Call for sectoral CO2 targets in Scotland

The Scottish Executive should set challenging sectoral targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a stepping stone towards an overall target for Scotland, according to a report from the Scottish Parliament.1 The MSPs are critical of the lack of progress in tackling emissions from transport, agriculture and land use change.

The report, by the Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee, aims to influence the review of the Scottish climate change programme (ENDS Report 359, pp 48-49 ). The Scottish Executive is expected to issue a revised programme this summer.

Scotland accounts for some 13% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, but is lagging behind other parts of the country in reducing them. By 2002, Scotland's total emissions had fallen by just 5.7% from 1990 levels - while CO2 emissions had dropped by just 3.2%.

The Committee says that current progress is "inadequate", and is particularly worried that emissions are increasing in major sectors such as energy supply, transport and land use change. It argues that "a radical response on a huge, almost unprecedented, scale must start to be entrenched in policy now".

The Executive is committed to "making an equitable contribution" towards the UK's climate change targets. However, the Committee warns that this formulation "does not provide sufficient guidance for action", and that progress is "difficult to assess because of the complex mix of devolved and reserved policy areas which contribute to the target".

The MSPs urge the Executive to work towards a national target for Scotland "in due course". However, they accept that "a realistic top-down" target is not feasible at present. As a stepping stone, they call for "robust and challenging" targets to be set for those sectors where sufficient data are available.

The energy supply industry is currently Scotland's biggest source of emissions. The Committee offers no clear insight into the debate over the future of Scotland's nuclear and coal stations - but complains that there is "no route map" to deliver the Executive's target for renewables to generate 40% of electricity by 2020.

The MSPs call on the Executive to set targets to reduce overall energy demand, supported by detailed sectoral targets, in its promised energy efficiency strategy.

Land use change, forestry and agriculture are also very significant sources - but the Committee says that progress in tackling them has been "very disappointing". It complains that the Executive's strategy on forestry contains no emissions-related objective.

Land use change alone accounts for 17% of Scotland's emissions. The MSPs note that disturbance of Scotland's high carbon-content soils "has the potential to increase rapidly the loss of CO2 to the atmosphere", and calls on the Executive to develop a co-ordinated soil protection strategy "as a matter of urgency".

Transport currently accounts for 23% of Scotland's CO2 emissions, but its share is growing rapidly. The Executive has set a goal of stabilising total vehicle kilometres at 2001 levels by 2021 - an ambitious move given that on current policies the figure is predicted to increase by 27%. The MSPs complain that "so far no identifiable progress has been made", and that no real strategy is yet in place.

Business is one of the few sectors where significant reductions have been achieved. Emissions fell by 35% between 1990 and 2002 - although much of this was due to the closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks in the early 1990s.

The MSPs call on the Executive to "champion a change in business culture so that Scotland can take advantage of the huge opportunities as technologies develop to meet long-term emissions targets."