Climate Change Bill: consultation

Consultation on a new Climate Change Bill to amend parts of the 2009 Act relating to emission reduction targets and reporting duties.

Section 1: A new Climate Change Bill

Ambition to tackle climate change is at the heart of the Scottish Government's aim to create a growing, sustainable and inclusive economy. Since the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was introduced there has been strong progress in reducing the quantity of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere in Scotland. There has also been increasing recognition that doing so can provide wide economic and social benefits, such as new jobs, improved air quality, and positive health outcomes.

Chart 1 shows the reduction in emissions in Scotland since the baseline period (which is 1990 for most greenhouse gases - see Box 2). The latest data show that, as of 2015, emissions have been reduced by 37.6% from baseline levels. The purpose of the proposed new Climate Change Bill is to strengthen our existing commitments and ambitions to decarbonise the economy, and improve health and social outcomes across Scotland.

Chart 1: Change in Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990

Chart 1: Change in Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990

Box 1: The 2009 Act

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 ('the Act') set targets to reduce Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared to the 1990/1995 baseline. As well as domestic emissions, Scotland's share of emissions from international aviation and shipping are included in the targets.

The Act does not provide either the precise trajectory or policy mix for achieving emission reductions, but creates a framework for managing the transition towards a low carbon Scotland. Annual emissions targets are set in secondary legislation (see Box 4) in batches, consistent with achieving the long-term 2020 and 2050 targets and, after setting annual targets, proposals and policies for meeting those targets are published in draft for consideration by the Scottish Parliament, before being finalised.

Part 1 of the Act created the statutory framework for greenhouse gas emission reductions in Scotland by setting an interim 42% reduction target for 2020, with the power for this to be varied based on expert advice, and an 80% reduction target for 2050.

Part 2 places duties on Ministers to request advice from an advisory body (the UK Committee on Climate Change) and on that advisory body to report on Scottish Ministers' progress towards achievement of targets.

Part 3 places duties on Scottish Ministers requiring that they report regularly to the Scottish Parliament on Scotland's emissions and on the progress being made towards meeting the emissions reduction targets set in the Act.

Parts 4 and 5, which are outwith the scope of this consultation, place climate change duties on Scottish public bodies, and includes a broad range of provisions regarding, for example, adaptation, forestry, energy efficiency and waste reduction.

Box 2: The Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The Scottish greenhouse gas inventory is the tool used to assess emissions and report against targets. The inventory is compiled in line with international guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Data is reported by source sector (such as energy supply) and by greenhouse gas.

The greenhouse gases included in the inventory are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the four F-gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride). These gases are weighted by Global Warming Potential ( GWP), so that total greenhouse gas emissions can be reported on a consistent basis. The Global Warming Potential for each gas is defined as its warming influence relative to that of carbon dioxide over a 100 year period. Greenhouse gas emissions are then presented in carbon dioxide equivalent ( CO2e) units.

The inventory includes greenhouse gas emissions that are produced onshore in Scotland, with the addition of a share of emissions from international shipping and aviation. Other offshore emissions, such as those from the North Sea oil and gas industry, are not allocated to Devolved Administrations.

Emissions in the inventory can be positive - where greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, or negative - where greenhouse gases are taken out of the atmosphere. Emissions can be taken out of the atmosphere by natural "carbon sinks" such as forests and peatland. Technologies are being developed that could provide more negative emissions in the future. Negative emissions are subtracted from the positive emissions to provide the overall net emissions figure.

The baseline period for reporting against climate change targets are:

  • 1990 for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide;
  • 1995 for F gases: hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.

There have been several revisions to the Scottish greenhouse gas inventory since annual targets were legislated for in 2009. These changes reflect improvements in the methodology for estimating emissions.

For further information about how greenhouse gas emissions are measured see

An evidence led approach

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) Paris Agreement was signed in December 2016 at the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris. The Agreement's central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. [1]

It is intended that the Climate Change Bill will update Scotland's framework of statutory emission reduction targets by increasing the ambition enshrined in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The targets need to be evidence-based and ambitious. They must also be credible and consistent with what is best for Scotland's people, both now and in the future.

To ensure our targets are credible and evidence-based, in October 2016 the Scottish Government requested advice from the Committee on Climate Change ( CCC), our independent, expert advisors. [2] Advice was requested on the appropriate level of targets, their form and measurement, and flexibility to update them.

The CCC put out a call-for-evidence in December 2016 to gather views from stakeholders, experts, and individuals. The responses to the call-for-evidence are available at the CCC website at [3] The CCC also held an evidence session for stakeholders in Edinburgh in January 2017.

The CCC considered the latest climate science, the implications of the Paris Agreement and the feasibility and cost of long-term emission reductions in Scotland, together with their experience of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The Committee also took note of the responses it received to its call for evidence, to the testimony it heard during its evidence session in Scotland, and to the wider interaction it had with Scottish stakeholders.

In March 2017 the Committee published their advice. It can be read at

This advice has been carefully considered by the Scottish Government, in discussion with key stakeholders, and forms the basis of the majority of proposals set out in this consultation paper.

The scope of this consultation

The intention is that the Bill will strengthen the ambition and strategic framework for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland, under which specific delivery policies are, and will continue to be, required. The proposed Climate Change Bill will amend only those parts of the 2009 Act that relate to emission reduction targets and associated reporting duties. It will not amend any parts of the Act relating to adaptation. It will also remain the case that detailed proposals and policies for delivering against the statutory targets will be set out in climate change plans. This consultation is therefore focussed on the strategic ambition and not delivery mechanisms.

The draft Climate Change Plan for the period 2017-2032 was laid before Scottish Parliament on 19 January 2017 for scrutiny, and can be read on the Scottish Government website at

The reports of the Parliamentary committees involved in the scrutiny process are now being considered by the Scottish Government. A final version of the Plan will be published in early 2018 and will be the last produced under the 2009 Act. Future climate change plans will be developed following the passage through Parliament of the proposed Climate Change Bill and it will be at that stage that Ministers will consider what policies and proposals are necessary to deliver against the new targets.


Email: Jack Murray,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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