New greenhouse gas legislation set to be ‘toughest in the world’

Roseanna Cunningham

The upcoming Climate Change Bill will see Scotland become one of the first countries to achieve a 100% reduction in carbon emissions, climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said.

The new bill will immediately set a target of a 90% reduction by 2050, which the UK Committee on Climate Change (UK CCC) states is currently “at the limit of feasibility”. The draft bill sets out that the Scottish Government intends to go further still and achieve a 100% reduction in emissions, known as ‘net-zero’, as soon as possible.

Ministers will be legally required to keep the net-zero target date under review by seeking expert advice on the issue every five years. The target date will become legally-binding, subject to the consent of the Scottish Parliament, as soon as there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the date is credible and achievable.

As well as increasing long term ambition, the new bill also includes the most ambitious interim targets in the world, as well as stretching annual targets for every year between now and 2050. This means action will need to increase immediately, across every sector of the Scottish economy. It will also require action by individuals, communities and businesses – as well as government.

Ms Cunningham said: “Our Climate Change Bill sets out our commitment to reduce emissions by 100% with ambitious interim targets which strengthen Scotland’s world-leading position on climate change.

“Our 90% target will be tougher even than the 100% goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally-binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy. By 2030, we will cut emissions by two-thirds and, unlike other nations, we will not use carbon offsetting, where other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal.

“The fight against climate change is a moral responsibility but Scotland’s academic and engineering expertise, coupled with our outstanding natural resources, mean it is also an economic opportunity.

“Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our age and Scotland’s international leadership means our plans must be ambitious, credible and affordable – which is exactly what the new Climate Change Bill delivers.”

Scotland’s existing targets are for a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. The new interim targets will be 56% by 2020, 66% by 2030, and 78% by 2040 and are set out on a dedicated website.

Climate change campaigners have described the bill as ‘hugely disappointing’ and claimed that the Scottish Government has disregarded the voices of over 19,000 people in Scotland who asked for a net zero target by 2050 at the latest.

Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to live up to its own rhetoric on global climate change leadership, by failing to set a net zero emissions target in the Climate Change Bill published today.

“The government claims Scotland it will be one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions, but the Bill does not commit to that. It sets a target of only a 90 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

“By failing to ally with the global momentum towards zero emissions, led by countries like France, Sweden and New Zealand, Scotland is missing a huge opportunity to end its contribution to climate change in a generation, attract clean investment and retain its position as a leader on the global stage.

“We’re now calling on MSPs from all parties to push for stronger targets on emissions - net-zero by 2050 at the latest, 77% by 2030 and the action needed to deliver on them in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP, criticised the government for its “timid” decision not to set a target of zero carbon emissions, warning that this failure will hamper the creation of green jobs, warm homes and efficient public transport.

Greens have previously called for a target of 100% reduction by 2040 to keep pace, meet international climate science agreements and help drive the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Mark Ruskell MSP said: “This is hugely disappointing and will shock the many thousands of Scots who fed into the government’s consultation, calling for a net-zero target. This timid decision shows how weak the SNP are on the climate crisis. They’re making excuses but they should be seizing the opportunity.

“Science says we need strong action now. Other countries such as New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden have already set net-zero targets in their legislation, thanks to Greens in government. Scotland has a chance to drive up improvements in housing, jobs, transport and farming but it seems it’s going to take opposition parties and the wider climate movement to force the SNP to do the right thing.”

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