Climate Change Plan published but faces criticism over alleged ‘lack of ambition’

THE Scottish Government’s new long awaited Climate Change Plan was published today – but immediately came under fire from environmental groups.

They accused it of ‘lacking detail’ and losing ‘ambition’ on previous suggestions.

And ministers were challenged to fix what were described as ‘shortcomings’ when it comes to the forthcoming Climate Change Bill which will deliver legislation for Scotland to tackle global warming and other threats.

Today’s document was intended to set out the government’s plan for meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets between this year and 2032, specifically how Scottish ministers plan to achieve it.

That, it said, includes delivering ‘sustainable economic growth and secure the wider benefits to a greener, fairer and healthier Scotland’.

Environment minister Roseanna Cunningham is expected to make a statement about the plan at Holyrood tomorrow.

But in the document’s forward, she said: “Through this Plan, and other companion documents such as our Energy Strategy, we are creating the best possible business environment in Scotland, sending a clear signal that Scotland is the place to be for investment in low carbon and associated technologies.”

The Plan is an obligation under the 2009 Climate Act and builds on a draft published more than a year ago.

It centres on the main themes of:

Scotland’s path to a sustainable, inclusive low carbon society: This includes the so-called ‘decarbonisation pathway’ to 2032; Scotland’s achievements; Scotland’s world leading climate change legislation; Global costs; Wider impacts in Scotland of the Climate Change Plan; Adapting to Scotland’s changing climate; Natural Capital; Our approach; The public sector; The planning system; The role of communities; Behaviour change and public engagement; The transition to a low carbon economy; The role of enterprise agencies; Challenges and opportunities; Working with and support for businesses; Scotland’s role as a global citizen; Global climate justice; Scotland and the European Union and Continued Scottish participation in the EU.

Statutory duties, methodologies and monitoring: The section covers Statutory duties and methodologies; Setting the targets; Compensating for excess emissions; Accounting for emissions; How we account for the traded sector (the EU ETS); The domestic effort target; Revisions to the baseline; Consumption emissions; The wider public sector – mandatory reporting; The TIMES Whole System Energy Model; Monitoring implementation of the Climate Change Plan; Developing the Monitoring Framework;  Indicators; Governance of the Monitoring Framework.

Sector Pathways: This looks in depth at key areas including: ; Electricity; Buldings; Transport; Industry; Waste; Land Use, land change and forestry; and Agriculture.

The executive summary concludes: “Since the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act in 2009, we have made good progress on climate change action, both at home and abroad, and Scotland is now well placed to reap the benefits of being one of the first economies in the Global North to take steps towards transitioning to a low carbon society.

“The transformation of the way we generate and use our energy, insulate our buildings, grow our food, treat our waste, use our land and travel will create a healthier, more resourceful and resilient Scotland, able to withstand future changes in climate and fluctuations in global markets. Our decarbonisation pathway towards 2032 will be a challenging one, requiring collective efforts from all sectors of the society, but addressing climate change is both a moral and economic imperative, and the Scottish Government is determined to contribute to the global effort for the benefit of our own citizens, and humanity in general.”

However critics who have studied the plan claim it is lacking in ambition and detail, despite it running to 222 pages.

Tom Ballantine, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland Chair, said: “This Climate Change Plan still doesn’t deliver the detailed policies or the necessary ambition to drive a just transition to a zero carbon Scotland.

“The significant steps forward in transport that we welcomed in last year’s Programme for Government are undermined by steps backwards in this Plan.

“The many suggestions for improvements from MSPs and several Parliamentary committees have been largely overlooked.

“Those MSPs should use the upcoming Climate Change Bill as an opportunity to fix the significant shortcomings in this Plan.”

He also claimed it had gone backwards in its original ambitions, claiming: “In areas such as reducing emissions from our homes the government has significantly decreased ambition from its first draft.

“Particularly short-sighted is the failure to put in place any credible plan to help farmers to reduce their climate impacts, despite the fact that agriculture and land use now account for almost a quarter of our emissions.

“The lack of progress made by the Cabinet Secretary responsible for farming on issues like soil testing and managing our nitrogen fertiliser use is deeply disappointing.

“This Climate Plan is a missed opportunity to deliver a progressive, sustainable and successful economy for Scotland.”

“The upcoming Climate Bill must address the huge untapped potential for ambitious new policies that will deliver multiple benefits for the economy, public health and our environment.

“The urgency of climate change requires the Scottish Government to set strong new targets in this Bill, including increased action before 2030 which will put us on a path to zero emissions by 2050.”

“In Scotland and around the world, people are already feeling the impacts of a changing climate, from increased storms and wildfires to floods and droughts. It is often those least responsible for historic emissions, and the least able to cope, who are bearing the brunt of catastrophic events. Scotland, a fossil fuel producing nation, has a particular duty to reduce emissions and join other leaders in bringing about the required urgent global action.”

Jenny Hogan, Deputy Chief Executive at Scottish Renewables, said they welcomed moves to up the amount of renewable delivery for Scotland, but said more drive was needed.

She said: “We welcome the overall ambition set out in the Plan and the reiteration of the target to deliver half of all Scotland’s energy from renewables by 2030.

“We are however disappointed to see a significant drop in ambition in decarbonising the heat sector, with the majority of effort pushed back to after 2025.

“The carbon targets for both the heat and transport sectors are lower than those recommended by the Government’s independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change.

“We need robust policies in place now to capitalise on Scotland’s world-leading renewable energy industry and to get a head start on cutting carbon in two of the toughest sectors to do so: heat and transport.”

Their disappointment was echoed by that of Transform Scotland director Colin Howden who, while welcoming some details, was unimpressed.

He said: “There are many welcome proposals set out in the transport section of the Climate Change Plan. Low Emission Zones, investment in low carbon ferries and rail electrification, and the longer-term phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles all deserve support.

“However, the Plan’s focus remains squarely on technofix measures rather than initiatives to manage road traffic demand and to deliver modal shift from private cars to walking, cycling and public transport.
“In this, the Scottish Ministers have decided to ignore the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament scrutiny of the draft Plan.”
He added: “The Plan is rather opaque as to exactly how much funds will come from the Scottish Government’s own funds in order to deliver carbon reductions.”
“While the extra £40m for active travel announced in September last year is very welcome, it remains a drop in the ocean compared to committed programmes of high-carbon transport to which Scottish Ministers are wedded, such as its £9,000m road-building programme or its proposed £300m APD annual tax subsidy for the aviation industry,” he added.

Shaun Milne is a Scottish based journalist with a particular interest in environmental issues, politics and travel.

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