Scotland must take more decisive action over the next 12 months in particular if it is to meet its ambitious net zero by 2045 target, according to a new report.
The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2019 Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament shows that while the country has seen reductions in emissions, this was largely driven by the elimination of fossil fuels and broader action is needed. Scotland has just experienced its first full year without any coal power.
The electricity sector has been one of the decarbonisation success stories in Scotland, decreasing from the second biggest emitter to the smallest in just five years. It now accounts for just 1.2MtCO₂e (3%) of Scotland’s actual emissions, having fallen by 1.3MtCO₂e from 2016.
Between 2007 and 2017, emissions from the power sector fell by 23% annually, amounting to a 92% reduction from 1990’s levels.
In 2017, renewable generation continued to increase, growing to 5.5TWh (+28%) compared to 2016. In 2018, it grew by a further 6%, with capacity additions of 10%.
As of June 2019, there was 11.6GW of operational renewable electrical capacity in Scotland, and a further 13GW to come. Of this, 4.2GW are in planning, 7.6GW are awaiting construction and 1.2GW are under construction. Almost all of this - 92% - is wind power.
Scotland alone accounted for 24% of all UK renewable generation in 2018, and provisional estimates suggest that it met 76% of it’s gross electricity consumption with renewables.
This was aided by reductions in demand due predominantly to efficiency improvements over the decade beginning in 2007. Energy demand fell by 17% to 2017, but 2018 saw the first annual increase since 2010.
Demand is expected to grow in coming years as people turn to electrification to reduce emissions from heating and transport. The CCC expects UK wide electricity generation to double from 300TWh today to around 600TWh in 2050 to meet this increase.
Overall, greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland fell by 3% in 2017, compared to a 10% fall in 2016. However, the country's net emissions actually increased meaning it missed its 2017 target. This 4% increase was due to Scotland’s EU emissions trading allowances increasing.
While power has made important steps forwards, other sectors have made only incremental improvements. If Scotland is to meet its net zero by 2045 target, a “comprehensive strategy detailing the policies and governance that will drive a rapid, sustained transformation to a net-zero society” is needed, according to the CCC.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “Scotland has set an ambitious world-leading net zero target of 2045. Now Scotland needs to walk the talk. The new legally-binding target for 2030 – a 75% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 – is extremely stretching and demands new policies that begin to work immediately.
“The spotlight is now on Scotland’s plan to deliver meaningful reductions across all sectors the economy, including from buildings, road transport, agriculture and land use. Their contribution to reducing emissions is vital to Scotland’s success.”
With the COP26 summit taking place in Glasgow next year, Scotland is under particular pressure to demonstrate it’s action to reduce emissions.
The report highlights that Scotland’s Programme for Government 2019-20, along with other policies made recently, suggest that the country is stepping up its decarbonisation plans. This includes new measures for green finance, new-build homes and transport have been put in place.
Scotland must continue to work closely with Westminster says the CCC, as many areas such as heavy industry, carbon capture and storage, electricity generation, the gas grid, vehicle standards, road freight and a common aviation framework, are sectors where legislative powers are ‘reserved’. Change in these areas will be necessary if Scotland, and the UK as a whole, is to decarbonise.
“Scotland has outperformed the rest of the UK in cleaning up its economy, resting on the rapid closure of coal. As this chapter closes, the Scottish story must change.
But so far, we haven’t seen the same progress in other sectors. With the right policies and the committed support of Westminster, Scotland can lead the way in ending the UK’s contribution to global warming for good,” finished Lord Deben.