Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Scotland not doing enough to meet emissions target, ministers told

Emissions cuts from cars, homes and farming are key if Scotland is to meet its target of a 42% reduction, new report says
Severin Carrell, Wednesday 24 February 2010 11.39 GMT
Scottish ministers have been warned they need to aggressively target carbon emissions from car use, home energy and farming if Scotland is to meet its ambitious target of cutting CO2 levels by 42% in the next decade.
The Committee on Climate Change, an influential government advisory body chaired by Lord Adair Turner, has told Alex Salmond's nationalist government it needs to show much greater "political will and leadership" if Scotland is to build a truly low-carbon economy by 2020.
In a report released today, the committee complimented the devolved government for setting "ambitious targets", and confirmed they were tougher and farther-reaching than the UK's government's interim target of a 34% cut by 2020.
The UK government has promised to increase that target to around 42% if a global climate deal is agreed upon, but unlike Scotland, it has refused to include aviation and shipping in its calculations or to set annual targets.
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, an influential umbrella group of more than 60 environment groups, faith groups, civic organisations and development charities, said the committee's conclusions would increase pressure on UK ministers to set a similar and binding target.
Mike Robinson, the group's chair, said: "This is a great opportunity for the UK government to be ahead of the curve and show some leadership. I do think this shows the UK should up its game. The world needs more ambitious targets."
David Kennedy, the committee's chief executive, stopped short of endorsing that view. But the committee's report confirmed the widely held belief that Scotland's target is heavily dependent on the negotiation of a new global climate treaty. After the failure of the Copenhagen talks last December, no deal is expected before next year.
The Scottish government has direct control over only a minority of Scotland's CO2 emissions, which in 2007 amounted to 56.9m tonnes a year. The committee did not establish the extent of that control, but Scottish officials said it is roughly 30%.
The bulk of Scotland's CO2 emissions are covered by either the EU emissions trading scheme for large energy users, such as power stations, or UK government policies on fuel and car taxes.
The committee warned that a failure to sign a global deal on emissions would make it extremely difficult to hit the 42% target. Even with a deal, though, it said Scotland still needs a "step change" in its policies on transport, housing, waste and agriculture, and to aggressively push renewable power through the planning system.
It specifically recommended greater efforts to promote electric cars: successive Scottish governments and local councils have been far slower than English authorities to invest in low-energy transport, such as hybrid buses or electric vehicle charging points. The SNP has also been strongly criticised for its substantial road-building programme.
The committee said including aviation and shipping, however, meant other parts of the Scottish economy would bear a heavier burden for cutting emissions, increasing the scale of the overall challenge, as these sectors were ignored by EU and UK carbon budgets.
Professor Jim Skea, a member of the committee, said: "These are ambitious targets that go further than those in the rest of the UK. A step change will be needed to unlock potential emissions reductions in Scotland, but we believe this to be achievable with new policies."
Late yesterday, Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish climate change minister, retracted an earlier statement saying the report was a "robust and complex piece of work", and did not directly respond to the committee's challenge on strengthening government policy.
In a revised statement, he said: "The need to take action to reduce our emissions is clear and everyone has a role to play in helping Scotland meet its world leading climate change targets.
"Achieving the necessary reductions in emissions will require hard decisions, not only by governments but also by businesses, the public sector, voluntary and community groups and individuals."