Climate Change Plan: third report on proposals and policies 2018-2032 (RPP3) - summary

Overview of our Climate Change Plan 2018-2032, setting out how we will continue to drive down emissions over the period to 2032.

10. Wider impacts

Policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only mitigate the risks of climate change but can also have other positive societal impacts such as improved air quality and health outcomes. Identifying these potential wider impacts has been an important part of the development of the Plan. 

The Scottish Government commissioned three evidence reviews[11] of the potential wider impacts of climate change mitigation options, focusing on: agriculture, forestry, waste and related land use; the built environment; and transport. The reviews highlighted the potential for positive social, economic and environmental impacts from the Plan. We have used these evidence reviews to assess the potential wider impacts of the policies within the Plan.


28% total drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Emissions from the electricity sector are expected to fall by 28% (0.8MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan. By 2032, Scotland’s electricity system will supply a growing share of Scotland’s energy needs and by 2030, 50% of all Scotland’s energy needs will come from renewables. Electricity will be increasingly important as a power source for heat and in transport to charge Scotland’s growing fleet of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). Innovative energy systems will improve efficiencies and deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity. Smart domestic energy applications and systems will allow consumers to increase control over their energy use and avoid excessive costs. 

This builds upon progress already made since 1990.  Scotland’s electricity generation mix has changed significantly. Emissions fell by 48% between 1990 and 2015, largely due to an increase in electricity production from renewable sources such as wind. Renewables generated the equivalent of 68.1% of Scotland’s electricity demand in 2017[12], from just over 12% in 2000 – which means we have met our interim target to deliver the equivalent of 50% of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2015.

Scottish communities will benefit from innovative and integrated local energy systems. The transformation of our electricity system will attract investment and stimulate growth of highly skilled employment, benefiting people in both rural and urban areas of Scotland. Harnessing electricity from land, seas, lochs, rivers and the sun will increase Scotland’s resilience against future changes in global energy markets.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

A. From 2020 onwards, Scotland’s electricity grid intensity will be below 50g CO2 per kilowatt hour. The system will be powered by a high penetration of renewables, aided by a range of flexible and responsive technologies.

B. Scotland’s energy supply is secure and flexible, with a system robust against fluctuations and interruptions to supply.


To achieve our ambition in the electricity sector, we are supporting the development of a wide range of renewable technologies by addressing current and future challenges, including market and policy barriers. We will support improvement to electricity generation and network asset management, including network charging and access arrangements that encourage the deployment and availability of renewable projects in Scotland; and encourage development of a range of technologies that aid system security, flexibility and resilience. 

Energy Strategy

The Energy Strategy[13] published in 2017, sets out the Scottish Government’s long-term vision for the future energy system in Scotland. The Strategy’s proposed 2030 ‘all-energy’ target to supply the equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption from renewable sources captures our ambition to adopt a system-wide approach. We have also committed to increasing the productivity of energy use across the Scottish economy by 30% by 2030.


33% total drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Emissions from Scotland’s buildings are expected to fall by 33% (2.9 MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan. Residential and non-domestic buildings are expected to fall by 23% and 53% respectively. In the short term (to 2020) emissions from Scotland’s buildings are expected to fall to 8.7 MtCO2e, primarily driven by energy efficiency improvements, and after 2025, the pace of emissions reduction will increase as we begin to supply an increasing proportion of heat to on-gas grid buildings using lower carbon fuels, where they are a low or no regrets option.

This builds upon progress already made since 1990. Between 1990 and 2015 emissions from Scotland’s buildings fell by 14%. Emissions from Scotland’s residential buildings have fallen by 24% during this period. In addition, the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes has improved in recent years. In 2016, around two fifths (39%) of homes achieved an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of Band C or above. Scotland now has, proportionately, 32% more homes with the top three EPC ratings (A-C) than England[14].

Improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s residential and non-residential buildings will ensure that we keep our homes, schools and businesses warm while conserving energy. The cornerstone of this is the Energy Efficient Scotland[15] programme. To the mid-2020s, Energy Efficient Scotland will focus primarily on energy demand reduction in all buildings in Scotland, tackling fuel poverty and making our businesses more competitive. It will establish solutions for switching heating supplies from high to lower carbon or renewable sources for properties off the mains gas grid, as well as encouraging appropriately-sited district heating.  Beyond that Energy Efficient Scotland will be reviewed and developed in the context of wider changes to heat policy.

2 Achieving our ambition

Where technically feasible by 2020, 60% of walls will be insulated and 70% of lofts in homes will have at least 200mm of insulation.

