Climate Change Bill: consultation summary report

A independent summary report analysing responses to the public consultation on Scottish Government proposals for a Climate Change Bill.

Chapter 4: Reviewing targets and reporting on policies and proposals

4.1. A flexible and responsive target framework – question 7

Currently, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 allows for limited updates to the annual and interim 2020 targets through secondary legislation, but does not include a provision to update the 2050 target. It is proposed that it should be possible to update both the interim and 2050 targets through secondary legislation, subject to Scottish Ministers seeking advice from the CCC and with due regard to a number of specific criteria.

There were 203 [18] responses to question 7a, which asks:

Q7a. What are your views on allowing the interim and 2050 emission reduction targets to be updated, with due regard to advice from the CCC, through secondary legislation?

There were 206 [19] [18] responses to question 7b, which asks:

Q7b. What do you think are the most important criteria to be considered when setting or updating emission reduction targets?

4.1.1. Ability to update interim and 2050 targets – question 7a


Many respondents who discuss the proposal to update interim and 2050 targets through secondary legislation support the principle to allow for updating targets but caveat their support for the proposal. They welcome the necessity to adapt to unforeseen changes in the future, such as in scientific understanding, available technology, or performance against targets

However, many respondents do not support aspects of the current proposal as they prefer to only allow targets to be revised upwards. Other suggest various changes, including:

  • upwards revisions should go through secondary legislation and downwards revisions should go through primary legislation;
  • upwards revisions should go through secondary legislation, via the super-affirmative procedure [20] , and downwards revisions should go through primary legislation;
  • any revisions of targets should be through primary legislation; and
  • it should be harder to change the 2050 target than the interim targets.

Respondents who request the use of primary legislation seek full parliamentary scrutiny of any revisions to targets.

‘…however targets should only be able to be increased and the process should be subject to formal consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny. If targets are to be reduced, this should only be done through primary legislation.’ Organisation


Other respondents oppose the ability to update targets altogether, describing it as a ‘waste of time and money’ or expressing concern that it might be used to evade responsibility for missed targets. Some oppose the use of secondary legislation, but without suggesting an alternative.

One respondent argues that allowing targets to be altered in the future undermines the rationale for setting binding targets in the first place – that of proper scrutiny of the targets and security for stakeholders. They comment that the proposal to allow targets to be updated represents a significant structural change in legal terms.

Other comments

Some respondents request that the Scottish Government seeks advice from bodies other than the CCC when updating targets and to organise a public consultation first.

Others request that any changes to targets be clearly communicated and explained to the Scottish people. They emphasise the need for businesses to be able to plan their decarbonisation efforts well in advance, and therefore request that businesses be given as much notice as possible of any changes of targets. They comment that this is particularly relevant to multinational businesses, as the different countries in which they operate will have different carbon reduction targets.

4.1.2. Criteria for setting or updating targets – question 7b

In response to this question, some respondents simply state the criteria which they believe to be the most important, without commenting further. The criteria of

  • scientific knowledge about climate change
  • technology relevant to climate change
  • environmental considerations

are all frequently listed by respondents as important. Some respondents imply that they agree with the criterion of European and international law and policy, through comments on the importance of the Paris Agreement and the desire to limit climate change to 1.5°C. Other respondents comment that all the proposed criteria are applicable and important.

The criteria of tax and spending, and impact on energy policy, are rarely mentioned by respondents. However, comments on budgeting and on the renewable energy industry, reported on in section 5.2 and Chapter 6 respectively, may be considered relevant to these criteria.

Other criteria, however, receive more extended comments from respondents, with some criticising the criteria or suggesting modifications. These are described below.

The Scottish emissions budget

The consultation document acknowledges that the proposal to express all targets as percentage reductions from baseline levels will lead to the criterion of ‘the objective of not exceeding the fair and safe Scottish emissions budget’ becoming ‘redundant in its present form’ (Climate Change Bill – Consultation Paper, page 19). Some respondents express clear objection to this. Others argue that accounting for cumulative GHG emissions is vital to maintaining the principles of fairness and safety (see section 6.1.5). Other specific suggestions made regarding the criterion of a ‘fair and safe emissions budget’ are:

  • defining a ‘fair’ emissions budget as Scotland’s share of the global emissions budget;
  • defining a ‘safe’ emissions budget as one that limits global temperature increase to 1.5 °C; and
  • adopting the Climate Fairshares Model, and the specific targets suggested within it (see section 6.1.6).

