Scottish Government seeking advice on net-zero carbon target

Scotland’s climate change minister Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed that the Scottish Government will set a net-zero emissions goal if the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) can set out a “pathway” for the nation to achieve carbon neutrality.

Scotland's draft climate change strategy has a headline target of achieving a 100% reduction in carbon emissions

Scotland’s draft climate change strategy has a headline target of achieving a 100% reduction in carbon emissions “as soon as possible”

Speaking during a debate at Holyrood late last week, Cunningham confirmed that the Scottish Government has joined the UK Government in seeking advice from the CCC on how best to bolster its climate targets and achieve net-zero status by 2050.

The move comes off the back of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) landmark report, which warns that the global temperature increase will hit 1.5C by 2030, and 3-4C by the end of the century.

Drawing on more than 4,000 pieces of scientific research, the IPCC’s report claims that limiting warming to 1.5C would require global carbon pollution to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target.

“If [the CCC] advises that even more ambitious Scottish targets are now credible, we will adopt them,” Cunningham said at Holyrood on Thursday (1 November).

“What has held us back until now is that the UK CCC has been unable to outline that credible pathway. In the absence of that, we felt that it would be unwise to draft the bill in any other way than we have at the moment, but we want to get there.

“The Scottish government wants to achieve net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases as soon as possible. It is our intention to get there, and we will set a target date for that as soon as that can be done credibly and responsibly.”

Cunningham’s comments come after the publication of Scotland’s draft climate change strategy in June, which has a headline target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 90% by 2050 and achieving a 100% reduction “as soon as possible”. The strategy outlines plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2030 as a milestone on the way to the ambitious 2050 goal.

Steps toward decarbonisation

The debate which Cunningham was speaking at had been held to mark the publication of the first annual monitoring report for Scotland’s climate change framework, which found that the nation met its annual and domestic carbon targets in 2016.

Following the release of Government statistics confirming that Scotland had achieved a 49% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions against a 1990 baseline earlier this year, the report reveals that the nation recorded a 10.3% year-on-year reduction in carbon emissions between 2015 and 2016.

It additionally notes that the six large-scale renewable generation projects to have been approved in Scotland in 2016 are set to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by 0.246 MtCO2 annually by 2022.

These findings are the latest low-carbon success stories for Scotland, which has committed to delivering 50% of all energy from renewables across heat, transport and electricity, and has signed a joint agreement to tackle climate change with the US State of California.

The nation has also deployed the world’s first floating wind farm, delivering electricity to the Scottish grid and the country’s largest solar farm has also received the green light, alongside the announcement of plans to phase out new polluting petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032.

To drive further progress, industry body Scottish Renewables this week launched a campaign calling for tougher policy to help decarbonise the 14,000 Scottish homes that still use coal as their primary heat source – as well as the 186,000 domestic properties that rely on oil or bottled gas.

The organisation estimates that homes using coal emit, on average, more than four times as much carbon as those using electric heat pumps, biomass boilers or solar thermal panels.

“Coal-powered electricity generation has already become a thing of the past in Scotland and it’s time household coal heating was consigned to the dustbin of history too,” Scottish Renewables’ senior policy manager Fabrice Leveque said.

“Schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive are available to help people switch to more sustainable alternatives and the benefits of doing so are clear: cleaner air, a healthier environment and less of the harmful emissions which cause climate change.”