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Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting our Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027 - The Draft Second Report on Proposals and Policies


1. Low Carbon Scotland

1.1 Low carbon Scotland is a better Scotland

1.1.1 The purpose of the Scottish Government is to focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable growth.[1] Making the transition to a low carbon Scotland, through the achievement of our ambitious climate change targets, will place Scotland in an advantageous position within the global economy. Importantly, we will support global efforts to prevent the damaging effects of climate change and, in doing so, provide numerous benefits to communities and businesses across Scotland.

1.1.2 The urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally is accelerating. Despite increasing awareness and political acceptance of the problem, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and, consequently, CO2 concentrations continue to rise (390 parts per million in 2011 compared to 278 parts per million in 1750). Higher greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere mean global temperature has increased and is now about 0.8 °C above pre-industrial levels.

1.1.3 The World Bank reported in 2012 that present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4°C warming within the century.[2] This could lead to a sea-level rise of 0.5 to 1.0 metre (possibly more); an increase of about 150 % in acidity of the ocean, making climate change the greatest threat to biodiversity (surpassing the threat of outright habitat destruction); and increase extremes of rainfall and drought that, apart from their direct costs, could substantially undermine food security globally and lead to mass movements of population seeking access to secure supplies of water and/or food.

1.1.4 The longer action is delayed, the higher annual emission reductions need to be thereafter in order to keep CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere below a dangerous level (such as the 800 ppm by 2100 used in the World Bank analysis).

1.1.5 While climate change is seen as one of the greatest global threats we face, and will undoubtedly impact upon quality of life and economic performance in Scotland too, and is recognised as a national security threat, addressing it is also one of our greatest opportunities - for our economy, our environment, and the wellbeing of our people. That is why we have put tackling climate change at the heart of our ambition for the people of Scotland.

1.1.6 A low carbon Scotland will capitalise on natural resources and the talents and skills of our people. It will make better use of our precious natural resources both at home and abroad. It will reduce the amount of energy people need to use in their homes, schools, workplaces, and public buildings, and in doing so help to reduce levels of fuel poverty. It will improve our public spaces and, therefore, improve public health: by reducing traffic pollution and increasing active travel as well as increasing woodland cover, particularly in and around urban areas. And, importantly, it will benefit our biodiversity, through tree planting and peatland restoration through increasingly sustainable land use.

1.1.7 A low carbon Scotland will also provide us with greater resilience to volatile energy and commodity prices. It will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels subject to geo-political forces outside our control. Simply put, a low carbon Scotland is a better Scotland. We regard it as an investment for our people, our environment, and essential for the benefit of future generations.

1.1.8 However, making the transition will not always be straight forward and there remain areas of uncertainty as we look further into the future. Some aspects will be challenging as we embrace new ways of doing things and work with new, more sustainable technologies.

1.1.9 Some measures will be more successful than anticipated while others may not go to plan. Some emerging technologies may or may not succeed in penetrating markets, and people may act in unexpected or irrational ways in terms of consumer behaviour. There may be unintended consequences - some positive, some less so. Business models will change, and new financial and investment instruments will come to market. Global drivers, for example financial systems and energy markets, will have impacts that at this time we cannot predict.

1.1.10 Our approach to the transition takes account, as best as can be achieved, of these uncertainties and challenges. It maximises opportunities but does not shy away from risks or uncertainties. We do not pretend there is one firm route or detailed plan for meeting all the annual targets and making the transition in the long term. That would not be appropriate for targets that reach out over such a long time horizon.

1.1.11 Rather, this document explains how we can collectively achieve Scotland's targets, building in flexibility along the way. In some cases, for example with our ambitions to decarbonise heat, we set abatement goals without yet having completely finalised set of measures for getting there. Where we do this we state when the detailed approaches will be published - but that doesn't mean we do nothing while the new proposal is being developed. We are continuing to put in place policies and drive forward projects that transform our approach to energy, resource, and land use over time. This means that we have more detail and firmer commitment in the early years, with less detail for the later targets.

1.1.12 Our monitoring framework and the preparation for RPP3 (which will follow Parliamentary approval of the next set of targets for 2028-2032 in 2016) will give us opportunities to continually review progress and change tack as required. We believe that this approach is the most practical way of meeting our annual climate change targets out to 2027 and beyond.

Laying the foundations

We are already laying the foundations for low carbon transformation across sectors of the economy and society. Scotland's emissions have fallen 24.3%[3] from 1990 levels. We are, therefore, more than halfway towards achieving our Climate Change (Scotland) Act target of at least 42% emission reduction by 2020.

