Net zero: Scotland’s 2045 target becomes law

Plans for Scotland to become carbon neutral five years before the rest of the UK have now come into law after receiving royal assent.

MSPs had approved in September the new Climate Change Bill, which set out an interim target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 on 1990 levels and instructed ministers to establish a citizens’ climate assembly. 

The Green Party abstained from the final vote after their amendment to increase the 2030 emissions reduction target to 80% was rejected. 

Scotland officially reduced its emissions by 39.1% between 1990 and 2017. However, its “source emissions”, which exclude sectors covered by the EU emissions trading system, were down 46.8% over that same period. 

The country’s net-zero target is in line with recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change, which has stated that Scotland has the capacity to reach net-zero before the rest of the UK, balancing out a less ambitious target for Wales on account of its carbon-intensive livestock sector. 

The act gives ministers the power to push back the net-zero date if doing so is in line with “either scientific knowledge about climate change or current international carbon reporting practice”. 

The first citizens’ assembly, which will consider how to “prevent or minimise, or remedy or mitigate” the effects of climate change and make recommendations on achieving Scotland’s targets, will consist of a panel deemed to be “representative of the general populace of Scotland”. 

It will lay its report before the Scottish parliament by February 2021. Ministers will have six months to publish a statement responding to its recommendations.

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