Scottish industry’s greenhouse gas emissions lowest since records began

Scotland is on course to meet its 2020 Climate Act target

Nine of the nation’s most carbon-intensive sectors collectively reduced emissions by 0.7 megatonnes (Mt) in 2017 compared to 2016, according to data published on Monday (7 January) by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in its Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory (SPRI).

The figures, which have been compiled and published since 2007, account for the agriculture, chemical, energy, livestock and aquaculture, mineral, paper and wood, metal, radioactive materials and waste and wastewater management sectors. In total, the emissions of 850 industrial sites across Scotland were tracked in 2017.

Between 2016 and 2017, the Longannet power station near Alloa was decommissioned, driving the majority of the 0.7 Mt reduction, the research notes.

Nonetheless, a further 16 sites either came online or began reporting during this period, suggesting that Scotland’s wider industrial sectors continued to make gradual progress towards decarbonisation.

In total, the amount of GHGs emitted by Scotland’s industrial sector has fallen by 57% since 2007, when 26Mt of pollutants were released. The 2017 total was 11.4 Mt.

“Whilst it’s encouraging to see GHGs from Scottish industry at a ten-year low, we recognise further progress needs to be made,” SEPA’s chief executive Terry A’Hearn said.

“The data that SPRI holds is vital to helping us understand how these changes are impacting on our environment both directly and indirectly, ensuring Scotland can identify priority areas to reduce releases and track progress.”

Low-carbon leadership

Scotland is widely regarded as a global leader of the low-carbon transition, having halved its carbon footprint since 1990 and abated its industrial sector at a faster rate than the rest of the UK.

The nation has notably 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.

Scotland also deployed the world’s first floating wind farm last year, delivering electricity to the Scottish grid and the country’s largest solar farm has also received 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.

Looking to the future, Scotland is widely expected to commit to reducing its carbon footprint by 90% by 2050 under its upcoming climate change strategy, which has also been tipped to include an aim of reaching net-zero emissions “as soon as possible”.

The Scottish Government is currently seeking the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) advice on how best to set a “pathway” to carbon-neutrality, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report concluded that global carbon pollution will need to reach zero by 2050 if the global temperature increase is to be kept below 1.5C.

Sarah George

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