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Scotland ‘lacks clear plan’ to deliver climate goals, says advisory body

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The Scottish government lacks a clear plan for meeting its climate targets, the Climate Change Committee has warned in a report that showed the nation had lost its lead over the rest of the UK in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland’s progress on reducing emissions had “largely stalled” in recent years, said the government advisory body on Wednesday. There was a “significant risk” that it would fail to meet its interim climate targets in the 2020s and in 2030, it added.

The Scottish government “lacks a clear delivery plan and has not offered a coherent explanation for how its policies will achieve Scotland’s bold emissions reduction targets”, said the report, adding: “The integrity of the Scottish climate framework is now at risk.”

Governments worldwide are facing increased scrutiny over their steps to tackle climate change. The UK has come under mounting pressure from the CCC for what the group has characterised as insufficient progress towards and planning for its emissions-cutting goals.

Scotland has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, and to reach net zero emissions by 2045, which goes further than the UK government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

John Gummer, also known as Lord Deben, chair of the CCC, said that his request a year ago for “more clarity and transparency on Scottish climate policy and delivery . . . remains unanswered”.

Although Scotland’s emissions fell by 12 per cent between 2019 and 2020, the reduction was largely due to the effect of the Covid pandemic — when pollution levels stalled or fell back in certain sectors as a result of parts of the economy being shut down — the CCC said on Wednesday.

“Scotland’s lead in decarbonising over the rest of the UK has now been lost,” the climate advisers said, adding that its progress was now roughly aligned with other parts of the UK.

The CCC said in 2019 that Scotland would be capable of achieving net zero emissions by 2045, earlier than the UK, because it had a “larger land area per person” and “significant” potential for carbon storage.

A lack of co-operative planning was undermining Scotland’s efforts to meet its near-term climate goals, the CCC said. It recommended that Edinburgh and the UK government work together more closely to decarbonise key sectors and to develop greenhouse-gas cutting technologies.

The advisory group noted that the 2030 target “goes significantly beyond our advice” and would be “extremely challenging” to meet. A reduction of between 65 and 67 per cent by 2030 was “consistent” with the 2045 net zero goal, the group said.

Under Scotland’s Climate Change 2019 Act, Edinburgh is by law required to make up for any shortfall on its 2020s and 2030s goals by cutting faster later on. Any failure to meet the targets could also result in legal action being taken against the government.

Michael Matheson, Scotland’s net zero secretary, said the report was “a timely reminder of the scale of the challenge faced by government, industry and civil society”.

He added that the country was “entering the most challenging part of the journey to date” and that in many areas progress on reducing emissions was “dependent on decisions taken by the UK government”.

“They have not gone far enough, fast enough,” he said. The Scottish government is developing a climate change plan covering the period to 2040.

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