Axing 2030 climate target branded ‘worst environmental decision’ of devolution

The Scottish Government confirmed it is ditching the goal to cut emissions by 75% by 2030.

Katrine Bussey
Thursday 18 April 2024 20:38 BST
Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said the Scottish Government is being ‘held back’ by Westminster on its climate action (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said the Scottish Government is being ‘held back’ by Westminster on its climate action (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Holyrood ministers have been accused of making the “worst environmental decision in the history of devolution” as the Scottish Government abandoned a key climate change target.

Environmental campaigners hit out after Scottish Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan conceded the goal of reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach”.

With the target enshrined in law, the Scottish Government – which includes the Greens thanks to a powersharing agreement with the SNP – will now bring forward new legislation to ensure climate change targets “better reflect the reality of long-term climate policymaking”, Ms McAllan told MSPs.

This will also see the Scottish Government move away from legally-binding annual targets – which it has missed for eight out of 12 years.

While progress in reducing emissions will continue to be reported annually, the Net Zero Secretary said Scotland will move to a “target approach based on five yearly carbon budgets” – saying this is the same approach taken by the UK and Welsh governments.

But she stressed Scotland’s target to reach net zero by 2045 – five years earlier than the UK – will remain.

First Minister Humza Yousaf had earlier told the Scottish Parliament his Government will “not move back by a single month, a week or even a day from that 2045 target”.

Ditching the interim 2030 target comes a month after independent experts at the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said the goal was “beyond credible”.

But Professor Piers Forster, interim chairman of the CCC, said the removal of the 2030 target is “deeply disappointing”.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Imogen Dow blasted the Scottish Government, saying: “SNP and Green ministers choosing the scrap these climate commitments is the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

“The 2030 target could and should have been met, but instead politicians are going to break their promises and betray both their constituents and the most vulnerable people already enduring the impacts of climate breakdown.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government’s abandonment of its legal 2030 and annual emissions reduction targets is a reprehensible retreat caused by its recklessly inadequate level of action to date.”

The Government also came under fire from opposition politicians, with Scottish Conservative net zero spokesman Douglas Lumsden saying it has “completely failed to lead Scotland in our journey towards net zero”.

Labour’s Sarah Boyack told Holyrood: “Thursday April 18, 2024 will go down as the day that Scotland officially went from being a world leader in climate targets to a world leader in scrapping targets.”

Ms McAllan said the “challenging context of cuts and UK backtracking” on environmental action means Scottish ministers have accepted the “interim 2030 target is out of reach”.

She added: “We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale which is feasible, fair and just.”

She pledged a “new package of climate action measures”, with the Scottish Government working to treble the number of charging points available for electric vehicles in a bid to encourage more people to switch away from petrol and diesel.

This could lead to about 24,000 additional charge points being installed across the country by 2030, she said.

To encourage more people to ditch cars, she said the Government will also “explore a new national integrated ticketing system for public transport in Scotland”.

Promising pilot projects to reduce emissions from agriculture and accelerate peatland restoration, Ms McAllan said there is “no doubt about the seriousness with which this Government treats the climate and nature crisis”.

However, she said the “severe budgetary restrictions imposed by the UK Government” and the “continuing constraints of devolution”, mean ministers are trying to “deliver societal and economic transformation with one hand tied behind our back”.

She warned “full delivery” of the Scottish Government’s plans depend on Westminster “reversing the 9% cut to our capital budget”.

Ms McAllan insisted: “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.

“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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