‘The Bill should not abandon reference to a cumulative emissions budget entirely. It must retain the principle that cumulative emissions are important and define a 'fair and safe' budget contribution in the Bill with a clearer focus on climate justice and historical responsibility.’ Organisation

Social circumstances

Many respondents quote this criterion and elaborate further, especially regarding broader issues of equality and fuel poverty. Some respondents comment that climate change targets can disproportionately affect the poorer and less advantaged in society, and that therefore this criterion should be paramount in order to avoid this happening. Others suggest that the principle of intergenerational and international equity should also be considered as important, as well as human rights.

‘With 31% of Scottish households in fuel poverty, these considerations are particularly important for energy policies that will affect all consumers in Scotland, especially those in fuel poverty.’ Organisation

Extended comments on the importance of social equality, including fuel poverty, are given in section 5.1.

Economic circumstances

These criteria described in the consultation document are the most contested. Some respondents state clear agreement with them, and comment on the importance of maintaining business competitiveness in terms of technology, goods and staff.

‘It is vital that climate change ambitions do not jeopardise the competitiveness of Scottish businesses as this could lead to de-industrialisation and will require Scotland to import the goods and skills it requires for a low carbon economy.’ Private sector organisation

However, others comment specifically that the impact on the economy should not affect climate change targets, or that it should be of secondary consideration at best.

‘I don't think emission reduction targets should be set with the "Scottish economy" in mind. Money and wealth is great but if climate change targets are reduced to benefit the economy then the environment will never recover.’ Individual

Extended comments on the importance of businesses and the economy, are given in section 5.2.

Impact on remote rural and island communities

Although only a few respondents highlight the importance of this criterion, comments on it tend to be more specific. Some of these respondents draw attention to the concept that different geographical areas have different abilities to meet targets, meaning that setting a single target for all areas could lead to some being disadvantaged compared to others. For example, a few respondents comment that the remoteness of some communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands means that public transport, electric cars and district heating are less feasible options for residents. They comment that this will make it harder to meet GHG emission reduction targets in these remote communities than it is in other parts of Scotland.

‘In addition, full recognition must be given to the additional constraints and challenges faced by island communities...’ Public body

Other comments

Some respondents suggest additional criteria which they argue should be considered when setting or updating emission reduction targets. The most common of these suggestions are:

  • the impacts on health;
  • the impacts on future generations; and
  • recent performance against targets.

Others suggest criteria such as sustainability and impacts on living standards. More broadly, many respondents emphasise their desire that targets be achievable, ambitious, or that the principle concern when setting targets is to ensure that the negative effects of climate change are kept to a minimum. Some respondents suggest setting targets that are geographically or industry specific (see Chapter 2). Others suggest dividing the criteria into two distinct groups – those to be considered in setting overall targets and those to be considered in the Climate Change Plans.

‘The Council suggests that in a similar vein to the criteria relating to ‘social circumstances’, specific criteria is added to also consider ‘health circumstances’, which fits with the ‘tackling inequality’ element of wider ambitions. This would link to fuel poverty, active travel etc.’ Public body

4.2. Future Climate Change Plans – questions 8 and 9

As well as legislation to set annual targets, Scottish Ministers are required to produce reports about plans for meeting these targets. These are called ‘Report on Proposals and Policies’ ( RPP) and two have been produced, RPP1 in 2011 and RPP2 in 2013. [21] It has recently been proposed that future reports be named ‘Climate Change Plans’.

These plans follow the setting of annual targets. Currently, plans:

  • are set every 5 years;
  • last 16 years;
  • are not aligned with the Paris Stocktake process; and
  • have a 60-day period for Parliamentary consideration.

