Scotland politics

Scotland misses greenhouse emission target

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Media captionThe Scottish government misses its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the fourth year in a row

Scotland has failed to meet its climate change target for the fourth year in a row, latest figures have revealed.

Scottish greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3.6% between 2012 and 2013 to 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e).

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act requires a minimum 42% cut in emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

The Scottish government said it was on track to achieving this target and announced measures to reduce emissions.

Ambitious targets

There has been a 34.3% reduction in emissions since 1990.

Climate change minister Aileen McLeod said the figures showed Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK as a whole.

And she said the government would have met its goal if there had not been increases to the baseline target.

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Media captionShould climate change emissions targets be tougher?

She said: "Today's figures show that if it had not been for successive increases to the baseline since the targets were established, Scotland would have met, and exceeded, our target for this year - and the three previous years too.

"Of course, if our targets were easy to achieve they would not be ambitious enough. And these are the level the international community needs to meet if the climate treaty to be agreed in Paris later this year is to stand a good chance of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius."

Image copyright AP


By David Miller, BBC Scotland environment and transport correspondent

Legislation and agreements can be easily signed. The implementation is what's important.

Those were the words of the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, at the Copenhagen summit in 2009.

The Scottish Parliament won international praise when it set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020.

But year after year, Scottish government ministers have had to explain why they have failed to meet their own interim targets.

In fairness, the task has become more difficult.

The calculations use 1990 as a baseline, and we now know Scotland produced more emissions that year than we thought when the legislation was passed.

The Scottish government remains confident the 2020 target can, and will, be met.

But campaigners warn ministers must now do more to reduce emissions from transport and heating.

Windfarms may not be popular with everyone, but the recent growth in the renewable energy sector has underpinned much of the progress made so far.

Expect other areas to fall under the spotlight, as Scotland searches for new ways to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

There are two sets of figures which you will see quoted....

  • ADJUSTED - The legally binding target of achieving a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020 is based on adjusted figures. Therefore, Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 14% in 2013, that's a 38.4% drop since 1990. Total 49.7 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).
  • UNADJUSTED - Without adjusting the figures, Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3.6% in 2013, that's a 34.3% drop since 1990. Total: 53.0 million tonnes carobon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).

In a statement at Holyrood Dr McLeod announced a package of measures to reduce emissions in Scotland.

These include:

  • Fighting fuel poverty
  • Improving the energy efficiency of Scotland's homes and non-domestic building stock
  • Using new powers in the Scotland Bill to improve supplier obligations to improve energy efficiency
  • Diverting food waste from landfill
  • A campaign to promote "active travel"

But the Scottish Greens said ministers were failing to pursue policies to reduce emissions.

Co-convener of the party Patrick Harvie MSP said: "The Scottish government has had since 2009 to put in place policies to live up to our much-heralded climate change targets, and they have failed spectacularly. Since the Act was passed we have put nearly ten million tonnes more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the targets allow - demonstrating a staggering lack of ambition by this government.

"Scotland has a clear opportunity to be a greener and fairer country, and there is a wide range of voices growing hoarse calling for a speedier transition to the low-carbon economy we know we can enjoy."

Labour's Sarah Boyack said that while the figures showed that while progress had been made in the energy supply, it was "sadly lacking" in other sectors like transport and agriculture.

She added: "The missed target is embarrassing for SNP ministers but they should be wary of watering down ambition to save face. Lowering targets would send a terrible message ahead of climate talks in Paris.

"What we need now is decisive action to continue to close the gap. Scottish Labour is calling for more action on transport, agriculture, housing and the public sector where little progress has been made. Public sector climate targets must provide a new spur of action."

Claims 'Laughable'

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said Scottish government claims to be on course to meet its targets were "laughable".

Jim Hume MSP said: "SNP ministers talk up their commitment to the environment but the hard truth is that Scotland's emission reductions targets have never been met. Unless we see real concrete action to cut carbon, warm words from the SNP are nothing more than hot air."

Climate change campaigners also called on the Scottish government to do more.

Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said: "Today's figures are disappointing but show that the target was within reach.

"To ensure Scotland meets all of its targets going forward the Scottish government needs to announce significant new policies. Greater action on climate change will let us build a healthier, fairer society and a stronger economy."

Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor said that the Scottish government had "just not stepped up to the mark".

He added: "The SNP government like to talk a big game on climate change, but they are now getting further away from their target, not closer.

"A huge effort is now needed to turn these statistics round and it does seem like an impossible challenge.

"The SNP should be looking to nuclear power and fracking as ways of boosting energy production and lessening the effects on the environment."

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