Scotland’s “trend of failure” when it comes to meeting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue without “urgent and strong action” from ministers, a report has warned.
Independent advisers the Climate Change Committee (CCC) noted that while Scotland had “ambitious” milestones – including the target of cutting emissions by 75% by 2030 – there was “no clear delivery plan on how they will be achieved”.
The target of reducing emissions by that amount by the end of the decade goes further than the CCC advised – with the expert body saying in its latest report that “this remains extremely challenging”.
While emissions fell in 2020, the CCC was clear that this reduction was “largely due to travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
However, it warned that annual targets currently set for the rest of the 2020s will be “much harder to achieve as emissions rebound”.
The CCC, in its latest progress report to Scottish Parliament, noted: “Scotland has failed to achieve seven out of 11 of its targets to date.
“The trend of failure will continue without urgent and strong action to deliver emissions reductions, starting now.”
As the report was released, Lord Deben, the CCC chairman said that, while Scotland had set “some of the most stretching climate goals in the world”, achievement of these was “increasingly at risk without real progress” towards the annual targets already set by ministers.
The CCC report was clear that “Scotland is still not delivering on key milestones” in areas such as home energy efficiency and peatland restoration.
It stated: “A quantified plan is urgently needed. The Scottish Government urgently needs to provide a quantified plan for how its policies will combine to achieve the emissions reduction required to meet the challenging 2030 target.
“The plan must detail how each of Scotland’s ambitious milestones will be achieved.”
On the switch to electric vehicles (EVs), the report noted Scotland planned to end sales of new petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2030 – with this going further than UK plans.
But the CCC said sales of EVs “are lower than the UK as a whole” and are “off track”.
And while Scotland has the “laudable aim” of reducing the number of kilometres travelled by car by 20% on 2019 levels by 2030, the report described this as “challenging” adding current plans “lack a full strategy with sufficient levers to deter car use”.
On energy efficiency in homes, meanwhile, the report said that there was a “lack of regulations and incentives in place to drive improvements to energy efficiency”.
The report went on to state that while “Scotland has ambitions to decarbonise buildings much faster than the UK as a whole” there were “not yet adequate policies in place to deliver low-carbon heat and energy efficiency improvements at the required rate”.
Although tree-planting rates in Scotland are higher than in the rest of the UK, the CCC said these had “plateaued” and were “off track” to meet the target of planting 18,000 hectares a year by 2024-25.
Peatland restoration rates are also below target, with the report saying these were at “less than half of Scotland’s own target of 20,000 hectares per year” – with this target itself described as being “much less ambitious” than the CCC’s recommended level of 45,000 hectares per year.
The report noted there were some policy areas reserved to Westminster which impacted on emissions, saying that “finding a way to cooperate effectively with the UK Government in these areas is key”.
But it added: “For key sectors in which policy is significantly devolved, our indicators show that progress towards meeting these milestones is not happening fast enough, and policies and plans are not yet sufficient to speed things up to the required rate.”
Lord Deben said: “In 2019, the Scottish Parliament committed the country to some of the most stretching climate goals in the world, but they are increasingly at risk without real progress towards the milestones that Scottish ministers have previously laid out.
“One year ago, I called for more clarity and transparency on Scottish climate policy and delivery. That plea remains unanswered.”