The Scottish Government has today (2 May) announced plans to amend its Climate Change Bill and commit to a legally binding target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest – leading the rest of the UK.
Amendments to the Climate Change Bill have already been lodged, which call on the nation to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 and 90% by 2040. The Scottish Government claim these are the most ambitious statutory targets in the world for those timeframes.
The announcement from Scotland comes just hours after the Committee on Climate Change called on the UK to “set and vigorously pursue” new climate change targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net-zero’ levels by 2050 – replacing the current target of an 80% reduction against 1990 levels.
Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. Having received independent, expert advice that even higher targets are now possible, and given the urgency required on this issue, I have acted immediately to set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for 2045 which will see Scotland become carbon neutral by 2040.
“I have been consistently clear that our targets must be ambitious, credible and responsible. We must take an evidence-based approach and balance our climate, economic and social responsibilities. We have already halved greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland while growing the economy, so we know we can do it. I am committed to meeting the most ambitious targets possible, and doing so while continuing to build an inclusive and fair economy.”
What does ‘net-zero’ carbon actually mean?
In 2018, Scotland met its statutory annual climate change target for the third consecutive year, achieving a 49% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions against a 1990 baseline.
The country is on course to meet it 2020 target of a 42% carbon reduction as it continues to outperform the UK as a whole; data shows that England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland collectively achieved a 37.6% drop in emissions over the same timeframe.
Indeed, the only EU member state in western Europe to perform better than Scotland was Sweden, which achieved a 51% reduction in GHG emissions over the 26-year period.
The new targets, which are still to be formalised, were recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in a landmark report released this morning (2 May).
The CCC recommends that a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should be legislated by the UK Government “as soon as possible”. Such a target would constitute the UK’s “highest possible ambition” to combatting climate change and would “send a much stronger signal internationally”. And crucially, this net-zero target could be achieved at the same cost that is currently put against achieving the current Climate Change Act, which is between 1-2% of GDP in 2050.
However, the report does also note that Scotland, for example, could reach this status sooner. The nation is encouraged by the CCC to target net-zero emissions by 2045 – due to a greater potential to depollute its economy compared to the rest of the UK – whereas Wales should target a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050 (from the same 1990 baseline).
Cunningham has called on the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead by agreeing to the report recommendations.
“The Committee on Climate Change say that Scotland’s ability to meet these world-leading targets is contingent on the UK Government also accepting their advice and using the relevant policy levers that remain reserved,” Cunningham added. “As such, I call on the UK Government to follow our lead, accept the Committee’s advice, and work with us to achieve this goal.
“We can, and we must, end our contribution to climate change. I invite everyone to accept the advice we’ve received and work with us in a just and fair transition to a net-zero economy.”
UK Parliament last night declared a climate emergency, following on from the devolved Scottish and Welsh parliaments, which made individual declarations earlier in the week.