Greenhouse gas emissions statistics 2020: Ministerial statement

Statement given to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson on Tuesday 7 June 2022.

Presiding Officer, last Autumn Scotland was at the forefront of global climate action when we hosted the international community at COP26.

We could not have imagined today’s unprecedented cost of living and energy crisis, nor the deeply concerning new landscape of international relations.  However, we must not lose track of the threat posed to all of our futures by the climate crisis – the facts around which are becoming even starker.

In April, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning that it’s “now or never” to limit warming to 1.5°C.  In response, John Kerry, US climate envoy, said: "We have to still fight for 1.5, as hard as it may be. But I remain an optimist, because I think that if we do what we've promised to do, we can have a 45% cut [in global emissions] between now and 2030."

Presiding Officer, I too am optimistic, and urge all countries to deliver on the Glasgow Climate Pact. Of course, this applies to us here in Scotland too. The purpose of my statement today is to update Parliament on progress to Scotland’s statutory climate targets and set out our next steps.

These steps are constrained by the current limits of devolved powers. We will continue to work with and, where needed, challenge the UK Government to ensure urgent action is being taken in key areas that remain reserved and where a lack of pace impacts the ability to meet our more ambitious targets. However, it is also clear that the contribution that Scotland could make to global climate action would be significantly enhanced if we had the normal powers of other independent states.

Presiding Officer, Official Statistics published this morning show that the interim greenhouse gas emissions target for 2020, of a 56% reduction from the 1990 baseline, was met – with a 58.7% reduction achieved.

This outcome is welcome, as is the fact that the data shows continued underlying progress in reducing emissions across many key sectors of our economy, such as energy supply and in waste management. It also confirms that we continue to outperform the UK as a whole in delivering long-term emission reductions.

However, it is also clear that the largest changes in emissions during 2020 were significantly influenced by the public health measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, transport activity was limited as people were asked to stay at home to save lives.

There can be no satisfaction taken in emissions reductions resulting from such economic and social harm. We must also be prepared for emissions from the transport sector to substantially rebound in 2021.

All of that said, today’s data does provide a valuable lesson regarding the scale of the transformational change needed in response to the climate emergency and the centrality of the transport sector to achieve that aim. The challenge before us is to achieve these outcomes in ways that are sustainable and just.

Whilst the 2020 data reflect the impacts of the pandemic, they do not yet capture the step change in action arising through the update of Scotland‘s Climate Change Plan – which was finalised in March 2021.  The updated Plan is aimed at achieving our ambitious targets over the 2020s and early 2030s, which go beyond what is needed globally to achieve the 1.5 degrees goal, as part of a green recovery from COVID-19.

The latest set of annual monitoring reports on the Plan, laid in Parliament last month alongside our positive repsonse to the Climate Change Committee’s latest progress report, contain more up to date information than today‘s high-level emissions statistics. These reports show welcome early signs of progress on policy implementation and delivery across many sectors.

The Scottish Government‘s focus is on urgently delivering this comprehensive policy package, to ensure that future targets can be met through sustainable, long-term reductions in emissions across all sectors.

In transport, where the impacts of COVID on emissions have been so pronounced, the updated Plan contains action across all modes and has already seen us set out a positive routemap for reducing overall car kilometres by 20% over the longer term.  The Resource Spending Review confirmed our commitment to increase investment by over 200% in active travel from 2024-25 onwards. Low Emission Zones have been introduced in four of our cities as of last week and we are supporting the electrification of public transport – including Scotland’s rail ways by  decarbonising them by 2035.

Scotland’s shift to renewables and support for energy efficiency are also central to our Plan. These are the only real, long term solutions to the current crisis around energy costs.

The Resource Spending Review supported our climate actions, prioritising delivery of critical activities such as increasing spend on our Heat in Buildings strategy and for nature restoration. Our National Strategy for Economic Transformation has the journey to net zero at its heart.

Presiding Officer, I want to look ahead to key steps over the remainder of the Parliament.

We are developing Just Transition Plans for Scotland’s sectors and regions, beginning with a refreshed Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan later this year and including detailed work to assess the pace of transition in the oil and gas sector. These will form part of our economy-wide emission reduction plans, ensuring that future targets can be met in ways that are fair to all, supporting green jobs and seizing opportunities for sustainable economic growth through leading the global energy transition. We have recently announced the first £20 million of the Just Transition Fund to support these efforts.

We have then committed to setting out, by November 2023, a draft for Parliament’s scrutiny of Scotland’s next full Climate Change Plan. This will extend the emissions reduction pathway towards the ambitious 2040 target of a 90% reduction and includes estimates of the costs and benefits of the policies to achieve this.

In line with the requirement of the Climate Change Act, I also wrote in April to the Climate Change Committee to request their next set of regular advice on Scotland’s statutory targets. This is expected in December and will help ensure our approaches continue to reflect the rapidly evolving global landscape of economic circumstances and scientific evidence.

COP27 in Egypt later this year will need to build from the legacy of Glasgow. As set out in our new Global Affairs Framework, and building from the trebling of our Climate Justice Fund over this Parliament, Scotland will continue play a full part on the international stage - helping ensure that climate action supports the most vulnerable people and communities. As I have set out today, we are also working to ensure a track record of domestic delivery that matches the high ambition set by this Parliament in response to the Paris Agreement.

The impact of the COVID pandemic on emissions during 2020 has further highlighted the transformational scale of action needed in response to the global climate emergency and provided a terrible lesson in the imperative need for that transition to be a just one.

In response, the Scottish Government’s commitment to building a net zero and climate resilient nation, through planned approaches that are sustainable and positive for both people and the economy, is unwavering.


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