Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but progress is stalling north of the border in the key areas of transport and agriculture, according to a report from the Committee on Climate Change.
The report, published Monday, is the CCC’s annual assessment of Scotland’s decarbonisation programme, measuring progress against the UK’s commitment to achieve an 80% reduction of emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.
Net emissions in Scotland were 41.5 MtCO2e in 2016, the last year for which data is available—a 49% reduction on 1990 levels and above the 43% reduction achieved by the UK as a whole. The figures suggest that the Scottish Government’s recently announced interim target of slashing emissions by 56% by 2020 is “within reach.”
Emissions in Scotland fell 10% in 2016 alone, a drop largely attributed to growth in renewable energy capacity and the closure of Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant, Longannet, in March 2016.
Renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, met 17.8% of Scotland’s energy needs in 2016. Across the EU, average renewable share was 16.7%.
However, reductions in emissions from power generation and waste accounted for most of Scotland’s progress between 2011 and 2016 and masked increased or stagnant emissions levels in other sectors.
The report revealed that emissions from transport in Scotland have increased each year since 2010, with a 2% increase in 2016. Sales of electrical vehicles lag behind those in the UK as a whole, despite the Scottish government’s pledge to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032, eight years earlier than the rest of the UK. The CCC report has called for the Scottish government to develop clear plans for the rollout of public charging infrastructure for electrical vehicles.
Emissions also increased in buildings land use, forestry between 2011 and 2016 and remained flat in agriculture and industry. Tackling agricultural and forestry emissions will prove particularly challenging, the report notes, because current decarbonisation policies for the sectors rely on voluntary measures and have unclear funding.
Scotland’s decarbonisation strategy “must now move on decisively,” the Committee on Climate Change report urges, and address emissions in these other sectors, to meet its own ambitious target of curbing emissions by 90% by 2050.
“Scotland continues to lead the UK in reducing its emissions and has ambitious targets which aim to go further,” said Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change.
“Decarbonisation of Scotland’s electricity sector, and reductions in emissions from waste, have seen Scotland outperform the UK overall as emissions continue to fall year-on-year to nearly half of 1990 levels.”
However, he noted that meeting the ambitious 90% reduction in emissions outlined in the government’s new Climate Change Bill would require “greater effort… across other area’s of Scotland’s economy.”
“This includes policies to drive down emissions in sectors where they are either flat or rising, such as transport, agriculture and energy efficiency in buildings,” he said.
“Without real action in these areas, Scotland may fall short of its long-term goals.”