Give climate change plan ‘teeth’ Scottish ministers warned ahead of deadline

ENVIRONMENTAL groups are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure next month’s final Climate Change Plan is given “teeth”.

Holyrood was hailed for a commitment to ensuring at least half of Scotland’s power needs comes from renewable sources by 2030.

But it faces mounting pressure to ensure a low carbon economy is put in place to meet the needs of the Paris Agreement.

Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland, said she welcomed recent noises from parliament over progress.

But she said: “It’s great to see the Scottish Government cement its ambitions to deliver half of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.

“In uncertain times for investment, it is a strong statement that Scotland is open for low-carbon business and plans to build on its fantastic progress on renewable electricity in the heat and transport sectors.”

“A transformation in how we heat our homes and offices, how we travel to work and school, and how we power our industries will generate many social and economic benefits.”

She added: “To ensure a truly effective, joined-up strategy, more effort needs to be put into developing policy to reduce our demand for energy in the first place.

“The Scottish Government needs to enable people to get out of their cars, insulate their homes and improve the energy efficiency of their businesses.

“With growing demand for the Climate Change Bill to increase our ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, a clearer vision and bold, substantive policies will be needed more than ever.

“The final Climate Change Plan, due in February, should be the real test of whether this strategy is given teeth.”

Just last month, some of Scotland’s renewables ambitions were laid out in a strategy published by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, minister for business, innovation and energy.

In it he said: “The decisions and actions which we take now will shape the Scotland that future generations will live and work in, visit and enjoy.”

He stated a ‘whole system view’, an ‘inclusive energy transition’ and a ‘smarter local energy model’ would be the three corse principles to government policy moving forwards.

The 90 page report drew some immediate criticism from the Scottish Green Party when MSP Mark Ruskell challenged it for not including waste incineration among its detail.

He called it a “glaring omission” and secured a commitment that it would be discussed at Holyrood.

But Scottish Renewables were full of praise for the commitment for a 50/50 target.

Not least a suggested requirement to almost double Scotland’s renewable electricity capacity (from 9.3 to 17 Gigawatts) by 2030.

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, hailed the Strategy’s publication, saying: “Scotland’s first Energy Strategy heralds a new era for the energy system used by us all, and provides a roadmap for others to follow.

“For the first time, the Scottish Government has set out a holistic plan for how we produce and use energy, breaking down the barriers between electricity, heat and transport.

“The huge ambition of the new target is to be commended. The Strategy creates a framework for us as an industry, Scotland’s policymakers and the public to think in different ways about energy supply and demand.

“It should also provide much-needed impetus to tackle issues like the decarbonisation of our heat supply, levels of fuel poverty and the challenges presented by the roll-out of electric vehicles.

“Of particular note is the 50% renewable energy target contained in the Strategy, which sends a strong signal to industry that renewables should take its place the heart of our economy.

“Previous targets laid the foundation for the rapid growth of Scotland’s renewable energy industry – an industry which already employs 26,000 people, invests hundreds of millions of pounds every year and displaces the equivalent carbon emissions of our entire transport sector.

“This new target has the potential to do the same not just for the continued growth of our renewable electricity sector but also for heat and transport, where action to decarbonise is urgently needed.”

Renewables currently provide enough power to deliver more than half of Scotland’s electricity demand.

Speaking of the Strategy’s aim of delivering 17GW of renewable energy capacity, Mack continued: “A doubling of renewable electricity capacity over the coming decade will serve to increase the economic and environmental benefits of all these technologies as well as cementing Scotland’s place as a world leader in renewable energy skills and technology.”

Heat makes up more than half of the energy used in Scotland (51%), with a quarter used for transport.

She continued: “The two scenarios presented on renewable heat and transport  – underpinned predominantly by electrification or hydrogen – show, again, huge ambition, but also the scale of the challenge we now face.

“The critical decision over which of these two paths Scotland will follow is set to be made in the early 2020s, and renewable energy has the clear potential to underpin either scenario.

“We look forward to working with the Government as it begins to implement one of the most comprehensive plans our energy system has ever seen.”

RSPB Scotland also welcomed the publication of the strategy.

But they sounded a warning over sites of special wildlife concern.

They said analysis showed the importance of established technologies like onshore wind and solar to unlock significant ‘green growth’ – but from technologies like floating wind into deeper waters away from sensitive wildlife sites.

Alexa Morrison, Senior Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said:  “RSPB Scotland’s vision is for Scotland to decarbonise its energy system in harmony with nature, and for Scotland to be a global leader in demonstrating how renewable energy can grow and thrive without jeopardising our most special places for wildlife.

“We welcome publication of the new Scottish Energy Strategy, in particular the new target for 50% of energy to come from renewables by 2030, and call on Scottish Government and industry to work together to deliver these important targets whilst at the same time protecting the special places for wildlife we hold dear, and in line with our national and international commitments to reverse biodiversity declines.

“We know from evidence and experience that we can deliver low carbon energy without sacrificing nature, and we are committed to working to support this positive vision for Scotland.”

Ronnie Quinn, Chief Executive of Crown Estate Scotland, the body that manages leasing of seabed and rights to offshore carbon storage, also waded in.

He said: “Scotland has for some time led globally in setting ambitious renewables targets to drive innovation, investment and growth.

“The new 2030 renewables target continues that leadership, and we will be playing our part by supporting CCS (carbon capture & storage) and helping renewable energy developers access seabed at the right time and on the right terms to help their projects succeed.

“The waters around Scotland have fantastic potential, particularly for offshore wind in deeper waters.

“With costs being lowered and jobs created in operations and maintenance as well as throughout the supply chain, new leasing has the potential to benefit communities, consumers and the climate – as well as contributing to the revenues that Crown Estate Scotland passes to Scottish Government.”

What do you think? Join the conversation on our facebook page here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland

IMAGE CREDITS: cc Free-Photos

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