The Scottish Government has been told the “delivery of rapid emissions reductions cannot wait” if it is to meet legally-binding climate change targets at the end of this decade.
Independent advisers at the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said while it had taken Scotland 30 years to cut emissions in half, the same reduction is needed over the next 10 years to meet the 2030 target.
In a new report, the CCC said: “Climate policy in Scotland must focus on the transition to net zero and the need for rapid progress by 2030.
“Major changes are required across the Scottish economy, requiring lasting, systemic changes in most sectors.”
While the CCC hailed the Scottish Government for its “laudable ambitions” – such as the pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the UK target – it noted that Scotland missed its emissions target in 2019.
The experts warned meeting the target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s would be “very difficult ….even with the strongest climate policies”.
Legislation already passed by Holyrood commits Scotland to achieving a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 but the CCC said in its latest report that “although a broad set of policies and proposals have been announced, there is still relatively little detail on exactly how committed public funding will be spent and how emissions will be reduced in practice”.
It added: “A comprehensive, detailed policy framework must now be completed for decarbonisation in Scotland, so the focus can be on implementation and delivery of real-world progress in reducing emissions at the necessary rate.
“Progress must also be monitored closely, and policy corrected as appropriate, to ensure that delivery stays on track.”
The CCC said: “Delivery of rapid emissions reductions cannot wait. It has taken 30 years to halve Scottish territorial emissions, they must halve again in a decade to meet the legislated 2030 target.”
It called for the Scottish Government to publish, as soon as possible, a “detailed and transparent quantitative breakdown” of how proposed emissions reductions will be achieved.
“Only with this detail will we be able to assess progress properly and to give due credit to the Scottish Government where delivery is on track,” the CCC added.
Meanwhile, the UK Government’s decision not to include the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in the north east of Scotland in the first phase of works “raises important questions” about whether such technology can be developed in time to help meet the 2030 target.
The Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan had looked to this to achieve a “substantial contribution”, the CCC said, adding that ministers now “must make a quick decision on whether to continue to plan for removals to contribute to the 2030 target or to change course”.
In addition to this, Scottish ministers may need to work with Westminster to “deliver special decarbonisation solutions” ahead of them being implemented across the UK.
The CCC noted: “The Scottish Government has made ambitious commitments in some areas that require going ahead of the UK-wide path, often in areas where policy is not clearly devolved to Scotland.
“Following on from the recent publication of the UK Net Zero Strategy, an agreement is needed as a matter of priority for the Scottish and UK governments to work together to deliver specific decarbonisation solutions in Scotland ahead of other parts of the UK, to meet the faster deployment required in Scotland this decade.
“In effect, the rollout of many solutions will have to begin in Scotland before moving south. This may require the Scottish Government to complement UK-wide funding schemes with its own funding.”
Speaking about the report, published in the aftermath of the global Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow, CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “Scotland’s successful hosting of Cop26 makes it particularly important for the Scottish Government to respond to the new Glasgow Climate Pact and show how serious it is about delivering net zero.
“Strategies alone won’t reduce emissions. Major changes are needed across the Scottish economy, requiring lasting, systemic action in most sectors.
“Clarity and transparency on policy, supported with detail on how these policies will be delivered has been lacking. My committee cannot assess future progress without this vital assurance.”
Michael Matheson, the Net Zero secretary, said the Scottish Government was “committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045 at the latest, and ensuring we do this in a way that is just and fair for everyone”.
“I am pleased that the committee recognises that the past year has seen further advances in the Scottish Government’s climate policy ambition, including through our updated Climate Change Plan and Programme for Government. I also agree entirely with the committee’s key finding that the focus now, both for us in Scotland and for countries around the world, must be on the delivery of the policies to drive transformational emissions reductions across all areas of the economy,” he added.
“That is why we are resolutely focussed on delivering the comprehensive set of policies set out in our updated Climate Change Plan and associated documents. This week’s Budget will demonstrate how we will start to deliver the necessary investment to secure our long-term ambition of a fairer, greener future. It is through a combination of high ambition and action to match that we will ensure Scotland plays its full part in delivering on the Glasgow Climate Pact.
“Collaboration across the international community is also vital to address this global challenges, and we stand ready to work further with other governments and delivery partners to build a lasting legacy following Cop26 – for this and future generations. As part of this, we will continue to work with and, where appropriate, challenge the UK Government to ensure that the call to action on delivery extends to the reserved policy areas which are essential to support Scotland’s climate goals.”