The Scottish Government wants to hit “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and has lodged changes to legislation to set new tougher targets.
The amendments proposed to the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill bring the targets in line with recommendations made by UK Government advisers in a major new report on tackling climate change.
The Committee on Climate Change wants Scotland to have the most ambitious target within the UK of net-zero by 2045 to help bring UK-wide emissions to the same level by 2050.
The committee said this would be in line with commitments to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels under the international Paris Agreement on climate change.
2020 - 56%
2030 - 70%
2040 - 90%
2050 - 100%
Previously, the planned Holyroood legislation had targets to accelerate the proposed reduction from the current 80% of 1990 levels to 90% by 2050.
Net-zero emissions is equivalent to a 100% reduction from 1990 emissions levels.
The committee’s recommendations to update one of the interim targets from the proposed 66% reduction by 2030 to a 70% reduction and setting a 2040 target of 90% – equivalent to carbon neutral – will also be made into law if the Government’s amendments get the green light.
No recommendation is made to change the proposed 56% target for 2020.
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.”
She called on the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead and warned that everyone needs to take action, including businesses, schools and communities.
She added: “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.”
The committee report states Scotland’s larger land area per head and “significant carbon dioxide storage potential” are behind its earlier target.
It continues: “These targets represent Scotland’s fair contribution to the recommended UK target and hence to the Paris Agreement.
“They do not imply higher policy ambition or effort, but reflect the excellent opportunities to remove CO2 from the atmosphere through afforestation and carbon capture and storage in Scotland.”
The report warns Scotland cannot achieve the target through devolved policies alone.
“It will require both UK-wide and Scottish policies to ramp up significantly”, the report states.
“If the UK does not commit to a net-zero greenhouse gas target for 2050 then Scotland may need to revise its target.”
The committee stresses Scotland’s Just Transition Commission will have an “important role” to play to ensure workers, consumers and rural and island populations are protected.
Committee chairman Lord Deben said: “Achieving net-zero overall requires an integrated set of policies throughout the UK, which make the most of the attributes of each of the UK nations.
“The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must make full use of the policy levers available to them and work with the UK Government on UK-wide plans.”