By 2032:

  • 35% of heat for domestic buildings will be supplied using low carbon technologies[16], where technically feasible, and all buildings (residential and non-domestic) will be insulated to the maximum appropriate level
  • 70% of heat and cooling for non-domestic buildings will be suplied using low carbon heat technologies[17]
  • improvements to the building fabric of Scotland’s buildings will result in a 15% reduction in residential and 20% in non-residential heat demand

Increases in measures such as cavity wall, floor and loft insulation, secondary glazing, smart meters and programmable thermostats, amongst others, will provide consumers with opportunities for cost savings from reducing heat demand, help to alleviate fuel poverty and make businesses more competitive by releasing savings from fuel bills that can be invested in frontline services.

Raising the energy efficiency of Scotland’s building stock will help to minimise the impact of any fuel price rises in future. A growing market and supply chain for energy efficiency services and technologies will stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship, and ensure the people of Scotland live and work in warm buildings in both urban and rural areas.

Policy Outcomes

1)  By 2032, the energy intensity of residential buildings will fall by 30% on 2015 levels.

2)  By 2032, the emissions intensity of residential buildings will fall by at least 30% on 2015 levels.

3)  By 2032, non-domestic energy productivity to improve by at least 30% on 2015 levels.

4)  By 2032, the emissions intensity of the non-domestic sector will fall by at least 30% on 2015 levels.


The Scottish Government will support the delivery of energy efficiency solutions, such as insulation and boiler replacement, reducing domestic and public and private sector energy use. The Scottish Government allocated £116 million in the 2018‑2019 budget to support delivery of energy efficiency measures through our Home Energy Efficiency Programme. Energy efficiency in the social rented sector will be improved through our Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing, which requires social landlords to improve the EPC rating of their properties before 2020. The Scottish Government will support delivery of the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and encourage investment in decarbonisation of business and the public sector through £76 million funding to 2018, with an additional £60 million allocated from 2018-2020. We will also support public and third sector organisations to retrofit their building stock through the Non Domestic Public Sector Energy Efficiency framework.

Energy Efficient Scotland

Energy Efficient Scotland will radically improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes, and buildings in the commercial, public and industrial sectors. It will build upon a transition programme, which offers local authorities incrementally greater opportunities to deliver integrated energy efficiency projects. The Scottish Government awarded £4.6 million funding in 2017-2018 for pilots to test integrated solutions to improve the energy performance of residential, commercial and public buildings, and investments to decarbonise the heat supply. Within the pilots, 12 local authorities are also considering approaches to Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies. In May 2018[18] we launched a full Route Map for Energy Efficient Scotland and introduced the Energy Efficient Scotland Transition Programme. By 2050, Energy Efficient Scotland will have transformed the energy efficiency and heating of Scotland’s buildings. This will make our homes, shops, offices, schools and hospitals warmer and easier to heat. Reducing energy demand will help tackle fuel poverty, help businesses become more competitive, and release savings in the public sector for front line services.

All homes and businesses will be offered a smart meter by 2020 under a UK Government initiative, providing the opportunity for a greater understanding of final energy consumption and to maximise benefits to consumers – particularly those who are vulnerable or in fuel poverty. We will continue to support decarbonisation of our buildings through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which provides financial support to the owner of the renewable heating system and is targeted but not limited to off-gas grid solutions. We will support transition to low carbon heating by supporting the District Heating Loan Fund, which helps address the financial and technical barriers to district heating projects by offering low interest loans. During the development of Energy Efficient Scotland, we will consider what sort of funding mechanisms are needed to support low carbon heat technologies over longer time frames. The Heat Network Partnership, a collaboration of agencies focused on the promotion and support of district heating schemes, will encourage capacity building and project development to support heat planning and programme delivery work that will be developed by local authorities.


37% drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Emissions from transport are expected to fall by 37% (4.7 MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan. Our ambition is to reduce emissions from transport in ways that promote sustainable environmental and socio-economic wellbeing.

In 2015, transport emissions (including those from international aviation and shipping) amounted to 13.1 MtCO2e, marginally below the 1990 baseline figure of 13.3 MtCO2e. Within that long-term profile, we have seen significant reductions more recently: since transport emissions peaked at 14.9 MtCO2e in 2007, they have fallen by a total of 1.8 MtCO2e, although in the last two years emissions from transport have risen marginally, driven by increases from cars, goods vehicles and international aviation.

To help achieve our ambitions over the lifetime of the Plan, we will phase out the need to buy petrol and diesel engine cars and vans by 2032, a full eight years ahead of the UK Government. This will be driven by a significant increase in the uptake of ultra-low emission battery electric and hydrogen electric vehicles, which may also play a role in management of the wider energy system. 

