Climate change target missed

The Committee on Climate Change has published its 2013 progress report on how well Scotland is doing on reducing emissions. The committee found that the annual target was missed by 2% last year, largely due to the exceptionally cold winter. Its letter to the Scottish Government states:

“On underling progress reducing emissions, our assessment is broadly positive, with particular achievements in renewable power, home insulations, tree planting and waste policy. However, more is required, and we make a number of recommendations across the key emitting sectors. Moreover, we reiterate that meeting targets to 2020 remains extremely challenging, and would require new policies in addition to the current package of policies and proposals, unless the EU strengthens its ambition and tightens the traded sector cap accordingly.”

This echoes the strong evidence (including from Utilities Scotland Editor, Dave Watson) heard by four committees in the Scottish Parliament that the Government’s draft plan does not provide the step change in effort the Climate Change Committee has previously called for and is too reliant on weak proposals, rather than strong commitments to action.

Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said: “While we welcome the areas where progress to meet targets has been made,  we share the concerns that the UK CCC latest report flags up  of ‘considerable uncertainty’ in the Scottish Government’s draft climate plan, and the need to increase the rate of policy implementation if we are to deliver our climate targets. The independent watchdog emphasises the continued reliance Ministers place on the EU increasing its climate ambition, following previous warnings that the government needs to come up with more action here in Scotland.”

Going forward the CCC recommends a significant increase in effort in developing and implementing existing policies if Scotland is to meet its climate change commitments. In particular:

  • On renewable power, the Scottish Government has helped to provide longer-term certainty for the sector by setting a 2030 decarbonisation target. However, at the UK level there is still uncertainty over the support framework for low-carbon generation beyond 2020, which could destabilise investment markets in the longer term. This confirms the need for a pro-active role for the Scottish Government in the design and implementation of the UK Government’s Electricity Market Reform, if targets are to be achieved.
  • In the residential sector, there is further potential for loft and cavity wall insulations and a considerable challenge remains in rolling out solid wall insulation. There are plans for a ‘National Retrofit Programme’ targeted initially at fuel poor households. It will be important for the Scottish Government to ensure a commensurate share of the GB-wide Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding is drawn into Scotland to help tackle fuel poverty.
  • The Scottish Government’s forthcoming renewable heat strategy should identify and overcome non-financial barriers to the uptake of renewable heat in Scotland – as well as identify opportunities to maximise the potential of the Renewable Heat Incentive in Scotland.
  • On transport, evaluation of the ‘Smarter Choices Smarter Places’ pilot scheme (which is due shortly) should inform the future development of travel demand policies and their implementation.

Through the 2020s, the Scottish Government has set out a package of policies and proposals that looks feasible but there is considerable uncertainty over how exactly it can be delivered. It is important for the Scottish Government to continue to develop the detail around proposals and focus on implementing/delivering policies at the increased rate that will be required across all sectors to meet future targets.

In summary, good progress but delivery needs less rhetoric and more action.

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