Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets will be put at risk unless ministers bring froward new policies to curb emissions in sectors such as transport and heating, an expert panel has warned.
The independent Committee on Climate Change said Scotland was performing well compared to the rest of the UK when it came to tackling the problem.
But the advisory body argued that “more effort is needed in sectors other than power”, as only the electricity generating sector has achieved significant decreases in recent years.
A new report from the Committee warned: “More needs to be done, especially in sectors such as transport, agriculture and heat for nonresidential buildings in which little progress is currently being made. Otherwise, Scotland’s ambitious targets will be at risk.”
The Climate Change Act of 2009 committed the Scottish Government to cutting emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – but ministers are now looking at going further on this, with a more ambitious target of 90% proposed.
To achieve this, the Committee said that “effective policies will be required across the economy”.
Emissions in Scotland fell by 3% in 2015, taking them to 38% below the 1990 benchmark. The UK by comparison has cut emissions by 35% over the period.
So far reductions north of the border have been “largely driven by decarbonisation of the power sector”, with emissions from electricity generation due to fall further still following the closure of the Longannet coal-fired power station in 2016.
But the Committee said “without firm new policies, the reductions in Scottish emissions seen in recent years are unlikely to continue in the 2020s”.
The report called for “greater ambition” to cut emissions in the transport sector, and said the Scottish Government’s draft Climate Change Plan must set out how the newly announced ambition to phase out petrol and diesel only cars by 2032 will be achieved
While sales of electric vehicles in England increased by 32% in 2016, Scotland lagged well behind, with a rise of 5% – with just 0.6% of all car sales being for electric vehicles, compared to 1.5% of sales in England.
In addition emissions from aviation in Scotland increased by 7% in 2015, and are now 82% higher than in 1990, according to the report.
“This has largely been due to an increase in emissions from international flights,” it stated.
The draft Climate Change Plan includes “ambitious but achievable“ improvements in energy efficiency in a bid to curb the emissions from homes – but the Committee warned this was a “challenging” area and the target of having 80% of heating from low carbon sources by 2032 is “very unlikely to be feasible”.
Meanwhile there has been “little recent progress” in reducing emissions from the agricultural sector, the Committee said, as it called on ministers to consider if compulsory measures are needed for farming to “make the necessary contributions to meeting Scotland’s ambitious climate targets”.
Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change Lord Deben, said: “Scotland’s level of ambition in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change is amongst the highest in the world. Our report shows that Scotland continues to lead the UK in this area, as Scotland’s emissions continue to fall year on year.
“The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan will deliver the next chapter of emissions reductions into the 2030s and beyond.
“It’s therefore essential that further work is done to ramp up emissions reductions right across the Scottish economy and think through how to reduce emissions from heating Scotland’s buildings and from transport, amongst other areas.
“The process of review and revision should enable this to happen in time for the adoption of the final Climate Change Plan early next year.”
Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the report showed “Scotland continues to lead the UK in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and shows the strong progress being made, as we have met our statutory emission reduction target for the second successive year and are well on track to meet our world-leading 2020 target”.
She added: “The recently published Programme for Government places climate action at its heart and includes bold new commitments in a range of areas, including low-carbon transport, infrastructure and energy efficiency.”
“We acknowledge that there are areas where more needs to be done in order to continue meeting our ambitious targets and to prepare for even greater future ambition under our proposed Climate Change Bill.”
“The final version of Scotland’s Climate Change Plan, to be published in early 2018, will reflect the new Programme for Government commitments. Our approach will also continue to be based on the best available evidence, including the advice and recommendations of the Committee.”