Scotland to drop target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The Scottish government has decided to abandon its prominent target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030. However, the ultimate objective of achieving “net-zero” by 2045 remains unchanged. Scotland News has reported that the government’s yearly climate goals may also be discarded. The government has failed to meet eight of the past twelve annual targets and has been advised that the 2030 target is now out of reach. An official announcement is expected in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) had previously alerted in 2022 that Scotland was no longer leading the UK in climate action efforts. The government did not release a required action plan last year that would outline steps to meet these climate goals. Moreover, in March, the CCC explicitly stated for the first time that the 2030 target was unattainable.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had positioned her administration as a global leader in climate response, having been the first worldwide to declare a climate emergency. Despite hosting the COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, critics argue that substantial emergency actions were insufficient.

The decision to eliminate these ambitious targets could be seen as a significant setback for the SNP and their coalition partners, the Scottish Greens. The initial target set for Scotland was more stringent than the overall UK target of a 68% reduction by 2030. The atmosphere was charged when the Scottish Parliament passed its landmark climate legislation in 2019, encouraged by global climate strikes and advocacy by figures like Greta Thunberg. Although the Scottish Greens proposed an even higher target of an 80% reduction, the settled figure was 75%, which was still above expert recommendations.

Challenges have arisen from setting annual emission reduction targets, which have often been affected by factors like winter weather conditions impacting heating needs. With the closure of Scotland’s last coal-fired power station in 2016, future progress demands significant lifestyle changes, according to politicians. However, the Greens argue that the focus has been too heavily on targets rather than implementing effective policies.

Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens’ climate spokesman, emphasized the party’s commitment to intensifying actions to address the climate crisis, as recently outlined by the CCC. By 2021, greenhouse gas emissions had been reduced by 49.2% from the 1990 baseline, slightly below the 51.1% reduction required by law. While some sectors like energy and waste have seen substantial emission reductions, others like transport and agriculture have lagged behind.

The Scottish government might consider adopting “carbon budgets,” similar to those used by the UK and Welsh governments, which set emission limits for a parliamentary term rather than annual targets. This approach could end the legal mandate for environment secretaries to report to parliament on missed targets, focusing instead on broader trends and long-term planning. This shift reflects the growing recognition that annual targets, often influenced by external factors such as weather, may not effectively capture overall progress.

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