However, if annual targets cease to be set through legislation (see section 2.3) then the frequency and length of time covered by these reports is now free to be changed, as can the timing for Parliamentary consideration of the plans. It would also be possible to align these plans with the Paris Stocktake process.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires that any excess GHG emissions that occur due to targets being missed must be made up through outperforming on future targets, and that Scottish Ministers must lay a report before the Scottish Parliament setting out proposals and policies to compensate in future years for the excess GHG emissions.

It is proposed that this requirement be retained, and would be implemented through:

  • figures on under/over-performance being included in the statutory annual reports; and
  • the requirement that any cumulative under-performance must be addressed through future Climate Change Plans.

Questions 8a-d ask for respondents’ views on the timing and length of Climate Change Plans. Question 9 asks for respondents’ views on making up any shortfalls through future CCPs.

There were 194 [22] responses to question 8a, which asks:

Q8a. What are your views on the frequency of future Climate Change Plans?

There were 185 [23] responses to question 8b, which asks:

Q8b. What are your views on the length of time each Climate Change Plan should cover?

There were 180 [24] [23] responses to question 8c, which asks:

Q8c. What are your views on how development of future Climate Change Plans could be aligned with Paris Stocktake Processes?

There were 188 [25] responses to question 8d, which asks:

Q8d. How many days do you think the period for Parliamentary consideration of draft Climate Change Plans should be?

There were 200 [26] responses to question 9, which asks:

Q9. What are your views on the proposal that any shortfall against previous targets should be made up through subsequent Climate Change Plans?

4.2.1. Frequency of future Climate Change Plans – question 8a

Many respondents who specify their preferred frequency of future Climate Change Plans ( CCPs) suggest five years, as is currently the case. Other respondents make suggestions ranging from every six months to every 30 years, or simply state that plans should be updated ‘frequently’ or ‘regularly’. Many respondents do not explain why they prefer a frequency of five years. Respondents who do explain, generally feel that five years constitutes the right balance of flexibility and long-term stability.

4.2.2. Duration of future Climate Change Plans – question 8b

Many respondents who specify a preferred length of time that future CCPs should cover suggest 16 years, as is currently the case. Some respondents suggest other durations, with 5 years and 10 years being the most popular. Others suggest that multiple concurrent plans of different lengths be created, containing different levels of detail.

Respondents who favour short-term plans explain these would allow for urgent action to be taken and for quicker adaptation to changes in science, technology or progress against targets.

‘However, my instinct is that the urgency of delivering meaningful progress on climate change and the anticipated speed-up in technology and innovation may merit bringing the planning cycle into a shorter time-frame than the current 16 years.’ Individual

Respondents who prefer long-term plans comment on the need for certainty and stability, and that businesses and technological developments may require long-term planning and investment in order to implement plans.

‘Setting longer Plan durations allows investors to justify investments with long payback periods (e.g. forestry) whereas short plans may not provide adequate stability.’ Individual

4.2.3. Climate Change Plans and Paris Stocktakes – question 8c

Some respondents support the suggestion in the consultation document that CCPs take place after Paris Stocktakes. They point to the perceived need to take the Paris Stocktake findings into account when forming Scottish CCPs. Some suggest that, if Plans are produced before Stocktakes, that the Plans would have to be updated after the Stocktakes anyway. Some respondents who support alignment express the concern that this should not be allowed to introduce unnecessary delay in the process of producing CCPs, with some suggesting that Plans always be produced within one year of Stocktakes.

‘It is useful to align the timing of Climate Change Plans (or RPPs) with the Paris Stocktake Processes as this allows for the RPPs to address any new commitments or issues that arise during the Paris Stocktake Processes.’ Public body

Respondents who oppose the proposed alignment tend to see this as introducing unnecessary delay into Scotland’s efforts to deal with climate change.

‘We don’t believe there is a need for Scotland to wait for the Paris Stocktake Process to develop strong Climate Change Plans. This is because we understand that the Paris Stocktake Process is likely to concentrate initially on ratcheting up commitments by countries with lower targets, and as Scotland’s policy response and targets are at the higher end of the range we are unlikely to be affected in the short to medium term by the Paris stocktake process’ Third sector organisation

As an alternative, some respondents suggest that provisional CCPs should be made before the Paris Stocktakes. These could then be updated after the Stocktakes if necessary. Some respondents feel that this would allow Scotland to set a positive example to the world at the Paris Stocktakes (see section 6.2.3).

