Scotland proposes 90% emissions reduction target

Scotland has published its 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".

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”.

It additionally notes that Scotland will not use carbon offsetting to achieve its new aims, which are an increase on the current emissions target of 80% by 2050. Measures to reach the new target include reopening a specialised climate change fund for applications in the next two years and establishing an advisory panel.

“Our 90% target will be tougher even than the 100% goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally-binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy,” environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said. “The fight against climate change is a moral responsibility but Scotland’s academic and engineering expertise, coupled with our outstanding natural resources, mean it is also an economic opportunity.”

However, the fact that the strategy has not set a date for the net-zero goal has left several environmental groups unsatisfied.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’s chair, Tom Ballantine, and Greens MSP Mark Ruskell both dubbed the 90% goal “hugely disappointing”, with Scottish Renewables’ chief executive, Claire Mack, also urging Scottish Parliament to set a date.

“The government claims Scotland will be one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions, but the bill does not commit to that,” said Ballantine. “By failing to ally with the global momentum towards zero emissions, led by countries like France, Sweden and New Zealand, Scotland is missing a huge opportunity to end its contribution to climate change in a generation, attract clean investment and retain its position as a leader on the global stage.” 

The strategy, published on Thursday (May 24), states that Holyrood will only commit to net-zero carbon emissions when there is adequate evidence to demonstrate the target date is reliable and achievable. A decision on whether to set a target date will be reviewed every five years, it adds.

Net-zero future

The first quarter of 2018 saw Scotland smash its onshore wind record, with Scottish wind farms producing 5,353,997MWh – 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 highlights 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.

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.

Sarah George

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