Scotland must go beyond power to meet net-zero by 2045, Committee on Climate Change warns

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told the Scottish Government that it should apply learnings from the low-carbon transition in the nation's electricity sector to heat and transport, lest it risk missing its 2045 net-zero target.

Scotland must go beyond power to meet net-zero by 2045, Committee on Climate Change warns

Scotland was the first government globally to declare a climate emergency.

In its latest annual report to Scottish Ministers, published today (7 October), the CCC commends the nation’s progress in transitioning to a low-carbon electricity system. Renewable generation tripled and fossil fuel generation fell by 70% between 2008 and 2018, the report reveals, with wind power leading the way.

These trends accounted for more than two-thirds of the total reduction in annual emissions over that ten-year period. Annual emissions were almost one-third (31%) lower in 2018 than in 2008, meaning that Scotland is decarbonising more rapidly than any other UK nation.

While praising this strong progress, the report notes that emissions from all other sectors aside from electricity generation decreased by just 14% during that decade. It urges the Government to take a broader look at the low carbon transition going forward to accelerate progress beyond the power sector. Scotland has notably committed to reducing emissions by 75% by 2030, against a 1990 baseline – a target higher than was recommended by the CCC (70%). The report warns that this interim ambition may be more challenging to reach than the 2045 goal, particularly if emissions from transport and heat are not addressed as a priority.

On transport, the report recommends an overarching commitment to ensure that no Scot needs to buy a petrol or diesel car by 2032. This vision could be achieved by increasing government investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, public transport networks and electric vehicle (EV) charging; ensuring private sector contribution in these areas and streamlining processes associated with accessing finance and planning permissions.

The CCC notes that the UK Government’s decision on a new date for the ban on petrol and diesel car sales will also play a role. Boris Johnson had stated his intention to officially move the deadline from 2040 to 2035 at COP26. Pressure is mounting on Johnson to press ahead and confirm a new date in the coming weeks, regardless of the delay to the conference. He is widely expected to opt for a 2030 deadline.

On heat, the report urges Scotland to publish a Heat Policy Statement setting out a long-term roadmap for the sector by the end of 2020. District heating should be prioritised in urban areas and individual heat pumps in off-grid areas. BEIS has repeatedly signalled that it will publish its own Heat Strategy this autumn, following strings of delays.

Joined-up approach

As is the case for the UK as a whole, the report reiterates the CCC’s calls for updated carbon budgets and for joined-up, sector-specific roadmaps for reaching net-zero.

At a virtual Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) meeting last month, Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma said the Government was working to embed a “joined-up thinking” approach to creating an enabling policy landscape for net-zero. But he was unable to provide specific examples of past successes as he faced probing questions about decarbonising sectors like transport and agriculture.

It is hoped that the publication of the Heat Strategy will coincide with a string of other policy packages, including the Buildings Strategy, National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) and long-awaited Energy White Paper. But with the Autumn Statement scrapped due to Covid-19, further delays may well be on the table.

Sarah George

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