2019 greenhouse gas emissions: Net Zero Secretary statement - 15 June 2021

Statement given by the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh on Tuesday 15 June 2021.

Presiding Officer, last week we debated one of the defining issues of our time – the global climate emergency. Scotland can rightly be proud of the progress we have already made, and our plans to achieve a net-zero and climate resilient future. The next decade is crucial and the time to act is now. However, it is, and will continue to be, a very challenging journey.

The purpose of my statement today is to further update Members on progress towards the world-leading targets this Parliament agreed during its last term, which shape the pathway for Scotland’s just transition to a net-zero society by 2045.

Presiding Officer, the Official Statistics on Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions during 2019 were published this morning.

We must – crucially – remember that this data is always historic in nature. The new figures only cover the period to the end of 2019 and do not reflect the step change in action taken since then. In particular, the update to our Climate Change Plan was only published in December 2020. 

Nor do these figures yet tell us anything about the impacts of COVID-19 on emissions.

On the statutory reporting basis set out by Parliament through the recent Climate Change Act, Scotland’s emissions during 2019 were down by 51.5% since the 1990 baseline. This clearly falls short of the annual target of a 55% reduction.

Whilst it is undoubtedly disappointing that the annual target has not been met, the figures do still show good progress. Emissions fell by 2.3% between 2018 and 2019. We continue to out-perform the UK as a whole in delivering long term reductions. And crucially, we are now over half way to becoming a net-zero society.

We should be proud of the steps taken so far but also recognise that there is a long way to go.

Our Parliament has, quite rightly, set truly world-leading climate change targets. It is easy to overlook the fact that our economy-wide targets for every year in the 2020s and 2030s are the most stretching of any country in the world. There can be no question over Scotland‘s ambition here and this Government is fully committed to rising to that challenge.

Our updated Climate Change Plan, the effects of which - as I have said - are not yet reflected in today’s figures, includes over 100 new policies to accelerate progress and is supported by a record £1.9 billion of capital funding in 2021/22 to tackle climate change, and to create good, green jobs.

This policy package reflects our understanding that more needs to be done and represents a credible pathway to meeting the increased ambition of Scotland’s targets over the period to 2032.

Our attention is firmly on implementing and delivering these policies to achieve real, on the ground, changes in emissions, as well as the wider benefits for our economy through green jobs, for our society through improved health and wellbeing outcomes and for our environment. This will be vital to delivering the green recovery from COVID-19 we want to see.

And we’re already making progress. Provisional figures for 2020 indicate that the equivalent of 97.4% of gross electricity consumption was from renewable sources.

In 2019, the whole-life carbon impact of Scotland’s household waste reached its lowest level since official recording began. We now have hydrogen buses on the streets of Aberdeen and Dundee and we’re building the UK’s largest electric vehicle charging hub in Glasgow.

We’re seeing an influx of young talent to Scotland‘s forestry sector through the Growing Rural Talent initiative, farmer led groups are looking at low carbon farming practices, and we are providing long-term investment in peatland restoration. We’re giving 75% cashback to households for zero emissions heating, as well as interest free loans to purchase a new electric car or motorcycle.

And we want to go even further. We will phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans, and heat one million homes with zero-emissions technologies, both by 2030.

Meeting Scotland’s world-leading emissions targets to reach net-zero by 2045 lies at the heart of our response to the global climate emergency. However, as we debated last week, the response is also much more than this.

The manner in which emissions reductions are achieved is every bit as an important as the reductions themselves. We have committed to implementing the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission and will respond fully later in the summer to this.

Our recognition that climate change is a social justice issue is also reflected in the doubling of our pioneering international Climate Justice Fund and our position as co-Chair of the global Under 2 Coalition.

Presiding Officer, it also cannot go unnoticed that Scotland’s ability to deliver a green recovery and reach our targets is very much dependent upon action from the UK Government in areas that, unfortunately, remain reserved. This is something that the independent Climate Change Committee has been clear on.

As well as reducing our emissions, we are also preparing for the locked-in impacts of climate change here in Scotland, including the risks to our precious biodiversity.

We are investing in climate resilience as part of a green recovery from COVID-19, with an extra £150m for flood risk management over this Parliament.

This all forms part of our integrated response to the global climate emergency. Of course, a global challenge also requires international collaboration.

It is now less than five months until the UN’s landmark climate conference in Scotland. COP26 represents the world’s best chance to deliver a global deal that supports the goals of the Paris Agreement and delivers lasting action towards a net zero and climate resilient future in a way that is fair and just.   

The eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, providing a unique opportunity to demonstrate the world-leading climate action Scotland is already taking, with people and wellbeing at the centre of all we do - underpinned by our global values. We’ll also be listening to and learning from others, as we all work to turn commitments into national and local action.

Presiding Officer, we know that we have taken on a huge challenge with such ambitious emissions targets.  It is imperative that we in Government, and all of us in this chamber, continue to challenge ourselves to do ever more in order to meet those targets.

Even when we do fall a little short, as is unfortunately the case today, Scotland’s climate legislation ensures that even deeper reductions will be achieved in the future.

Implementing and delivering the update to the Climate Change Plan must remain our priority, but we will also now urgently develop a “catch-up report” from the missed 2019 target and aim to publish this within six months at the very latest.

Looking further ahead into the session, we agreed during last week’s debate that the next full Climate Change Plan should also then be brought forward as soon as possible. This approach reflects the urgency which the climate emergency demands.

I will be proud to present Scotland’s story and leadership on climate change ambition and delivery to the international community at COP26.

The Glasgow COP will, I am sure, inspire all of us to accelerate our efforts to achieve our shared goal of a just and fair net zero future.

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