Scotland should be net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2045. That’s the advice from the Committee on Climate Change in their report on emissions targets in the UK.

ClimateXChange Programme Manager Dan Barlow reflects on the report’s main points:

After months of climate change action rising further up the public agenda, the CCC report highlights the potential to realise a net-zero emissions Scotland. It follows the IPCC report at the end of last year on how to keep climate change to 1.5C.

Based on extensive analysis the Committee on Climate Change suggests that of the administrations in the UK, Scotland should go the furthest fastest. This is ‘reflecting Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole’.

The CCC identify a number of opportunities with particular potential for Scotland to contribute towards achieving a net-zero goal.  These include cutting emissions through peatland restoration and removing greenhouse gases through reforestation and deploying Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

The report highlights that stable and well-designed policies to achieve emissions targets need to be introduced across the economy without delay. The report states that the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must make full use of the policy levers available to them, and work with the UK government to ensure delivery in those areas that are not devolved.

Scotland carbon neutral by 2040

The Scottish Government has welcomed the report and moved swiftly to propose amendments to the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill to set a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest, with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

In response the Scottish Government have also written to the UK Government urging them to act in a number of policy areas, for example to reduce VAT on energy efficiency improvements in homes.

A number of priority areas identified in the report are issues CXC have been involved in providing evidence for policy over a number of years. Forestry, peatlands and energy efficiency are key research areas for us.

The CCC report sets a target for England to be net-zero in 2050, while Wales should aim to reduce emissions by 95% by the same year. The targets for Scotland and Wales are dependent on the UK adopting the net-zero target for 2050.

Key messages for a net-zero Scotland in 2045
  • The Scottish Government should legislate to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The target can be legislated as a 100% reduction in GHGs from 1990 and should cover all sectors of the economy, including international aviation and shipping.
  • The Scottish Climate Change Bill also requires interim targets. We recommend these are set for a 70% reduction by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2040 against the 1990 baseline.
  • These targets represent Scotland's fair contribution to the recommended UK target and hence to the Paris Agreement. They do not imply higher policy ambition or effort, but reflect the excellent opportunities to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere through afforestation and carbon capture and storage in Scotland.
  • Scotland cannot deliver net-zero emissions by 2045 through devolved policy alone. It will require both UK-wide and Scottish policies to ramp up significantly. If the UK does not commit to a net-zero GHG target for 2050 then Scotland may need to revise its target.
  • The new Scottish Just Transition Commission has an important role to help plan and deliver a just transition across Scotland that protects vulnerable workers, consumers and rural and island populations.

The Governments of UK, Scotland and Wales wrote to the Committee in October 2018 asking for the updated advice based on the Paris Agreement.

Scotland currently has a target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases including international aviation and shipping by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990. The target was set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) and is under review in a new Climate Change Bill currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

Read the report 

Read the CCC news release 

Read the Scottish Government’s response

Read the Scottish Government’s letter to the UK Government