We will also work to clean up heavier vehicles such as buses, HGVs and ferries and support operators and owners by implementing low emission solutions at Scottish airports and ports. Low emission zones in Scotland’s largest cities will improve air quality in our urban areas by limiting the access of vehicles that exceed emissions benchmarks while providing unrestricted access to low emission cars, vans and buses. Increased active travel investment will see our towns and cities become safer and friendlier spaces for cyclists and pedestrians.

Our vision is that by 2050, Scotland will be free from harmful tailpipe emissions from land transport with other modes decarbonising at a slower rate. This will result in a significant reduction in overall transport emissions and we will be enjoying the social, health and economic benefits of noticeably improved air quality.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

1) Average emissions per kilometre of new cars and vans registered in Scotland to reduce in line with current and future EU/UK vehicle emission standards.

2) Proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans registered in Scotland annually to reach 100% by 2032.

3) Average emissions per tonne kilometre of road freight to fall by 28% by 2032.

4) Proportion of the Scottish bus fleet which are low emission vehicles has increased to 50% by 2032.

5) By 2032 low emission solutions have been widely adopted at Scottish ports and airports.

6) Proportion of ferries in Scottish Government ownership which are low emission has increased to 30% by 2032.

7) We will have electrified 35% of the Scottish rail network by 2032.

8) Proportion of total domestic passenger journeys travelled by active travel modes has increased by 2032, in line with our Active Travel Vision, including the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland Vision that 10% of everyday journeys will be by bike by 2020.


We will:

  • negotiate stretching emission standards for new cars and vans beyond 2021; and vehicle excise duty differentials between ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) and diesel and petrol vehicles to support and encourage uptake of ULEV
  • investigate the potential for biofuels to be used sustainably in the decarbonisation of the whole transport sector 
  • enhance the capacity of the electric vehicle charging network by supporting development of charge points for consumers and providing funding for town and cities to meet transition needs
  • encourage uptake of ULEVs by providing interest free loans to consumers, businesses, taxi and the private hire sector 
  • support the public sector in leading the way in transitioning to ULEVs, in particular local authorities in delivering low carbon public transport
  • support an increase in active travel by doubling funding from £40 million to £80 million from 2018-2019 and supporting programmes to encourage travel behaviour change


21% drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Emissions from the industrial sector are expected to fall by 21% (2.2 MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan through a combination of fuel diversification, cost saving energy efficiency, heat recovery and participation in the EU Emissions Trading System.

The industry sector saw a 10.3 MtCO2e (49%) fall in emissions between 1990 and 2015. Emissions figures from this sector have been more constant in recent years, albeit with small fluctuations since 2009. There was a 4% (0.5 MtCO2e) decrease in emissions between 2013 and 2015.

The introduction of innovative technologies will present significant economic opportunities for Scottish businesses by stimulating investment and increasing productivity to better compete on a global scale. Industrial energy efficiency will enable heat recovery, which could provide an additional income stream, enhance productivity, increase resilience and reduce risk arising from volatile energy prices. 

Industrial clustering will help to decrease costs by sharing infrastructure, such as district heating networks, and creating more efficient supply chains. Continuing participation in the EU and UK regulatory frameworks will stimulate decarbonisation and provide certainty for business investment in low carbon technologies. Outcomes are now monitored by measures that embed our support of economic activity within our ambition to decarbonise industrial processes.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

1) By 2032, industrial and commercial energy productivity to improve by at least 30%, from 2015 levels, through a combination of fuel diversification, energy efficiency improvements and heat recovery.

2) By 2032, industrial and commercial emissions intensity will fall by at least 30%, from 2015 levels, through a combination of fuel diversification, energy efficiency improvements and heat recovery.

3) Technologies critical to further industrial emissions reduction (such as carbon capture and storage, carbon capture and utilisation, and production and injection of hydrogen into the gas grid) are demonstrated at commercial scale by 2030.


The Scottish Government will negotiate for a level playing field in the EU ETS cap share in line with meeting Scotland’s domestic ambitions. We will incentivise the industry sector to shift from gas to alternative fuels and encourage uptake of renewable heat technologies through the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. We will provide a coordinated approach to incentives and investment opportunities in energy efficiency measures. This reflects our commitment to manage the transition toward decarbonising industry and builds on existing means of support such as those provided by the Manufacturing Action Plan. We will continue exploring the scope for accessing finance for cross-sector technology demonstrator projects such as Carbon Capture and Storage, and hydrogen used for local energy and transport. 

Heading still to come?

