Greenhouse gas emissions target missed in Scotland

By Kevin Keane
BBC Scotland's environment correspondent

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The Scottish government has officially missed its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Although total emissions fell by 3.3%, Scotland's participation in the EU-wide Emissions Trading System (ETS) means adjusted emissions, used for setting targets, increased by 3.7%.

It means Scotland has officially reduced its emissions by 39.1% since 1990.

However, "source emissions", which exclude the ETS, are down 46.8%.

A decrease in coal consumption in the power sector and a fall in the use of fossil fuels in the chemical industry are the main reasons for the real-terms fall.

The figures cover emissions of seven greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, during 2017.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "Actual emissions, which are what really matters for tackling climate change, reduced by 3.3% between 2016 and 2017.

"That is encouraging progress, particularly given the statistics cover a period prior to the current climate change plan and do not reflect many of the initiatives that have launched or embedded that in the last two years.

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"However, it is of course disappointing that the 2017 target has not been met, and that greenhouse gas emissions appear to have increased because of the technical adjustment made to the figures relating to the EU Emissions Trading System.

"Scotland already has the most ambitious agenda in the UK for decarbonising transport, including our commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

"We have doubled our active travel budget, encouraging more people to talk and cycle, while Low Emissions Zones will be in place in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen by the end of 2020."

At the SNP's spring conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a "climate emergency."

Tougher targets

Legislation is currently going through the Scottish Parliament to set tougher new targets for greenhouse gas emissions with a "net-zero" date being set for 2045.

Net-zero is the point at which our emissions are equal to the amount of greenhouse gases being offset through techniques such as tree planting.

The new Climate Change (Scotland) Bill sets targets based purely on "source emissions" which ministers say will better reflect the progress on decarbonising.

It will replace legislation passed in 2009 which aims for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

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image captionCritics want the Scottish government to introduce tougher policies on traffic fumes

Caroline Rance from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said: "Today's climate target result shows that Scotland needs to do more on climate change. Emissions from transport, including road traffic and flying, actually went up in 2017.

"Scientists have told us that we need to move faster, and in April the first minister declared a climate emergency. This means acting with even greater urgency to cut emissions now and over the next decade.

"MSPs must ensure that the new Climate Change Bill, which they will be voting on in parliament next week, includes tougher climate targets and strong policies to slash emissions.

"Action is especially needed in transport, which remains Scotland's largest emitter, in how we heat our homes and how we grow our food. Changes in these sectors will also improve health, reduce pollution and tackle fuel poverty."

'Wake-up call'

Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens environment and climate spokesman said: "The Scottish government often describes itself as a world leader in tackling climate change, yet these new figures reveal it has much work to do.

"A climate emergency has been declared and the first minister has said that everything is up for review, but we need this review to be brought forward as soon as possible so that urgent action is taken to transition to a low-carbon economy, particularly in transport, where emissions continue to increase."

He added: "Last week the deputy first minister implied that new road projects, which account for an enormous share of Scotland's transport budget, wouldn't be part of any policy review.

"These figures must act as a wake-up call, business as usual is no longer acceptable. The Scottish government needs to urgently accelerate investment in improved public transport and safer walking and cycling routes, to give people a real alternative to the car."

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