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.

Section 2: International comparisons

Scottish Ministers want to deepen Scotland’s contribution to global action on climate change. Adopting new, more stretching targets puts Scotland amongst a select number of countries who have committed to translating the Paris Agreement into domestic law. In addition, certain features of the the Bill set Scotland apart as having one of the toughest legislative frameworks anywhere in the world. Following passage of the Bill:

  • Scotland will have the most ambitious target in legislation for 2050 that will be based on domestic effort alone
  • Scotland will continue to be the only country with annual targets in legislation
  • Scotland will have the most ambitious interim targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 in legislation
  • Scotland will continue to be the only country that includes a fair share of all international aviation and shipping in its targets
  • Scotland’s targets will continue to cover all greenhouse gases – including those generated by land use changes

Comparisons between different countries’ legal frameworks are not straightforward. France, UK, EU, Sweden, Norway and Finland each have domestic legislation for reducing emissions by between 75 and 100%. Sweden’s legislation is considered by some as being the most ambitious – with a net-zero target for 2045 – however, it reserves the right to make up a significant share (15%) of this reduction through payments to other countries. Scotland’s proposed 90% reductions will come from domestic effort alone.

There are other jurisdictions, such as California and New York State, who also have ambitious legislation relating to emissions reduction and others who are actively considering net-zero targets. Iceland, for example, has made a political commitment to net-zero but not yet indicated how they intend to achieve it or indicated a plan to legislate for it. A commitment to legislate for a net-zero target has been made in New Zealand, though decisions about which sectors of the economy will be included and whether or not all effort will be domestic have yet to be made.

The Scottish Government is closely monitoring international developments and is committed to international co-operation. For example, in the past year the First Minister signed a letter of co-operation with Governor Jerry Brown of California and spoke at a number of events both in Scotland and overseas, including at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland and COP23 in Germany. [1] In addition, Scottish Government support for climate outreach programmes has increased, such as with support for the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan and the Women’s Delegate Fund.

There has also been support for Under2 Coalition projects, like the Future Fund, to help developing countries engage with the global climate agenda and a policy initiative to develop better understanding around the role out of electric vehicles. This builds on the work of previous years, contributing to strengthening Scotland’s status as a world leader on climate change, and sets the scene for developing Scotland’s message on climate action, spreading it further and more visibly across the world.


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