Scotland leads on reducing CO2, but must cut more

26th March 2014


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Kevin Davies

Scotland is reducing CO2 emissions at a higher rate than the rest of the UK, but carbon saving measures need to be ramped up to meet long-term targets, says CCC

In its third annual report on the devolved government’s efforts to meet carbon reduction targets, the independent committee on climate change (CCC) praised the success of the Scottish government in cutting annual emissions by 9.9% in 2011 – far outstripping the UK as a whole, which cut CO2 output by just 6.9%.

While the CCC reports that a significant proportion of the reduction was due to warmer weather, it also highlighted improvements in Scotland’s energy sector, which resulted in emissions falling by 20% year-on-year as coal-fired electricity generation fell by 27% and electricity from renewables, particularly wind and hydropower increased 44%.

Despite what the CCC describes as “good progress” in reducing emissions, Scotland’s total CO2 output was 1.5% higher than its target for 2011 – 53.4 million tonnes CO2e. The CCC confirms that the target was missed because methods used to calculate national carbon emissions have improved since the target was set. The committee recommends that the Scottish government consider revising its future emissions targets in light of the changes to calculation methods.

Although, the CCC maintains that most sectors in Scotland are “on track” to meet the country’s long-term target of a 42% cut on 1990 levels by 2020, it warns that achieving a reduction of this scale will be “very challenging, and require further action”.

In particular, the CCC urges Scotland’s policymakers to take action to tackle the decline in the installation of energy efficiency measures in residential properties since the introduction of the Energy Company Obligation, and suggests that it may have to increase funding to support higher levels of insulation, for example.

It also warns the country will not meet its 2020 target of 11% of heat sourced from renewables unless more projects come online, and concludes that Scottish authorities must do more to leverage the funds available through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Other recommendations include: supporting the development of an electric vehicle charging network; scaling up land-use pilot projects that offer carbon sequestration opportunities, such as restoring peatlands; and ensuring support for the renewable electricity sector.

“There has been good progress in Scotland on reducing emissions in key sectors of the economy, notably through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” commented David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC. “But much remains to be done in terms of policy development and implementation to achieve very challenging future targets.”

Responding to the CCC report, climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “In 2011, Scotland led western Europe in terms of reducing our climate change emissions and the committee’s analysis of underlying trends in emissions indicates we remain on track to achieving our long term climate change targets.

“Scotland’s climate change targets are challenging, as they should be given the global impact of climate change. I note the committee's advice regarding the impact of revisions to the Scottish greenhouse gas inventory data for 2011 and subsequent years, and will closely examine both options identified to address the challenge this has created.”


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