Scottish government ditches flagship climate change target as it accepts it is 'out of reach'

The Scottish government has ditched its flagship target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 after accepting that it is now "out of reach".

However, an "unwavering commitment" to achieve net zero by 2045 will remain.

Mairi McAllan, minister for wellbeing economy, net zero and energy, announced the move in an update to Holyrood on Thursday as she set out the government's next steps on tackling climate change.

The decision comes following a damning report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month which said the 2030 target was now "beyond what is credible".

Ms McAllan said: "In this challenging context of cuts and UK backtracking, we accept the CCCs recent re-articulation that this parliament's interim 2030 target is out of reach.

"We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale that is feasible, fair and just."

Scotland has missed eight of the past 12 annual targets for cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The CCC said in order for Scotland to achieve its goal of cutting harmful emissions by 75% by 2030, the rate of emission reduction in most sectors would need to increase by a factor of nine in the years up to the end of the decade.

The Scottish government was the first in the world to declare a climate emergency.

Ms McAllan set out a new package of climate action measures.

The Scottish government intends to:
• Triple the number of electric vehicle charge points across Scotland - an increase of around 24,000 - by 2030.
• Explore a new national integrated ticketing system for public transport, which would enable passengers to use one system for all elements of a journey.
• Work with businesses to support the transition away from petrol and diesel vans.
• Take forward a pilot scheme with a number of farms to establish future appropriate uptake of methane-supressing feed products or additives. Proportionate carbon audits will also be required by farms receiving public support by 2028 at the latest.
• Accelerate its regional land use partnerships, with up to three new areas coming into the initiative over the next year.
• Accelerate peatland restoration by investigating how partial re-wetting can co-exist with continued agricultural activity and access to support, including investment of up to £1m in pilot projects.
• Launch a consultation this summer on carbon land tax on the largest estates, considering regulatory and fiscal changes that could further incentivise peatland restoration, afforestation and renewable energy production.
• Consider the recommendation from the green heat finance taskforce to review and publish, by the end of 2024, analysis of how non-domestic rates reliefs can better support Holyrood's climate ambitions and encourage investment in energy efficiency and clean heating systems.
• Publish its final energy strategy and just transition plan this summer, followed by draft plans for transport, agriculture and land use, and buildings and construction. After the publication of a just transition plan for Grangemouth, the government will co-develop a just transition plan for Mossmorran.
• Redouble efforts to ensure net zero is fully considered in its workforce, spending, policy development and structures, starting with the full rollout of a net zero assessment in the Scottish government from the end of 2024.
• Work with COSLA to understand wider public sector spend and opportunities for action.
• Propose the establishment of a four nations climate response group, with a remit including climate financing and the balance of reserved and devolved powers.

Ms McAllan said the "severe budgetary restrictions imposed by the UK government" and the "continuing constraints of devolution", meant the Scottish government was trying to deliver "societal and economic transformation with one hand tied behind our back".

She warned "full delivery" of Holyrood's plans would depend on Westminster "reversing the 9% cut to our capital budget".

Ms McAllan said: "This government and parliament rightly has high ambitions, and it is beyond doubt that investing now in net zero is the right thing for our environment, our society and our economy. But we are being held back.

"So, I am asking MSPs across this chamber to work with us to call on the UK government to reverse Scotland's capital cut."

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Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he was "angry and disappointed" over the decision.

He added: "We must see urgent and accelerated climate action across all areas and levels of government, and those parties who vote for targets but then block the action needed to reach them will have no credibility.

"I have no doubt that if successive Scottish and UK governments had taken the actions needed at the time, as Greens consistently urged, we would be on track for that 2030 target.

"The fact that we aren't is exactly why we need to focus on delivering real change and ramp up climate action."

Friends of the Earth Scotland branded the announcement "the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament".

Imogen Dow, head of campaigns, said: "Instead of using the past decade to deliver warm homes, reliable public transport and a fair transition away from fossil fuels, inept, short-termist politicians have kept millions of people trapped in the broken status quo that only benefits big polluters."

Ms Dow called for the delayed Climate Change Plan to be published and urged the government to apologise for their "colossal climate failure".

She added: "Instead of significant response and a ramping up of action, the Scottish government has presented a weak package of re-heated ideas, many of which were already pledged years ago and never delivered."

The head of Oxfam Scotland described it as a "reprehensible retreat".

Jamie Livingstone added: "With scientists linking deadly heatwaves in West Africa to climate change and Dubai drowning in a deluge of rain, the urgency of climate action couldn't be clearer.

"The announcement of largely recycled measures represents baby steps forward rather than the giant leaps needed and are a thinly veiled distraction from ministers' failure to deliver their existing climate commitments."

Diane Gilpin, CEO and founder of Smart Green Shipping, met with Humza Yousaf on Wednesday as the first minister officially "launched" a 20-metre wingsail that will take to the seas for tests later this year.

It is hoped wingsails will help transform the way many commercial ships are powered and reduce fuel emissions.

Ms Gilpin said Holyrood's rollback was "disappointing", but "targets are just that - targets".

She added: "We need to focus on solutions that are driving us towards net zero.

"Scotland is still setting an example for other countries, with initiatives in place to fund and support first-movers and a great deal of ambition and collaboration, including the citizens' Climate Assembly, designed to engage the public in making decisions to tackle climate change.

"By continuing its focus on tangible solutions, Scotland will regain its status as a leader in net zero."