The future of Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilisation in Scotland beyond 2032

  • Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilisation is an essential technology for further industrial emissions reduction.
  • Existing infrastructure makes Scotland one of the best-placed countries in Europe to realise Carbon Capture and Storage on a commercial scale.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage may be critical to unlocking the potential for large scale low-carbon hydrogen production.
  • Carbon Capture and Utilisation could help Scotland to shift to a more circular economy through better use and management of carbon for processes.


52% drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Emissions are expected to fall by 52% (0.6 MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan as we reduce, re-use and recycle more waste, capture gas from landfill sites and transition to a more circular economy.

Waste has already seen a 4.2 MtCO2e (75%) fall in emissions between 1990 and 2015. This is a result of the progressive introduction of landfill gas being captured and used for energy and the ongoing reduction in biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill. Other factors may contribute to this reduction, including improvements in the standards of landfill and changes to the types of waste going to landfill.

Emissions will continue to fall as we make progress towards our ambitious waste targets. By January 2021, the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste will be phased out. By 2025, we expect to reduce food waste by 33%, and to recycle 70% of all waste.

By 2050, we aim to be delivering emissions reductions through a circular economy approach in our business and industry sectors. Products will be designed for longer lifetimes, second hand goods will be seen as a good value, mainstream option, and major industrial sectors to be optimising the value of used equipment, such as the reuse of elements of energy infrastructure. 

Emissions from closed landfill sites in Scotland will be captured, where possible, with long-term plans for wider methane utilisation. 

Through a more circular economy, businesses will increase their productivity, new markets will stimulate the jobs market and Scotland will reduce its reliance on scarce resources. The people of Scotland will benefit from the greater availability of lower cost options, access to second hand or refurbished goods; and will make savings through repairing items rather than replacing them, bringing opportunities for social enterprise.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

1)  Reduction in waste sent to landfill.

2)  Reduction in emissions from closed landfill sites.


We aim to recycle 70% of all waste by 2025 and reduce food waste by 33% (from 2013 baseline) by 2025. The Scottish Government will end landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste by January 2021 and reduce the percentage of all waste sent to landfill to 5% by 2025. Over the course of the Plan, we will establish a more circular economy, where goods and materials are kept in use for longer. We will take action to capture gas from closed landfill sites to tackle emissions of methane – so far 12 potentially suitable sites have been identified by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Making things last

‘Making Things Last – a Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland’ sets out our priorities for moving towards a more circular economy – where products and materials are kept in high value use for as long as possible. It builds on Scotland’s progress in the zero waste and resource efficiency agencies. A more circular economy will benefit:

  • the environment by cutting waste and carbon emissions and reducing reliance on scarce resources;
  • the economy by improving productivity, opening up new markets and improving resilience; and
  • communities by providing more, lower cost options to access the goods we need with opportunities for social enterprise.

Land use, Land use change and forestry

Carbon Sink of -6.7MTCO2e in 2032

1 Our ambition

The sector is expected to be a sink of around -6.9MTCO2e by 2020, dipping slightly after 2021, and then fairly constant until 2032.


By 2032, Scotland’s woodland cover will increase from 18% to 21% of Scottish land area. The ambition is that the rate of woodland creation will increase to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025 and the quantity of Scottish timber in UK construction will increase from 2.2 million cubic metres (current) to around 3 million cubic metres by 2031-2032. By 2050, Scotland’s woodlands will be an intrinsic part of ecosystem services, such as natural flood management and biodiversity enhancement.


By 2020, 50,000 hectares of degraded peatland will have been restored, with another 200,000 hectares restored over the following ten years – an improvement of valuable soils across 20% of Scotland. By 2050, Scotland’s expanded peatlands will sustain a diverse ecosystem and sequester more carbon than ever before.


Based on the 2015 GHG Inventory, in 1990, LULUCF as a whole was emitting a net 1.5 MtCO2e. However by 2015 there had been a significant increase in net sequestration of up to -2.8 MtCO2e.  

The emissions projections data, provided by the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and produced by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), which we have used for 2016 onwards, incorporate a number of changes to the approach taken to estimating LULUCF emissions. These changes are reflected in the 2016 GHG Inventory, (published in June 2018), which increases the scale of the LULUCF sector as a sink.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

1)  A stepped increase in annual woodland creation rates from 2020-2021 will mean more trees capturing more carbon and helping to reduce emissions. 

2)  Encouraging the construction industry to increase its use of sustainably sourced wood where appropriate to store carbon and reduce emissions.

3)  An increase in the annual rate of peatland restoration, from 10,000 hectares in 2017-2018 to 20,000 hectares per year thereafter will result in more carbon storage in peatland.


