Net zero: Scottish government scrapping 2030 climate target 'like striking match in a petrol station'

Scottish net zero secretary Mairi McAllan also announced a new package of climate action measures to support Scotland's "just transition to net zero" (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)Scottish net zero secretary Mairi McAllan also announced a new package of climate action measures to support Scotland's "just transition to net zero" (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Scottish net zero secretary Mairi McAllan also announced a new package of climate action measures to support Scotland's "just transition to net zero" (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire) | Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Scotland’s goal to reduce emissions 75% by 2030 was now “out of reach”, its net zero chief says

The Scottish government is formally abandoning a key climate change target, in what environmental campaigners have branded one of the worst moves in its history.

On Thursday (18 April), Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan announced the country’s goal of slashing emissions 75% by 2030 - included in legislation voted into law in 2019 - was now “out of reach”. But the government, including first Minister Humza Yousaf, have maintained they are still committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 - five years earlier than the UK as a whole.

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MSPs would instead bring forward legislation to ensure Scotland’s climate change target “better reflects the reality of long-term climate policymaking”, she said. McAllan also claimed that the UK government was holding Scotland back from its net zero goals, in part by imposing “severe budgetary restrictions” which meant the Scottish government was trying to “deliver societal and economic transformation with one hand tied behind our back”.

“We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale which is feasible, fair and just,” the net zero secretary added, as she unveiled a “new package of climate action measures”. The Scottish government pledged to treble the number of charging points available for electric vehicles and look into a new, nationally integrated public transport ticketing system, to cut fossil fuel emissions from vehicles.

Net zero campaigners and climate business leaders have rushed to slam the move. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Imogen Dow told PA that SNP and Green ministers choosing the scrap these climate commitments was “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish Parliament”.

Greenpeace UK's political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said that legislating to reduce Scotland’s climate ambition, fresh off the back of the planet's hottest year on record, was akin to striking a match in a petrol station. “It might not set the whole thing ablaze immediately, but it’s clearly a dangerous step to take,” she said.

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“The problem was not the ambition of Scotland’s 2030 emissions reduction goal - it was entirely achievable when set five years ago - but the failure of the Scottish government to deliver the policies required to meet it,” Ms McCarthy continued. “Lessons must be learned from this shameful backtrack, both in Holyrood and in Westminster.  High ambition and bold targets are needed. But to actually tackle the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, they must come with equally ambitious policies and political will.”

Meanwhile, climate business charity Ashden’s UK policy lead, Will Walker, said in a statement that Scotland missing its ambitious climate target for 2030 did not look good. “But instead of this becoming another front in a net zero culture war, we should remain focused on the massive economic benefits of getting back on track,” he continued.

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) figures showed that the UK’s net zero economy was nearly twice as productive as the national average, he said, but big trading blocks like the US, Europe, and China were “putting the pedal to the metal”.

“Government is responsible for missing these targets - leadership and policy failures can be traced back to both Holyrood and Westminster - but it is the people, communities, [small and medium businesses] and ultimately UK plc that will lose out if we do not accelerate on net zero,” Mr Walker said. “Missing national emissions targets in Scotland is obviously a problem. However, it is the lack of a long-term, coherent, policy framework that works with the grain of local action and delivery that is the bigger issue here.”

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The news from Scotland comes amid fears that the UK appeared to be wavering in commitment to its own net zero by 2050 target. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year announced a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles - originally set for 2030 - would be pushed back five years, right off the back of announcing the government would grant at least a hundred new oil and gas exploration licences in the North Sea, as climate experts urge world leaders to urgently move away from burning fossil fuels.

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