’m not convinced in Hydrogen for many reasons, not least of which is it leaks even out of pressure vessels designed to hold it (I know from personal experience using the stuff in a lab).

  6. Scottish Scientist says:


    Let’s not discuss biomass any more because I don’t think we are going to agree.

    I would prefer to focus our discussions where we agree on the science.

    Certainly water heat source for heat pumps for district heating are easily within the realms of engineering.

    The difficulty would be that retrofitting a district heating scheme of any kind to Fort William would involve a lot of disruptive works to the streets and houses, which residents may think is more trouble than it is worth.

    So good luck with that.

    District heating schemes are much more practical when they are designed in at the inception of new districts and new towns.

    If you would like to suggest district heating and using the sea as a heat source then please "Leave a Reply" using the comment box at the foot of this page

    I wrote in another of my blog posts

    "Sea Lochs

    Whilst the tides on Scotland s north-west coast aren t so high, there do seem to be quite a number of suitable sea-lochs there that could relatively easily be barraged to exploit tidal energy, somewhat in the style of a tidal lagoon but without having to build much in the way of lagoon walls, nature having done most of the work already."

    So I agree that harnessing those tidal currents would indeed be "possible".

    I want to encourage discussion of such tidal energy prospects on my blog so I would invite you to "Leave a Reply" on my "Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme" post at this link
    – that’s my blog post which includes my paragraph on Scottish sea lochs.

    I would welcome you leaving a reply such as –

    "And with the tidal currents at the Loch Eil Narrows, Corran Narrows and Ballachulish Narrows running at up to 6kts is it not beyond the realms of possibility to harness them to help power the immediate locality?"

    For places which don’t have and don’t ever want a gas main then I am sure that we can come up with a renewable energy alternative for heating, for example –

    * all-electric homes will automatically go all-renewable as the electricity grid goes all-renewable.

    * deliveries of fossil fuels to burn for heating can be replaced by deliveries of bio-fuels.


  7. Keiron Shatwell says:

    @Scottish Scientist – but why would you want to build a wall across the sea lochs? That would damage the environment and defeat the purpose. There are several systems available at present to harness tidal streams without having to dam the place up. I think there was even a trial system in place just outside Oban recently that was held in place on a single pillar so the unit just swung around with the changing tide – now that’s simples

  8. Scottish Scientist says:

    The purpose in building a wall is to generate more energy than is possible without the wall.

    to calculate how much energy you can get.

    I am not the local person who has suggested building tidal energy schemes in the loch narrows near Fort William. You are the one who suggested that to me. If you do want to build something it is YOU who will have to fend off the NIMBYs, not me.

    I detest wasting my time bandying words with NIMBYs so just don’t start that line of argument with me OK?

    I am not a developer or a power company or a community proposing to build in your back yard.

    I am just advising you on the science.

    If you don’t like my advice – fine – don’t take it.

    Keiron, I think our discussion here on EDIE is drawing to an end. If you want to ask me any more questions then please do so by leaving a reply on my blog.

  9. Keiron Shatwell says:

    I will not enter into any further discussion with Scottish Scientist at their behest and will not make any comment on how I feel about comments they made in their last post.

    I hope that others may join in and share their knowledge and thoughts on how Scotland can continue to reduce it’s emissions and how we can harness all the potential energy sources our country possess in a sustainable and harmonious manner.

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