Identifying and filling evidence gaps across net zero policy: Updating the Climate Change Plan

“Amid the enormous challenges of the global pandemic, the climate emergency has not gone away – far from it – and the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045 in a just and fair way.”

Ministerial foreword, Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan 2018–2032 – update, December 2020.

“CXC provided an invaluable link between the policy and scientific partners.”
Scottish Government Policy Official

  • Example of the value of CXC’s on-going expertise and research support across both overarching and detailed policy challenges.
  • Highlights CXC’s ability to provide support at all points in the policy process: we contributed significantly to the update’s formulation and are now providing follow-up research to support implementation.

The challenge

The new and more ambitious targets in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019 have necessitated a significant overhaul of policies and funding priorities to ensure Scotland achieves net-zero emissions by 2045. To help the Scottish Government update its 2018-32 Climate Change Plan, ClimateXChange responded to requests for research evidence and expertise across the full range of net-zero challenges – from how we treat slurry and manure on Scottish farms, to electric vehicle uptake and engaging the public on climate action. The challenge was compounded by the global pandemic which led the Scottish Government to delay the update and reframe it around a “green recovery”.

Evidence for increased climate action

In early 2020, the Scottish Government formed a Climate Change Plan update (CCPu) working group to explore options and priorities. Members were drawn from the Scottish Parliament, academia, industry and environmental organisations and included ClimateXChange’s Policy Director, Prof Dave Reay. This ensured the update accessed our research and the existing knowledge base, across the many policy areas.

To inform the CCP update, CXC research was commissioned on:

  • Livestock emissions, including issues around breeding, feed additives and manure management
  • Management of storage and application of organic materials such as silage, slurry and liquid digestate
  • The economic opportunities associated with the uptake of electric vehicles
  • Exploring options for a new methodology to assess the emissions contribution made by infrastructure investments
  • How behaviours with an emissions impact are changing through the pandemic
  • The best ways to engage the public on climate action
  • Support for a green recovery from Covid through research on travel behaviours and business recovery; and communicating climate change after Covid

Whole system approaches

Our work on whole system approaches, such as the TIMES energy model and marginal abatement cost curves (MACC), was of particular importance: the emissions envelopes set out in the CCPu are based upon TIMES modelling with technical refinements made by Scottish Government sector analysts.

The TIMES model pulls together emission, mitigation and cost data from all sectors to help understand the strategic choices on decarbonising an economy. It identifies how the effectiveness of carbon reduction measures by enabling consistent comparison of the costs of action across all sectors.

To ensure the model uses the most recent data for agriculture, CXC’s MACC research updated estimates of the mitigation potential and the cost-effectiveness of a selection of agricultural mitigation options. It took into account the significant recent improvements in UK agricultural GHG inventory reporting.

Implementing the CCPu

As well as drawing on our many sources of evidence, the CCPu made several research commitments which we are helping fulfill.  We have commissioned and/or completed work on:

  • Developing whole system energy scenarios for Scotland
  • A review of international delivery of negative emissions technologies
  • The potential for market benefit to incentivise lower carbon industrial production in Scotland
  • Peatland restoration and potential emissions savings on agricultural land
  • The potential for leguminous crops in Scotland
  • Exploring public attitudes towards the 20% reduction in car kilometre target
  • Methane-reducing feed additives
  • Establishing a manure/slurry exchange
  • Realising 20-minute neighbourhoods