Net-zero Target: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Information requested

You requested the following information:

  • What is the Scottish government's definition of 'net zero'?
  • Assuming Scotland's achieves it's 'net zero' target by 2045 has any assessment been undertaken to calculate how much this will contribute to lowering global temperatures ?
  • How much money is estimated to be spent by 2045 in order for the Scottish government to achieve it's net zero commitments?


As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Response to your request

A response to each of your questions is provided below.

Question: What is the Scottish government's definition of 'net zero' ?
Scotland's net-zero emissions target is defined by section A1(1) of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, as amended by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, available at the following link: Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 ( Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again.

By way of further explanation, the Scottish Government's net-zero target has been set in direct response to the international Paris Agreement which calls for global peaking of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible, with rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science "so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century" (i.e. net-zero).

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 amended the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, increasing the ambition of Scotland's emissions reduction targets and setting in law a net-zero target date of 2045. Scotland also remains one of very few countries to have set legally binding annual targets to reduce emissions in each and every year from now until net-zero. 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 by carbon sinks. Currently, the main set of carbon sinks in Scotland are associated with the effects of grasslands and forestry to remove carbon from the atmosphere, as well as the carbon stored in wood products. As part of Scotland’s future pathway to net zero, as set out in our updated Climate Change Plan (available at: Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan 2018–2032 - update - (, we also recognise the need to bring forward key new Negative Emissions Technologies to compensate for residual emissions in hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as agriculture and international transport.

The methods used to measure emissions and removals for the purpose of assessing progress to the targets are based on international carbon reporting practice, using an annual Scottish greenhouse gas inventory which is subject to a rigorous quality assurance process and third party scrutiny. The latest Scottish inventory data for 2021 are available at: Scottish Greenhouse Gas Statistics 2021 - Scottish Greenhouse Gas Statistics 2021 - (

The 2019 Act also establishes a clear statutory default position that all Scottish targets are to be met through domestic effort alone (i.e. reducing territorial emission sources and/or increasing territorial carbon sinks), without any reliance on the purchase by Scottish Ministers of international offsetting credits

Question: Assuming Scotland's achieves it's 'net zero' target by 2045 has any assessment been undertaken to calculate how much this will contribute to lowering global temperatures ?
The Scottish Government has not calculated the impact on global temperature from Scotland achieving net-zero emissions. However, every tonne of carbon counts wherever it is emitted which is why it is crucial that all countries, including Scotland, play their full part in achieving the aims of international climate change agreements including the United Nations Paris Agreement. This 2015 Agreement urges all nations to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. This was followed by the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact which recognises that – in line with the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires reducing global carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases. Scotland’s statutory target to reach net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 follows advice from our independent statutory advisory body, the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), on an ambitious and achievable contribution to the global goals of the Paris Agreement, while achieving net-zero in Scotland will be needed for the UK to meet its’ statutory target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Question: How much money is estimated to be spent by 2045 in order for the Scottish government to achieve it's net zero commitments?
In line with Scotland’s climate change legislation, policies and proposals for meeting statutory targets are set out in regular climate change plans. The current plan covers the period to 2032 and the next climate change plan - expected to be published in draft later this year - will cover the period to 2040 and will be the first plan that is required by legislation to include the costs and benefits of the policies it contains. As policies have not been set out as far as 2045, it is not possible to estimate the cost of achieving the 2045 net zero target. However, successive Scottish Budgets have demonstrated a commitment to the centrality of a just transition to a net zero and climate resilient Scotland - the 2023/24 Budget includes over £2.2 billion of investment in this regard. Spend on measures that reduce emissions will deliver a wide range of other benefits, for example, enhancing energy security by investing in renewable energy; insulating homes to reduce energy consumption and also tackle fuel poverty; and making public and active transport more accessible to reduce car use which can reduce costs and improve air quality and health. These measures, and many more, can reduce costs, reduce our emissions and secure employment and wider economic benefits.

The CCC's 2019 advice on the UK's contribution to stopping global warming concluded that achieving net-zero emissions is necessary, feasible and cost-effective, and that the overall economic impact of cutting emissions to net-zero is likely to be small globally and in the UK could turn out to be positive. The CCC stated that “Accepting this cost is preferable to inaction given the range of risks from unchecked climate change globally and in the UK”, while achieving net-zero in the UK will result in “significant benefits” which could partially or fully offset costs.

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Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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