Our ambitions for renewable electricity are also paying off. In 2011 renewable sources produced almost 14GWh of electricity in Scotland, equivalent to some 36.3% of Scotland's total electricity consumption, well on the way to our new 2015 target: 50% of Scotland's electricity demand to be met by renewable sources. We know that renewable capacity increased by 15.2% between 2011 and 2012 indicating the excellent progress that continues to be made.

1.2 Scotland's place in the world

1.2.1 Current global pledges for emissions cuts are not enough to limit global warming to 2 °C so raising worldwide ambition remains a high priority for the Scottish Government. Scotland aims to be a model for the international community in tackling climate change. Our ambitious statutory domestic climate change targets, with a requirement to meet annual targets, remains highly unusual. We are playing a full part in supporting UK efforts on climate change by demonstrating to the international community the growth, investment and job opportunities of the low carbon economy, and championing climate justice.

1.2.2 At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Doha in December 2012, the EU and some other countries agreed to a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol to run for eight years from 2013 to 2020. For this second period, the EU has taken on an emissions reduction commitment in line with its domestic target of cutting emissions by 20% of 1990 levels by 2020, but has left the door open to stepping up this reduction to 30% if the conditions are right.

1.2.3 The targets of all countries participating in the second period will be revisited by 2014 with a view to considering raising ambition. However, the countries taking part in the second Kyoto period account for only around 14% of world emissions and by 2020 this will have fallen to around 10%. This underscores the need for the future climate regime to involve action by all countries. The second period forms part of the transition to the global agreement taking effect in 2020.

The world is getting warmer

The decade 2001-2010 was the warmest since records began in 1850, with global land and sea surface temperatures estimated at 0.46 °C above the long-term average (1961-1990) of 14.0 °C. Nine of these years were among the ten warmest on record.[4] 2012 is currently ranked the 9th warmest year on record.[5]

2013 is expected to be between 0.43°C and 0.71°C warmer than the long-term global average, with a best estimate of around 0.57°C, according to the Met Office annual global temperature forecast.[6]

Global average temperature is expected to remain between 0.28 °C and 0.59 °C (90% confidence range) above the long-term (1971-2000) average during the period 2013-2017, with values most likely to be about 0.43 °C higher than average.[7]

1.2.4 The Scottish Government has played an active role as part of UK efforts to lobby for higher EU ambition on climate change targets for 2020 and beyond, arguing that the levels of emissions reduction across the EU are already deeper than expected[8], and that the costs are now lower, and the benefits now higher, of moving beyond 20%. It is our firm position, and a policy in this draft RPP2, that the EU should move to a 30% emission reduction climate change target for 2020.

1.2.5 Along with the UK Government, we are disappointed that the EU Environment Council has not yet been able to reach political agreement on higher emissions reductions, consistent with the cost-benefit analysis undertaken by the European Commission in the Low Carbon Roadmap 2050. We are pleased, though, that the European Commission will continue to develop proposals for further emissions reduction by 2020, and beyond to 2050, including reform of the EU Emissions Trading System[9] (EU ETS), and that discussions on decarbonisation of the energy sector and the EU's strategy for renewable energy, post-2020 are on-going.

1.2.6 Beyond Europe, and in line with our new role in the world, we have been strengthening our support for developing countries. We are championing climate justice, a key issue for human rights in the 21st century that is rising up the UN agenda. We launched our Climate Justice Fund in June 2012 and announced the first awards for five projects prior to the Doha UNFCCC conference. Scotland has also been invited by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work with the UN's Sustainable Energy for All initiative and we have announced a partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a renewable energy toolkit for use in developing nation economies. Our International Development Fund has funded a range of projects - from renewable energy projects in Malawi to climate change projects in other Sub-Saharan African countries.

1.2.7 At Doha, Scotland committed to host an international conference on climate justice in 2013 with the Mary Robinson Foundation. In addition to this work, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Inter-American Development Bank to share Scottish know-how on clean energy. We are collaborating with the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, and we are working with South Africa on the feasibility of a carbon capture and storage pilot. Our Saltire Commonwealth Fellowships support the exchange of knowledge on climate change policy and technology between Scotland and Commonwealth countries.

The economics of climate change

As Lord Stern showed in his Report on the Economics of Climate Change,[10] the cost of failing to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately far outweigh the cost of taking the necessary steps to stabilise our climate.