To achieve our forestry ambition, the Scottish Government will: 

  •   provide support funding for eligible landowners who are creating woodlands or restoring peatland
  •   create new sustainable woodland on the National Forest Estate to help meet woodland creation targets
  •   run more farm-based events to illustrate the productivity benefits of integrating farming and forestry

The Scottish Government will work with other UK administrations to maintain a UK Forestry Standard for sustainable forestry and, in partnership with the forestry sector, increase the promotion of the Woodland Carbon Code. Together with private forest sector and other public sector bodies, the Timber Development Programme will support the promotion and development of wood products for use in construction. Land managers, contractors and others looking to deliver peatland restoration projects will be given tools and information to develop their knowledge, capacity and skills.

Blue Carbon

Still a relatively new concept, ‘blue carbon’ refers to the carbon sequestered and stored in marine ecosystems. Some marine ecosystems may be as important as forests and peatland for carbon capture and storage. Degradation or damage of these ecosystems may release carbon, and compromise their ability to sequester carbon in the future. 

Many habitats and species important for blue carbon – Priority Marine Features – are given general protection under the National Marine Plan and many are also safeguarded within Scotland’s Marine Protected Area Network, providing potential to enhance these important ecosystems.

Further research into blue carbon is needed so Marine Scotland, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish academic institutions, has developed a new research programme for one post-doctoral study and eight doctorates.


9% drop in emissions between 2018 and 2032

1 Our ambition

Agriculture emissions are expected to fall by 9% (0.8 MtCO2e) over the lifetime of the Plan. We want Scotland to be a world-class producer of high quality food: sustainably, profitably and efficiently in environmental and economic terms.

On agriculture our ambition is for Scotland to be among the lowest carbon and most efficient food producers in the world. Growing numbers of farmers and crofters will adopt low carbon farming practices that will not only achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions but will generate improvements in animal health and welfare, provide cleaner water and air, increase the volume of our national carbon sink and give farmers more financial security through cost savings.

The Agriculture and Related Land Use sector (as defined in the GHG inventory) has seen a fall of 3.8 MtCO2e (25.8%) in emissions between 1990 and 2015. The definition used by the TIMES model shows the decline to be 14% (the difference between the Inventory and TIMES is down to the Related Land Use component of Agriculture, which is captured in the Agriculture and Related Land Use category in the Inventory and in the LULUCF sector envelope in TIMES.  This fall is mostly attributable to four factors: efficiency improvements in farming, such as higher milk yields per cow; fewer cattle and sheep; reduction in the amount of nitrogen fertiliser being applied; reduction in grassland being ploughed for arable production.

By 2020, we will work with farmers so that they know the pH of the soil on a third of their improved land to encourage the efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser. We will encourage farmers producing a substantial proportion of Scotland’s agricultural output to complete a carbon audit, and by 2030 most farmers will know the nutrient value of their improved soil and will be implementing best practice in nutrient management and application.

By 2050, Scottish farmers will be making full use of technology to apply precision farming techniques across the board, and Scotland’s land will be producing sustainable, healthy, nutritious and high quality food while providing a substantial contribution to Scotland’s national carbon sink that offsets emissions elsewhere in our economy.

2 Achieving our ambition

Policy Outcomes

1)  More farmers, crofters, land managers and other primary food producers are aware of the benefits and practicalities of cost-effective climate mitigation measures and uptake will have increased.

2)  Emissions from nitrogen fertiliser will have fallen through a combination of improved understanding, efficient application and improved soil condition.

3)  Reduced emissions from red meat and dairy through improved emissions intensity.

4)  Reduced emissions from the use and storage of manure and slurry.

5)  Carbon sequestration on agricultural land has helped to increase our national carbon sink.


We will take a holistic approach to protecting and enhancing our soil, optimising land use, tackling livestock disease, utilising the latest technology, maximising input efficiency and turning wastes into resources. To encourage greater adoption of low carbon farming approaches, we will form an agri-tech group to help disseminate information and advice on climate change mitigation measures, as well as the latest advances in science, through a range of communication methods and technologies. We will recruit volunteer Young Farming Climate Change Champions who will be trained to explain, promote and encourage low carbon farming among their peers. 

To increase the efficient use of fertilisers, we will encourage greater uptake of precision farming; and provide information, advice, and practical demonstrations on the benefits of soil testing. The Scottish Government will support improvements in fertility, reducing mortality and management practices in the livestock sector to generate products that have lower emissions intensity. We will reduce emissions from the use and storage of manure and slurry by looking into the feasibility of large-scale anaerobic digestion, and we will engage with farmers to establish how they can improve manure and slurry management. We will explore how best to increase planting of trees and hedgerows which optimise carbon sequestration, including the role of agroforestry.



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