Scotland's Climate
Change Ambition

Scotland is a leader in the fight against climate change but we are determined to increase our ambition.

Climate change is one of the defining global challenges of our time and Scotland is internationally recognised as a world leader in tackling it. We have already succeeded in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 49% and we’re determined to get to 100% as soon as possible.

Following the passage of the Bill:

  • Scotland will have the world's most ambitious targets, in law, for 2020, 2030 and 2040
  • Scotland will have the most ambitious target for 2050, in law, based on domestic effort alone
  • Scotland will continue to be the only country with legally-binding annual targets. That means being held to account on progress each and every year
  • Scotland will continue to include a fair share of all international aviation and shipping in its targets. Scotland was the first country to do this, and has now been joined by Wales.
  • Scotland’s targets will continue to cover all greenhouse gases – including those generated by land use changes such as methane and nitrous oxide

Some people have asked why we have not set a date in the Bill for achieving net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases.

There is no country in the world that has a legally-binding target to achieve net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases through domestic effort alone. We want Scotland to be the first, but the targets we set in law must be credible – our targets are meaningful because we know what we have to do to achieve them. But that does not mean they are easy! All our climate targets, for every year from 2020 to 2050, are extremely ambitious.

In October last year the Scottish Government, along with other Governments in the UK, asked the Committee on Climate Change to provide more advice on target levels. The letter can be seen here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/748489/CCC_commission_for_Paris_Advice_-_Scot__UK.pdf

The Committee on Climate Change will publish their advice on 2 May, and the First Minister has said that “If it says that we can now responsibly and credibly set a date to achieve net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases, we will do so” (First Minister’s Questions, 21 February 2019)

The last advice we received from the Committee on Climate Change formed the basis for the current target levels in our Bill. It said that a 90% target is “at the very limit of technical feasibility” and stated “a net-zero target for all greenhouse gases should not be set now” for Scotland, because there is insufficient understanding of how it could be achieved.

If in their advice on 2 May the Committee on Climate Change say that remains the case, then the Bill requires that the earliest achievable date for reaching net-zero for all greenhouse gases is regularly reviewed. As soon as a target date for reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions can be set credibly and responsibly, we will write that date into law.

We will always strive for the most ambitious target possible, based on the best available expertise. Setting a target date for achieving a 100% reduction in emissions of all greenhouse gases before a credible pathway for achieving it can be identified, would mean compromising in one or all of the following ways:

  • Paying other countries to reduce emissions on our behalf
  • Removing some sectors from the target
  • Making legally-binding commitments which are dependent on undeveloped technological advances
  • Taking steps which would have a substantial detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing, jobs and Scotland’s economic growth

You can read more about this here:

Carbon neutrality and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions

When to Set a Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions Target Year

Click on image to read analysis paper

Click on image to read analysis paper

The Bill also requires that the earliest achievable date for reaching net-zero for all greenhouse gases is regularly reviewed. As soon as a target date for reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions can be set credibly and responsibly, we will write that date into law. We will always strive for the most ambitious target possible, based on the best available expertise, and we want everyone in Scotland to play their part in achieving it.

The Committee on Climate Change

The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, attended the United Nations climate conference in December 2015 and the Scottish Government fully supports the high ambition of the landmark agreement reached in Paris.

Establishing the emissions-reduction targets each country needs to limit global warming is not straightforward.

The Committee on Climate Change is an independent, statutory body established under the UK Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and Scottish Governments, along with the other devolved administrations, on emissions targets and report to Parliaments on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change. It is made up of experts in the fields of climate change, science, economics, behavioural science and business.

When advising on target levels, the Committee on Climate Change considers various factors, including how Scotland can fairly contribute to the global effort. It also considers the likely impact of the targets on:

  • Jobs and the Scottish economy
  • Public spending and borrowing
  • People living in poverty or on lower incomes
  • Remote, rural and island communities
Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by gas

In 2017, the Committee on Climate Change advised us that a 90% target for ALL greenhouse gases by 2050 would be an ambitious response to the Paris Agreement. In fact, Laurent Fabius, former French Foreign Minister and host of the Paris climate conference, wrote to the First Minister on June 8 2018 describing the Bill as a "very positive step" and "a concrete application of the Paris Agreement".

You can read the advice we received from the Committee on Climate Change here: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/advice-on-the-new-scottish-climate-change-bill/

We want to achieve our targets by focussing on actions which will also make Scotland a healthier, fairer and more prosperous place to live.

We have a strong track-record in delivering against targets. We have already reduced emissions by 49% since 1990. In western Europe, only Sweden has done better.

We are well on the road to fully decarbonising our electricity system – with 54% of Scotland’s electricity needs being met by renewables.

We want to keep Scotland at the forefront of the low carbon transition. We will enhance our reputation as a country of innovators and are determined to build on Scotland’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse.

Scotland’s first Energy Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for the future energy system in Scotland.

We have already set out how we will ensure all Scottish homes achieve an Energy Performance rating of at least C by 2040, where technically feasible and cost effective. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country and tackle fuel poverty. The Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map will guide the decisions which we will be making, along with our partners, over the next 20 years.

To meet a 90% emissions reduction target by 2050, we will have to decarbonise our energy supply completely and transform how we heat our homes. One way to meet even higher targets before there is a credible way to do it domestically, would be to pay other countries to make emissions reductions on our behalf. This could be done by purchasing international offset credits. It is estimated that it would cost Scotland £15 billion to purchase the credits we would need to meet a net-zero target in 2050. We believe we should do the hard work ourselves and invest in Scotland’s future.

We are also opposed to policies which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions but have negative side-effects.  Food, for example, cannot be produced without generating greenhouse gas emissions. Requiring reductions in emissions from farming beyond those which can be achieved through efficiency and technology would mean reducing the amount of food produced in Scotland and importing more from abroad. That’s just one example of why we need to wait until there is a credible and responsible pathway to achieve net-zero emissions before we put it into law.

Fighting climate change is one of the Scottish Government’s top priorities. Others include tackling inequality, growing a sustainable economy, ensuring fair work for all, and improving the life chances for all of our young people. We must balance our environmental, social and economic responsibilities. We will legislate for a net-zero target date for all greenhouse gases as soon as circumstances change and make it achievable without compromising the wellbeing of the people of Scotland.