4.2.4. Parliamentary consideration of Climate Change Plans – question 8d

Many respondents who specify a preferred length of time for Parliamentary consideration of CCPs suggest 90 days. Many others suggest 120 days, as suggested in the consultation document. Other specific suggestions range from one day to one year, or simply include that the parliamentary consideration time should either be as short as possible or, alternatively, as long as necessary.

Respondents who request that the consideration time be increased from the current 60 days typically believe this would allow for proper scrutiny and consideration of plans. They also comment that a longer period of consideration allows more time for negotiation and consensus-building where necessary.

‘There is a strong case to extend the period for parliamentary scrutiny of draft Climate Change Plans from 60 days, to allow full debate and consideration of the supporting evidence.’ Organisation

Respondents who request that the consideration time be decreased tend, as with other aspects of CCPs, to emphasise the urgency of dealing with climate change. Respondents highlight the need to account for parliamentary recesses when deciding on parliamentary consideration time.

‘This would need to be fairly short so as not to delay the implementation of any new reduction targets.’ Individual

4.2.5. Suggestions for the timing, length, and content of Climate Change Plans

Some respondents provide detailed suggestions for the timing and length of CCPs, including:

  • coordinate CCPs with the setting of climate change targets, with a new CCP every 10 years;
  • coordinate CCPs more with political planning processes, both local and national;
  • the next CCP should be published within one year of the new Climate Change Bill receiving royal assent;
  • publish final CCPs no later than nine months after the publication of the draft CCPs.

Some respondents provide detailed suggestions for the content of CCPs. They suggest that CCPs:

  • incorporate pathways to long-term targets (for example, CCPs should cover 16 years and contain a pathway to meet the 2050 target);
  • can receive interim updates if there are significant shifts in progress against targets, scientific understanding of climate change or technological developments;
  • include details of how recommendations made by parliamentary committees have been addressed;
  • be consulted on before publishing; and
  • be written in a style accessible for the uninitiated.

4.2.6. Shortfalls and subsequent Climate Change Plans – question 9

Many respondents who express a clear position on the proposal to make up any shortfall against targets through subsequent CCPs, support it. A few respondents comment that this is essential to avoid future targets also being missed.

Some respondents object to this proposal. The most common objection made is the perception that, if CCPs are made every five years, this proposal will create too much of a time lag between the shortfall taking place and the action to make up for it.

‘We do not support this proposal. We know that early action to curb emissions is vital if we want to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement. Waiting until the next CCP process to make up shortfalls in Scotland’s progress towards its targets would unnecessarily delay action to curb emissions.’ Organisation

As a result of this objection, some respondents make alternative suggestions as to when and how shortfalls should be dealt with. Common suggestions are that shortfalls should either be addressed immediately or within a year of the shortfall occurring. Respondents often express a sense of urgency to mitigate climate change, and feel that problems should be dealt with as quickly as possible. In contrast to this, other respondents comment that a failure to meet targets suggests that targets are incorrect and might need adjusting.

‘Any such shortfall should be fully explained to the Scottish Parliament and people, and made up as soon as possible.’ Individual

Some respondents indicate a desire for accountability for the occurrence of shortfalls. To this end, they request that, when a shortfall occurs:

  • an assessment be carried out as to exactly how the shortfall occurred;
  • that this assessment includes a performance breakdown of contributions towards targets (by geographical region and/or sector);
  • that this assessment be published; and
  • that, along with assessment, a plan should be published detailing precisely how a shortfall will be dealt with.

‘As targets are sector by sector then there should be adequate data and information to respond to a lag in each sector. Any lag, the causes and action to resolve the shortfall in achieving targets should be published and made publicly available.’ Individual

Some respondents, referencing Section 36 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, argue that the Scottish Government has never provided the report on shortfalls referenced in this section of the Act while it is requirement. They comment that this requirement should therefore be strengthened. Some comment that setting annual targets on a linear trajectory between interim targets may make it more difficult to make up for shortfalls. Further details on setting annual targets and the trajectory between interim targets, can be found in section 2.3.


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