The Scottish government has outlined a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032. Reduction targets are measured against a baseline set of figures from 1990. The Climate Change Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, set out the government’s draft climate change plan for the next 15 years which include a fully-decarbonised electricity sector and 80% of domestic heat coming from low-carbon sources.

Ministers committed last year to cut harmful CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, with a new interim target of 50% by 2020. The previous interim target of 42% was met in 2014 – six years early. However, the independent Committee on Climate Change said the decrease was largely down to a warmer than average winter reducing the demand for heating. Opposition members welcomed the plans but raised questions about budgets and specific issues like fracking which the Scottish Government has discounted for the short to medium future.

The proposal for reduction in emissions represents a new level of ambition which will help maintain Scotland’s reputation as a leader within the international community. Scotland is already recognised as having a highly-skilled workforce, leading research institutions as well as natural resources that contribute to its position. The transition to a low-carbon country offers important opportunities for a more sustainable economy in Scotland. Whilst Ms Cunningham said the delivery cost will be around 2% of the GDP, it was made clear that this does not take into account the financial benefits that will pay back from the scheme.

Goals to be achieved by 2032 include:

  • Cutting greenhouse emissions by 66%
  • A fully-decarbonised electricity sector
  • 80% of domestic heat to come from low-carbon heat technologies
  • Proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans registered in Scotland annually to hit 40%
  • 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands restored
  • Annual woodland creation target increased to at least 15,000 hectares per year

Among the policies are making half of Scotland’s buses low-carbon, fully-decarbonising the electricity sector and making 80% of homes heated by low-carbon technologies. The Government has been urged to consider heat-pump district heating and a workplace parking levy by campaigners.

Environmental groups have criticised the approach, stating that Scotland’s draft climate change plan is too focussed on technologies with not enough attention being given to changing behaviour. Also, whilst the plan offers an attractive vision of a low-carbon society, much of what has been outlined is still at the pilot or consultation stage. Significant effort will be required to rapidly develop the pledges into concrete policies. The urgency could not be clearer given that 2016 was the hottest year on record in Scotland. With the threat from climate change increasing and affecting the lives of people around the world, action along with sufficient funding to deliver the initiatives is required.

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