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Scotland Reducing Emissions Faster than Rest of UK

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Recent figures released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) show that Scotland is outperforming the UK in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland’s emissions in 2016 were 49 per cent lower than 1990 levels, suggesting that a 56 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 – a target laid out in the Climate Change Bill - could be achievable. However, the country is behind on cleaning up transport and agriculture.

The CCC reported that Scottish net emissions were 41.5 MtCO2e (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2016, which is below the climate target figure of 44.9 MtCO2e. Overall, emissions fell by 10 per cent in 2016 alone.

The main reason for the drop in emissions is a series of changes in Scotland’s electricity generation sector. Scotland produces 17.8 per cent of its total energy from renewable sources, an improvement on the EU average of 16.7 per cent.

Following the closure of Longannet, Scotland’s final coal plant, the country must adopt a strategy that continues to move on, says the CC.

Scotland has set a target of reducing emissions to 90 per cent of 1990 levels, which is lower than 80 per cent figure set out in the UK-wide Climate Change Act.

The CCC commented on this move, stating the 90 per cent reduction target is “at the limits of feasibility identified to date” and recommends more measures will be required if the target is to be met.

It should be noted that the CCC report shows that the transport sector “is now Scotland’s biggest sectoral challenge” with increases in emissions from transport recorded every year since 2010, including a 2% rise in 2016 alone. Additionally, sales of electric vehicles in Scotland fall short compared to the rest of the UK.

Furthermore, reducing emissions from the agriculture and forestry industries remain “substantial challenges” due to uncertain funding, dependency on voluntary emission reduction measures from the farming sector, and “uncertain targets” for tree planting and peatland restoration targets which have been “repeatedly missed”.

The CCC has recommended improvements to low-carbon policies in the heat, transport, agriculture and forestry sectors as well as a robust and clear framework for implementing an infrastructure for electric vehicle charging.

Chairman of the CCC, Lord Deben, said: “Scotland continues to lead the UK in reducing its emissions and has ambitious targets which aim to go further.

“Decarbonisation of Scotland’s electricity sector and reductions in emissions from waste, have seen Scotland outperform the UK overall as emissions continue to fall year-on-year to nearly half of 1990 levels.

“The Scottish Government has made some progress on tackling issues raised in the Committee’s report in 2017. However, challenges remain. Achieving a 90% cut in emissions by 2050, as envisaged within the new Climate Change Bill, means greater effort is now required across other areas of Scotland’s economy.”