Scotland’s 2030 climate change target unreachable, experts say

New report said the government is failing to achieve 'ambitious' goal of cutting harmful emissions by 75% by 2030.

The level of emissions reductions needed for Scotland to reach its 2030 climate change targets is now “beyond what is credible” to be achieved, independent experts have concluded.

A new report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said for Scotland to achieve the goal of cutting harmful emissions by 75% by then, the rate of emission reduction in most sectors would need to increase by a factor of nine in the years up to the end of the decade.

As a result, it said: “The acceleration required in emissions reduction to meet the 2030 target is now beyond what is credible.”

In a damning report to the Scottish Parliament, the CCC said: “The Scottish Government is failing to achieve Scotland’s ambitious climate goals.”

It noted annual targets for reducing emissions had “repeatedly been missed”, with a rise in emissions in 2021 – linked to colder than average weather that year and an increase in transport emissions post Covid – the eighth time in 12 years targets had not been achieved.

The CCC also noted the publication of Scotland’s new draft Climate Change Plan, which was due late in 2023, had been “delayed”.

As such, it said there was “no comprehensive delivery strategy for meeting future emissions targets”.

Calling on ministers to publish this “urgently”, the CCC insisted that “actions continue to fall far short of what is legally required”.

In its 2023 report to the Scottish Parliament, the independent body, which advises governments across the UK on climate change, said that now the 2030 target was “not credible” the Scottish Government should instead seek to “build on its high ambition and implement policies that enable the 75% emissions reduction target to be achieved at the earliest date possible”.

As it stands, the CCC said the “current overall policies and plans in Scotland fall far short of what is needed to achieve the legal targets under the Scottish Climate Change Act”.

It went on to state “most key indicators of delivery progress are off track”, with the report adding this was “significantly so” for tree planting and peatland restoration rates, heat pump installations, electric van sales and recycling rates.

It said: “By the end of this decade, Scotland will need to: treble the pace of rollout of public electric vehicle charge points, reduce car traffic by 20%, increase heat pump installation rates by a factor of at least thirteen and double onshore wind capacity.

“Woodland creation will need to more than double by the mid-2020s and peatland restoration rates need to increase significantly.”

Looking at transport, the CCC said sales of electric cars and vans were lower than in the UK as a whole – with only 2% of new vans sold in 2022 being electric models.

While there is an “ambitious” target to reduce the number of kilometres driven by motorists by 20% of 2019 levels by 2030, the CCC added “a clear strategy on how this will be achieved is still missing”.

The report also said there was “no strategy for decarbonising aviation in Scotland”, with a plan “still needed” for how to meet the commitment for 30% of Scottish Government-managed ferries to be low-emission by 2032.

Turning to buildings, the CCC said just in excess of 6,000 domestic heat pumps were installed in Scotland in 2023 – saying this “needs to increase to more than 80,000 per year by the end of the decade”.

Meanwhile, with just over 8,000 hectares of new woodland created in 2022-23, the report said this needs to “more than double” for Scotland to reach its target of 18,000 hectares per year from 2024-25.

The peatland restoration target has been missed for the fifth consecutive year, the report said, with the rate now “needing to nearly triple to reach the Scottish Government’s own target, which is in turn lower in ambition than the CCC’s recommended rate”.

On recycling, ministers were told “Scotland is significantly off track to meet its 2025 70% recycling rate target, with no progress in rates over the last 10 years”.

However, the report said there had been “some progress in delivering renewable electricity generation in Scotland”, with the CCC saying that while the Scottish Government was on track to meet its targets for offshore wind capacity in 2030, it was “slightly off track” for the target for onshore wind for this year.

Professor Piers Forster, interim chairman of the CCC, said: “Scotland has laudable ambitions to decarbonise but it isn’t enough to set a target – the Government must act.

“Scotland’s Climate Change Plan needs to be published urgently, so we can assess it. We need to see actions that will deliver on its future targets.”

Meanwhile, Fabrice Leveque, energy policy manager at WWF Scotland said the report was “yet another reminder of the Scottish Government’s failure to act with the speed required”.

Adding that “this just isn’t good enough”, he insisted the government “now needs to get serious on delivering its key policy commitments”.

Mr Leveque said: “The more we delay, the more we add to the climate crisis and the longer people have to wait for the benefits of lower energy bills, warmer homes, healthier air and nature recovery.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Every party in the Scottish Parliament claims to back Scotland’s legally binding climate targets, but a liveable planet and people’s lives are paying the price for their party politics, collective inaction and lack of investment.

“The Scottish Government must lead, with its remaining climate credibility now firmly on the line.

“It must stop pandering to the biggest polluters and postponing plans, and turbocharge climate action, funded by taxing the biggest polluters and the better off.”

Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said: “I am grateful for the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee 2023 report.

“The Climate Change Committee have always been clear that meeting the legislated 2030 target, agreed by Parliament on a cross-party basis, will be extremely challenging, and may not be feasible.

“We remain fully committed to meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2045, and in 2024-25 alone we are committing £4.7bn to support the delivery of our climate change goals.

“Scotland is already half way to net zero and continues to decarbonise faster than the UK average.

“In the last five years we have created around 75% of all new woodlands throughout the UK in Scotland, launched the world’s largest floating offshore wind leasing round through Scotwind, ensured Scotland has the most generous concessionary scheme in the UK with more than a third of the population benefiting from free bus travel, and invested over £65m to support the installation of over 2,700 public EV charge points, ensuring Scotland has the best provision of public charge points per head of population in the UK, outside of London.

“However, we are under no illusion that the hardest part of this journey is ahead of us which is why our ambitious proposals for delivery include publishing a final route map setting out our approach to reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030 and decarbonising buildings through our plans for a Heat in Buildings Bill.

“These underline our commitment to further reduce emissions whilst ensuring fairer, greener transport and homes as well as high quality green jobs.

“However, over the past 12 months Scotland has faced a series of unprecedented changes by the UK Government, who have reneged on their net zero commitments, and rolled back on policies already announced and accounted for.

“We are also expecting a real-terms cut to our UK capital funding of almost 10% over five years, totalling around £1.3bn, which is deeply concerning given it has implications for the delivery of climate ambition in Scotland and our ability to produce a draft Climate Change Plan as intended.

“We have also faced opposition to modest measures in tackling the crisis, such as low emission zones, workplace parking and the deposit return scheme, at a time when consensus is crucial to ensure that we have a sustainable planet.

“We will now carefully consider the report’s recommendations and our next steps, including legislative options, before providing a formal response.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code