Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target year: information and analysis

Information and analysis paper to support discussion of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.


On 23 May 2018 the Scottish Ministers introduced the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill 2018 (the Bill) to the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill sets out the most ambitious, legally binding, domestic emissions reduction targets of any country in the world. It also reflects the Government’s aspiration to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible. The targets in the Bill are:

  • 56% emissions reduction by 2020
  • 66% emissions reduction by 2030
  • 78% emissions reduction by 2040
  • 90% emissions reduction by 2050

This Bill puts into law the Scottish Government’s intent to deliver our fair share of the global emissions reduction necessary to limit temperature rises to 1.5˚C. It demonstrates our commitment to global leadership in tackling climate change.

In preparing the Bill, Ministers have considered the most ambitious domestic target for 2050 that can credibly be set at the present time. The independent, expert advice received from the UK Committee on Climate Change ( CCC) is that, at the present time, a 90% target is at the limit of feasibility. The Bill ensures that Ministers will regularly review the earliest date that a net-zero target can be set, that these reviews will be informed by advice from the CCC that will be publicly available, and allows for the earliest achievable date to be set in legislation.

This paper summarises the information and analysis considered by Ministers in determining both the 90% target and the aspiration of net-zero and is presented to the Parliament to help inform its own consideration of these issues. It assesses Scotland’s targets and ambition against those of other leading nations and considers the implications, both domestic and international, of Scotland setting a net-zero emissions date in legislation at this point.

Putting a net-zero target year into legislation just now, before a credible pathway for achieving it through domestic effort can be shown, would require Scotland to compromise its existing framework in one or all of the following ways:

  • by paying other countries to reduce emissions on our behalf through the purchase of international carbon credits, instead of focussing purely on domestic effort
  • by removing some sectors from the target
  • by making legally binding commitments that are dependent on as yet undeveloped technological advancement and cannot be properly scrutinised
  • by taking steps that would have a substantial detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing and the economic growth of Scotland


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