Stern estimated that without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts could increase this to 20% of GDP or more. Costs include those related to losses from declining agricultural production, heat waves, droughts, flooding events, extreme precipitation, biodiversity loss, disease spread, and soil erosion.

Conversely, the study estimated that stabilising greenhouse gases to avoid a temperature increase in excess of 2°C by 2050 would cost the global community roughly 1% of GDP by 2050. In 2008, Stern increased the estimate for the annual cost of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm to 2% of GDP to account for faster than expected climate change.

1.3 How Scotland compares to other countries

1.3.1 Scotland is at the top of the European league table for emissions reductions. Between 1990-2010, emissions in Scotland fell by 22.8 %. This is the largest reduction among the EU-15 Member States, and higher than the EU-27 Member States average of 14.3 %, when emissions from international aviation and shipping and land use, land use change and forestry sectors are factored in.

1.3.2 Under the Kyoto Protocol, EU Member States (then the EU-15) agreed to collectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012, with Member States taking on differentiated targets in recognition of their national circumstances. Ten of the remaining twelve EU member states, (the EU-12), committed to individual targets under the Protocol. Of the EU-12, eight Member States have a target to reduce their emissions by 8%, Hungary and Poland have a target of 6%, and Cyprus and Malta have no target.

1.3.3 There is no official international data which compares Scotland's emissions with other countries apart from the UK. The comparisons below are made by the Scottish Government with unadjusted Scottish figures including international aviation and shipping and emissions from the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector as detailed in the official statistics publication, "Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2010".[11] They do not include any adjustment for the effect of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Table 1.1: How Scotland compares

Member State Change
Member State Change
Austria 20.3% Bulgaria -47.1%
Belgium -1.2% Cyprus 66.9%
Denmark -18.5% Czech Republic -30.1%
Finland -4.7% Estonia -45.4%
France -7.6% Hungary -32.2%
Germany -20.3% Latvia -
Greece 11.4% Lithuania -77.9%
Ireland 11.6% Malta 171.2%
Italy -6.5% Poland -17.3%
Luxembourg 3.7% Romania -58.1%
Netherlands 5.0% Slovakia -35.0%
Portugal 15.9% Slovenia -1.2%
Spain 30.5%
Sweden 17.0%
United Kingdom -20.9%
Average EU - 15 -8.5% Average EU - 27 -14.3%
England -22.2%
Wales -14.6%
Northern Ireland -13.5%
United Kingdom -20.9%

1.3.4 Countries around the world are increasingly aware of the pressing need to act to tackle climate change, and are making policy commitments or passing legislation setting out how they propose to act. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 remains an exemplar, with a world-leading legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. Denmark and Germany have pledged 40% reductions, and the UK has committed to 34%.

1.3.5 The level of ambition shown by many developed countries is inadequate, and where pledges have been made they often have a number of conditions attached. Many countries are setting a good example, with Mexico and South Africa among those with ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Scotland's targets are based on a wealth of scientific evidence showing the scale of action required to avoid catastrophic climate change across the globe. Other countries should follow our lead and commit to ambitious action.

"In Scotland, we are proud of the fact that the Scottish Parliament has unanimously passed the world's toughest climate change legislation requiring us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020"

"Addressing climate change is not solely an environmental and moral imperative, however. The development of renewable energy is also a massive economic opportunity for Scotland."

First Minister, Renewable UK Annual Conference, October 2012.

1.4 Limited powers

1.4.1 The approach to the proposals and policies in this document reflects the limitations in the powers currently available to Scotland. In a number of important areas, such as energy and agriculture, legislative competence is retained at UK or EU level. In respect of all international negotiations between member states, Scotland does not have a direct voice, for example at the UNFCCC, the EU Environment Council, and Agriculture and Fisheries negotiations.

1.4.2 The Scottish Government has a powerful vision of Scotland's future as an energy rich country. Full powers over energy policy will be a dramatic step forward in maximising the economic and environmental benefits of Scotland's energy resources. Scotland has abundant renewable energy resources; with 25% of EU offshore wind and tidal and 10% of EU wave energy potential, Scotland is already building on its North Sea expertise to rebuild our engineering and manufacturing industries and to become the green energy capital of Europe. With full powers we can do even more - our low carbon industry could be 10% of Scotland's economy by 2015-16 and provide 5% of all jobs by 2020 if we exploit our competitive advantages.

