2020 target of 42% cut reached earlier than expected, but climate campaigners sceptical about government’s role
Scotland’s climate emissions have broken through a landmark reductions target six years early after a warm winter helped drive down energy use.
The Scottish climate change secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said she was delighted that the country’s emissions had fallen by nearly 46% between 1990 and 2014, surpassing the government’s 2020 target of a 42% cut far earlier than expected.
She said it was “outstanding progress”, with Scottish emissions falling faster than the rest of the UK, and would be followed by tougher, more ambitious targets in legislation later in this parliament.
Climate campaigners welcomed the progress but were sceptical about the Scottish government’s role in it. The annual target for emissions was met in 2014 for the first time since yearly targets were introduced by Holyrood in 2009.
Jim Densham, a spokesman for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said it was great news that the “symbolic” goal had been met early, since it showed that greenhouse gases could be cut without harming living standards and the economy. But he said much of that fall was due to factors outside Scottish government control, including a much warmer winter than usual in 2014.
“Apart from the electricity and waste sectors, it’s hard to see a bold fingerprint of Scottish government policy driving the transition to a zero-carbon economy,” he said. “This target has been met because of the loss of heavy industry, warmer winter weather, our changing share of European emissions credits and some government policies.
“Individual action is important but Scottish government needs to lead with the big policies for major emission reductions. The challenge ahead is to tackle the sectors where there’s been little change to date, like transport, where our emissions remain stalled at 1990 levels, and housing, where emissions have reduced only 1% since the Scottish Climate Change Act was passed.”
Cunningham said Scotland had exceeded the UK’s achievements, since total UK emissions had fallen by 33% since 1990.
“The reduction in residential emissions in 2014 may have been due to people turning down their heating. This underlines that small individual actions, if repeated on a large scale, can have a big impact in tackling climate change,” she said.
“This is an especially important time for climate change, in light of the international agreement reached in Paris last December, and it is great news that Scotland continues to show ambition and demonstrate the progress that can be made.”
Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Green party’s Holyrood climate spokesman, said that if Scottish ministers wanted to set more challenging targets for 2020, they would need far more ambitious domestic policies on transport, home energy efficiency and fuel poverty.
He said ministerial plans to cut air passenger duty by half would add 60,000 tonnes to Scotland’s growing emissions from aviation.
“The real test of action on climate change isn’t how figures get fudged from year to year; it’s whether people across Scotland have real choices to live in warm, efficient homes or a transport system fit for the 21st century. That requires funding and action from the Scottish government,” Ruskin said.