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Scotland missed climate change target for 2017, new figures show

Campaigners have urged ministers to do more to tackle global warming.

Adjusted greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2017, new figures showed (John Green/PA)
Adjusted greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2017, new figures showed (John Green/PA)

Scotland has missed its latest climate change target, prompting calls from environmental campaigners for ministers to do more in the fight against global warming.

Official figures showed that in  2017 adjusted emissions, against which progress on legally binding climate change targets are measured, rose by 3.7% to 46.410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).

This is above the 43.946 MtCO2e that has been laid down in the Scottish Government’s climate change legislation.

  • Adjusted emissions amounted to 46.410 MtCO2e - above the target of 43.946 MtCO2e
  • Adjusted emissions rose by 3.7% from 2016
  • The 2017 figures showed a 39.1% reduction from the 1990 baseline

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the results were “disappointing”, adding “greenhouse gas emissions appear to have increased because of the technical adjustment made to the figures relating to the EU Emissions Trading System”.

But environmentalists said the new figures showed more action was needed to tackle climate change

Caroline Rance from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) said: “Emissions from transport, including road traffic and flying, actually went up in 2017.

“Scientists have told us that we need to move faster and in April the First Minister declared a climate emergency.

“This means acting with even greater urgency to cut emissions now and over the next decade.”

She demanded the revised Climate Change Bill, which MSPs will vote on next week, must include “tougher climate targets and strong policies to slash emissions”.

Ms Rance said: “Action is especially needed in transport, which remains Scotland’s largest emitter, in how we heat our homes and how we grow our food.

“Changes in these sectors will also improve health, reduce pollution and tackle fuel poverty.”

While adjusted emissions, which take into account CO2 removed from the atmosphere as well as emissions trading, increased for 2017, actual emissions fell by 3.3% over the year to 40.5 MtCO2e.

Transport, including international aviation and shipping, was the largest source of net emissions in 2017, producing  14.9 MtCO2e, Scottish Government data showed.

Actual emissions from international shipping and aviation increased 43.4% over the period between 1990 and 2017.

The main reason for the fall in actual emissions in 2017 was an 18.9% reduction from the energy sector.

This was achieved after the closure in 2016 of the Longannet power station on the Forth, the last coal-fired power station in Scotland.

Ms Cunningham stressed actual emissions “are what really matters for tackling climate change”, noting these had fallen between 2016 and 2017.

She added: “Scotland already has the most ambitious agenda in the UK for decarbonising transport, including our commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

“We have doubled our active travel budget, encouraging more people to walk and cycle, while low emission zones will be in place in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen by the end of 2020.”

But she added “difficult decisions” would have to be made for Scotland to meet its climate change targets.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared there is a “climate emergency” and Ms Cunningham said: “These statistics show that there can be no room for complacency.

“If Scotland is to end its contribution to climate change we cannot shirk from the challenge and we tackle it together.

“Difficult decisions will have to be made but Scotland is not in the business of taking the easy way out – we are up for the challenge.”

Scottish Greens environment and climate spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “The Scottish Government often describes itself as a world leader in tackling climate change, yet these new figures reveal it has much work to do.

“A climate emergency has been declared and the First Minister has said that everything is up for review but we need this review to be brought forward as soon as possible so that urgent action is taken to transition to a low-carbon economy, particularly in transport, where emissions continue to increase.

Claudia Beamish, of Scottish Labour, said the missed target was “disappointing”.

She added: “The Scottish Government’s reassessment for the present Climate Change Plan must deliver more robust action and signal the right message as we move towards net zero emissions.

“The Climate Change Bill will set us on an exciting but ambitious pathway to a net-zero economy, and Scottish Labour will lodge a number of amendments to tackle climate change in a just way that shares the benefits with all.”

Meanwhile the Lib Dems’ Liam McArthur said: “The First Minister may have declared a climate emergency but the situation is getting worse not better.

“In terms of transport, there has been next to no progress over recent years.

“Road transport and aviation remain a serious concern, with emissions for both on the increase.

“Yet the Scottish Government has been complacent and refused to take the bold action needed.”

PA

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