Update on Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions in 2016

Climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham reports about Scotland's progress towards a low carbon economy.

I am pleased to update Parliament today on the progress that Scotland is making in tackling climate change.

Scotland's transition to a low carbon economy is well underway.

In 1990, Scotland emitted 76 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Statistics published today show that in 2016, that number had almost halved to 39 million tonnes. That's a reduction of 49%.

Scotland continues to outperform the UK as a whole in delivering long-term emission reductions and, amongst western European countries in the EU-15, only Sweden has done better.

This achievement has been a national endeavour requiring effort across the whole of Scotland, in every community, home and organisation. Today's statistics are testament to everyone who has made changes to their personal or business behaviour – those changes are making a real difference.

In terms of how we are progressing against Scotland's current statutory targets under this Parliament's 2009 Act, the statistics published this morning show emissions are down 45%. These targets are set on an adjusted emissions basis, which reflects the operation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in Scotland. On this basis, Scotland has not only met the 2016 annual target but is again exceeding the level of the current interim 2020 target – of a 42% reduction.

Given that our existing statutory targets lie at the most ambitious end of current international pledges to 2030, and we are making sustained progress in meeting them, I am sure you will agree with me that this is good news.

However, there is always scope for improvement in the current reporting of climate targets. For this reason the new Climate Change Bill proposes that all future targets will be set, and reported, using actual emissions, rather than the emissions adjusted for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

A further issue Members will recall from previous years is the technical revisions to the data which happen as measurement science evolves. Decisions about these data revisions are made at a UK level, in line with UN guidelines.

As has become customary, the statistics published today contain substantial revisions to the past data, mainly in the forestry sector. These revisions have worked in our favour, effectively making targets relatively easier to meet than was the case last year.

But in most previous years, revisions have gone the other way – they have made targets harder to meet. Overall the effect of revisions to date has made them harder.

This illustrates how important it is to ensure that target outcomes reflect 'on the ground' actions and are not determined purely by technical changes.

The new Bill implements recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change on this issue. The measurement methods used for reporting target outcomes will be frozen from the time the target levels were last reviewed. This will help ensure that technical changes alone don't determine whether targets are met, or indeed missed.

These shifts will improve transparency and enable government to be held to account, something I know that Parliament is always keen to do.

The statistics published this morning demonstrate that Scotland is halfway through its low-carbon transition. We must build on that momentum, and the global consensus enshrined in the UN Paris Agreement, and commit to doing even more.

Through our Climate Change Bill, we are not only providing solutions to our country's needs and interests, but also putting Scotland in the global vanguard. We are one of the first countries to set new statutory targets, based on independent, expert advice, in line with the global aims of the Paris Agreement.

The Bill will mean that Scotland has the world's most ambitious statutory 2050 target based on domestic actions alone.

The interim targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 will be the most ambitious statutory targets for those years anywhere in the world. Scotland will also remain the only country to have statutory annual targets, allowing Parliament to hold governments to account each and every year. This means there can be no delay to increasing action.

Presiding Officer, there is no doubt that these new statistics demonstrate substantial and substantive progress. But they also show where we need to be mindful of consequences.

Since 1990 energy supply emissions are down 69% and waste and industry have also seen substantial reductions. In particular, the closure of the Longannet power station in March 2016 has had a substantial impact. The move to low carbon energy is the right one but we must also reflect on those who were employed at Longannet. This shows very clearly that the low carbon transition involves, and will continue to involve, very real impacts on people, jobs and local economies. There will be many co-benefits, but there will also be genuine challenges. This is why we need to take a balanced approach to meeting our climate, social and economic priorities.

The transition to a low carbon economy requires transformative change but that change must also be fair and inclusive . It is intended that the Just Transition Commission will explore these admittedly difficult issues, and advise on continuing the transition in a way that promotes cohesion and equality. The form that the Commission will take, and its membership, are currently being considered and will be announced later this year.

The emissions statistics also show where we need to make more progress, particularly transport and buildings.

This government is already focused on tackling these issues. The Switched on Scotland Roadmap outlines plans to increase uptake of electric vehicles and Scotland is taking the lead in promoting the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.

The Route Map for Energy Efficient Scotland published last month sets out our vision that by 2040 all buildings in Scotland are warmer, greener and more efficient.

Turning to the issue of net zero let me be absolutely clear: this government wants to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible. Crucially, I want to get there through responsible, credible legislation, plans and action.

We need to maintain Scotland's momentum because without a doubt, the actions needed to reduce emissions in the future will be much tougher than those of previous decades.

I don't want Scotland to just reduce its emissions. I want us to reduce emissions in a way that supports sustainable and inclusive growth and a fairer society. The transformation to a low carbon economy must benefit all. Otherwise, it could commit Scotland to approaches that will reduce food production, limit connectivity and jeopardise jobs. That sort of dislocation would be neither responsible nor sustainable in the long term.

I also believe that Scotland's transformation should be built upon the strengths of this Parliament's 2009 Act. Setting a target beyond 90% now would mean reducing the integrity of our approach, for example by purchasing international credits, removing sectors from our targets, or relying on future technology that cannot be set out now for scrutiny.

For these reasons the Bill supports our commitment to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible, but does not fix a date for this. The Bill ensures that there is a requirement to have regard to the regular independent, expert advice that will be provided on target levels, including the specific issue of a net-zero date.

As soon as the evidence indicates that there is a credible pathway to net-zero, we will use the mechanisms in the Bill to set the earliest achievable date in law.

The moral, scientific and economic case for global action on climate change is clear and Scotland has risen to this challenge. The statistics published this morning clearly demonstrate the strong progress Scotland continues to make in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The actions taken to date are working. The commitments already made, and in development, will help make further and faster progress. The proposals in this government's Climate Change Bill will help Scotland remain a world leader on tackling climate change and enable Scotland to become a fair and just low carbon society.

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