1.4.3 Accessing these vast resources of green energy will also help to provide stable energy prices for customers, by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and volatility of wholesale gas and oil prices, and provide a major contribution to reducing our carbon emissions. Building on our existing track record of promoting energy efficiency effectively and creatively, full legislative and regulatory powers will enable a much greater focus on energy efficiency measures and tackling fuel poverty, by enabling approaches that are appropriate for Scottish customers.

1.4.4 In the meantime, decisions taken by the UK, for example in terms of fiscal policy, demonstrate that, without the same financial and economic powers as other nations, Scotland currently has limited flexibility when it comes to implementing measures to reduce emissions through, for example, vehicle and fuel duties. This means that more options need to be identified from existing powers, and there is, therefore, a need to consider more radical options than might be required if Scotland had a full complement of fiscal and policy responsibilities. In these circumstances, Scottish Ministers will continue their policy of pursuing and influencing decisions at UK and EU levels, to encourage a greater level of ambition in accordance with existing practice.

1.5 Low carbon Scotland - our vision

1.5.1 The term 'low carbon Scotland' is common in the policy world. But what will meeting our climate change targets mean in terms of outcomes? In 2009, the Scottish Government published Scotland's Climate Change Delivery Plan[12]. It includes four transformational outcomes we believed to be necessary for our target of an 80% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2050 to be met. They highlight the sectors that are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland - electricity production, heat, transport and land use.

1.5.2 Three years on, we feel it is time to broaden these out with further detail:

  • A largely de-carbonised electricity generation sector by 2030, using renewable sources for electricity generation with other electricity generation from fossil fuelled plants utilising carbon capture and storage;
  • A largely de-carbonised heat sector by 2050 with significant progress by 2030 through a combination of reduced demand and energy efficiency, together with a massive increase in the use of renewable or low carbon heating;
  • Almost complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2050, with significant progress by 2030 through wholesale adoption of electric cars and vans, as well as significant modal shift towards public transport and active travel, and significant decarbonisation of rail;
  • A step change in provision of energy efficient homes to 2030 through retrofit of existing housing and improved building regulations for new build homes;
  • Significant progress in transforming energy use in industry, business and the public sectors by 2027 through energy efficiency, and the decarbonisation of heating and cooling processes;
  • At least 70% all waste will be recycled by 2025, and by 2050 waste as we know it now will have been designed out of our economy;

By 2027 land managers will have further optimised the productive use of natural resources, producing food and delivering public goods, such as protecting the natural environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and

  • By 2027 we will have enhanced natural carbon capture through our expanded woodlands and significantly more conservation of our peatland.

1.6 Climate change adaptation

1.6.1 As we work towards our vision of a low carbon Scotland, it is essential that we take into account actual climate change in Scotland. Due to past and present global emissions, our climate will continue to change for at least the next 30 to 40 years. We cannot prevent this change, but we can be more resilient in the face of change.

1.6.2 It is important that we plan our mitigation interventions in the context of Scotland's changing climate as the climate may have an impact on the siting of specific infrastructure, on performance of our agriculture and forestry sectors with implications for land use strategy, on the uptake of particular measures, and on the effectiveness of measures.

1.6.3 Our first statutory Climate Change Adaptation Programme[13] will seek to identify and address the key threats to Scotland from the changing climate and to maximise the opportunities it will present. In advance of the Programme, the non-statutory Adaptation Framework[14] aims to build resilience and capacity to adapt to the changing climate.

Over the last few decades it has become warmer, but also wetter, with an increase in both the amount of rainfall (especially in winter) and the occurrence of heavy downpours.[15] A rise in temperature of a few degrees would create conditions unlike anything experienced in Scotland today. We may have fluctuating temperatures and more frequent and/or prolonged periods of high rainfall or drought, leading to more extreme weather events, like heat waves or heavy rainfall.[16]

Potential impacts from the changing climate in Scotland will affect communities, the economy and the environment. The threats are wide-ranging. Examples include: reduction in river flows and water availability during the summer; increased risks of pests and diseases to agriculture and forestry; increases in flooding through more intense precipitation events which would affect properties; infrastructure and people; changes in, or loss of, species and habitats; and increased disruption from extreme weather events.

1.6.4 As well as understanding Scotland's changing climate, we need to understand the interactions between potential mitigation actions and potential adaptation actions. We will take advantage of synergies already identified, for example woodland planting can provide natural flood defences, and address any negative relationships (for example where a mitigation intervention reduces resilience or vice versa).