Scottish Net Zero Secretary ‘not embarrassed’ at ditching 2030 emissions target

Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary has insisted she was not embarrassed at having to ditch a key climate change target – despite green campaigners branding the move the “worst environmental decision in the history” of devolution.

Activists hit out after Mairi McAllan confirmed to MSPs the goal of reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 is being abandoned by the Scottish Government.

Independent experts at the UK Climate Change Committee had already told Holyrood ministers that achieving the target was “beyond credible”.

Oxfam Scotland said the move was a “reprehensible retreat caused by its recklessly inadequate level of action”, while Friends of the Earth Scotland described the move as “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.

Together with other groups, Friends of the Earth now plans to stage a demonstration outside Bute House in Edinburgh, the official residence of the First Minister, next week to protest against the move.

The decision to abandon the 2030 target comes despite the Scottish Government having previously lauded its “world leading” climate change legislation.

But when asked if she was embarrassed by the move, Ms McAllan insisted: “I am not embarrassed.”

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme she can “understand why some people are disappointed”, adding that “in many ways I am too”.

With the 2030 target having been enshrined in laws passed by Holyrood in 2019, Scottish ministers will now have to amend that legislation to remove it.

“I didn’t necessarily want to have to open up the legislation and make amendments,” Ms McAllan said.

“I have spent as much time as I possibly could with my team exploring every possible avenue not to have to do that.”

But she stressed “we shouldn’t overplay what is actually being done here”, saying any changes will restate the Scottish Government’s overall goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2045 – five years earlier than the UK Government’s target for this.

While Ms McAllan said this is “very ambitious”, she insisted it is a “realistic goal”.

She said when MSPs had voted for the 2030 target, “it was well understood it was likely to be beyond the realms of what was achievable”.

The minister said the Scottish Government remains committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2045 (David Jones/PA)
The minister said the Scottish Government remains committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2045 (David Jones/PA)

She also insisted action is “more important than targets” as she claimed Scotland “remains a world leader” in tackling climate change.

Ms McAllan said: “We are nearly halfway to net zero, having reduced our emissions by almost 50% on the 1990 baseline.

“We continue to decarbonise faster than the UK as a whole and our 2045 target remains one of the most stretching in the world.”

Highlighting actions taken by the Scottish Government, Ms McAllan added: “In recent years we have planted 75% of all forests in the UK in Scotland”, and said the country has “developed the most comprehensive network of EV (electric vehicle) charging per head outside of London in the UK”.

But Scottish Conservative net zero spokesperson Douglas Lumsden said: “Mairi McAllan continues to show no shame over her government’s appalling record on hitting its own climate-change targets.

“It is astonishing that she can say she is not embarrassed at this abject humiliation given that the SNP spent years telling anyone who would listen that their targets were world-leading.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Ms McAllan was “clearly not paying attention” if she was not embarrassed, adding the decision to ditch the climate target is “an atrocious admission of failure and neglect”.

He added: “For years we have had to endure smug lectures from nationalist ministers about how Scotland was a world leader on climate change. But when it came to doing the actual hard graft of insulating homes, planting trees or cutting emissions, they have proven to be woefully incompetent.”