Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Scotland’s Climate Change Plan and our green recovery from COVID-19
We publish a statutory strategic delivery plan for meeting our emissions reduction targets at least every 5 years. We updated our 2018 Climate Change Plan in December 2020 in response to the global climate emergency, and the new and ambitious emissions reduction targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was amended by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. The Climate Change Plan update sets out a pathway to meeting Scotland’s emissions reduction targets over the period to 2032.
In light of the unprecedented circumstances we are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this Plan update is also a key strategic document on Scotland’s green economic recovery. A green recovery will set us on a pathway towards our emissions reduction targets in a way that prioritises economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
The Climate Change Plan update sets out bold actions, including the direction of changes which are needed in our wider economy and society to capitalise on the opportunities presented by net zero, and which together set our pathway to our new emissions reduction targets out to 2032. Achieving these targets will not be easy, and will need to be a truly national endeavour with business, communities, and individuals contributing fully. It will require us to be innovative, utilising new and exciting technologies and learning by doing.
The Climate Change Plan update includes a number of transformational commitments to deliver on both our emissions reduction targets and ensure a green recovery. For example:
- £1.6 billion for heat decarbonisation over the course of this Parliament
- a commitment to plant 18,000 hectares of new woodland each year by 2024
- a commitment to restore at least 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030
- a £100 million Green Jobs Fund, to provide investment to support low-carbon businesses, including the creation of a Green Workforce Academy
- a £180 million Emerging Energy Technologies Fund to support the development of hydrogen and CCS and add impetus to the development of Negative Emissions Technologies
- an aim to reduce the number of kilometres travelled by car by 20% by 2030
- a commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030
- a £120 million investment in Zero Emissions Buses, driving forward a fully decarbonised future for Scotland’s bus fleet and supporting the Scottish supply chain
- an investment of £50 million to create Active Freeways, providing a sustainable link between our towns, cities and some of our most beloved national landmarks
Scotland’s climate change legislation
In direct response to the international Paris Agreement, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was amended by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, increasing the ambition of Scotland’s emissions reduction targets to net zero by 2045.
Scotland’s net zero emissions target date of 2045 is ahead of many other countries, including the UK whose target is to reach net zero by 2050.
There are also interim targets of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 90% by 2040, relative to 1990 levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and 1995 levels of hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.
To help ensure delivery of the long-term targets, the framework also includes statutory annual targets for every year to net zero (these are set out below).
All of Scotland’s statutory targets are economy-wide; including all territorial greenhouse gas emissions and a fair share of those from international aviation and shipping, as well as territorial removals (including from the land use sectors). The statutory framework sets a default position that the targets are to be met through domestic action alone, without any use of international offset credits.
The methods used to measure emissions and removals for the purpose of assessing progress to the targets are based on international carbon reporting practice. An annual report sets out whether each annual emissions reduction target has been met.
The levels of all of Scotland’s targets are regularly reviewed following advice from the independent Climate Change Committee. The Committee’s first five-yearly review of Scottish emissions targets was published in December 2022.
To help ensure delivery of the long-term targets, Scotland’s climate change legislation also includes annual targets for every year to net zero. The levels of these targets (expressed as percentage reductions from the 1990/1995 baseline) are set out below:
|Target year||Percentage reduction from baseline|
|2030 (interim target)||75.0%|
|2040 (interim target)||90.0%|
|2045||100% (net zero emissions)|
Reporting on progress to targets
An annual target report sets out whether each annual emissions reduction target has been met. The latest report for the 2021 target year was published in June 2023.
The UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) also publishes annual assessments of Scotland’s progress in reducing emissions, which can be found on its website.
Our response to their latest progress report on reducing emissions was published in June 2023.
Carbon assessment of Budget proposals
For each year's Budget we publish an accompanying high-level carbon assessment which estimates how government spending plans will impact on emissions. View carbon assessments within the greenhouse gas estimation statistics.
The 2019 Act embeds the principles of a Just Transition, which means reducing emissions in a way which tackles inequality and promotes fair work, at the heart of Scotland’s approach to reaching net zero.
We accepted all the recommendations from the first Just Transition Commission and set up a renewed Just Transition Commission with a delivery focused mandate. The response to the first Just Transition Commission laid out our approach to just transition, including a National Just Transition Planning Framework and a commitment to Just Transition Plans. Our first Just Transition Plan will be the Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.
All our just transition planning activity must contribute towards achieving our set of National Just Transition Outcomes, outlined in the National Just Transition Planning Framework.
Our Just Transition Fund (JTF) is a £500 million ten-year commitment that will support projects in the North East and Moray which contribute towards the region’s transition to net zero.
The Fund was announced in recognition of the particular need to diversify the regional economy away from carbon-intensive industries and to capitalise on the opportunities, including jobs and prosperity, that the transition to net zero will bring.
Meeting the targets will only be possible as a shared national endeavour and social engagement is also central to our approach. We supported this engagement through establishing an independent Citizens’ Assembly on climate change, with future plans for a National Forum and Citizen’s Assembly. Alongside the Climate Change Plan update we also published a Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change. This marks a new chapter in our people-centred approach to climate change policy.
Read more on Just Transition.