In 2009, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world.
Whilst there is an increasing global focus to deal with the economic downturn, that in no way diminishes the clear threat that climate change poses to the people of Scotland and our quality of life, if average global temperature rises cannot be kept to 2 degrees Celsius.
Acting both locally and globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by moving to a low carbon economy, it is vital to address the very real economic and social impacts of climate change on present and future generations.
Investing in a low carbon economy also supports sustainable growth in Scotland by helping households and businesses save money through energy and resource efficiency and by securing new jobs and investment. Recognising the importance of this, the Scottish Government has made our transition to a low carbon economy one of our strategic priorities in our Government Economic Strategy.
Scotland has made good progress on the transition, despite limitations on the powers held by the Scottish Parliament. By 2010, our greenhouse gas emissions were down by 24.3% since 1990 and already more than halfway towards our 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42%. By way of comparison, we had reduced emissions faster than any member state in the EU-15.
This is the draft of our second report on proposals and policies for meeting Scotland's emissions reduction targets and builds on the package of measures set out in the first report, while extending the timeframe to cover targets for 2023-2027. This draft will be considered by the Scottish Parliament for a 60-day period, after which we will publish a final version.
The challenge that we have set ourselves is not an easy one. It would have been far easier to set targets that ignored climate science or showed little ambition, so that they would be straightforward to meet. Scotland does not lack ambition and as a nation we can take pride in that.
Of course, this challenge is even greater due to: the inability to achieve an EU-wide consensus on a 30% emission reduction by 2020; the historical emissions data is constantly under revision and since the targets for this report were set the data has been revised upwards making it more difficult to hit our targets; and the sheer difficulties of looking forward a decade and a half and thinking about the technologies that will be available and how they will shape life in Scotland in 2027 have all added to the challenge of meeting our targets. However, this challenge of meeting our ambitious targets is one to which this Scottish Government is determined to rise.
The package of proposals and policies outlined in this report has the capacity to deliver emissions cuts well in excess of the amount that the independent expert Committee on Climate Change suggested was possible. Their July 2011 advice on setting the annual targets for 2023-2027 was based on its assessment of what was a reasonable global contribution for Scotland given our potential and on the assumption that a 30% EU wide target was adopted.
As we move through the next decade and beyond we need to intensify our efforts in: improving energy efficiency of buildings; supporting the uptake of low carbon vehicles; investing in improving public transport and supporting sustainable and active travel; reducing the waste we produce and being smarter about what we do with it. We also need to make the most of the opportunities afforded by good stewardship of Scotland's ecosystems, deploying best practice in agriculture, while improving the ability of our peatland and woodland to lock in carbon.
We are already laying the foundations for much greater, long term, transformational changes in the way we generate and use energy, with decarbonisation of electricity generation being a key driver of our progress towards a low carbon economy.
Scotland can be justifiably proud of the progress being made to exploit our competitive advantage in terms of our renewables resources to diversify our energy supply, create jobs and improve energy security. However, we can go further and that is why we have set ambitious new targets specifically to decarbonise the production of electricity and heat. By 2011, renewables capacity generated 36.1% of Scotland's electricity needs - smashing our 31% interim target years ahead of schedule - and putting Scotland on track to produce equivalent to 100% of electricity demand by 2020 from renewable sources.
Hence, the low carbon transition is well underway, but we are in the early stages of our journey. We must maintain momentum if we are to avoid facing the increased costs that could arise later if the global community fails to act. To achieve this, we need the continued support of our partners in the private and public sectors, the involvement of activists within the environmental NGO movement and, most importantly, the participation of individuals and families across Scotland.
We recognise the responsibility of the Scottish Government to lead this effort: to help households and businesses save money on their bills; to make the big choices on policy and secure the investment that will give Scotland a competitive advantage in important industries and markets; and, ultimately, to ensure we seize the opportunities that a low carbon future offers both to Scotland's economy and society as a whole.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment
Minister for Environment and Climate Change