Exclusive, 24 March 2013
Scotland is on track to breach its statutory targets to reduce climate emissions in each of the next two years, according to a new analysis by a powerful coalition of 60 environmental, faith, development, trade union and community groups.
The Scottish government’s latest plan to combat climate change, the second report on proposals and policies (RPP2), is due to be debated by MSPs in the parliament on Tuesday. The report is crucial because it is meant to demonstrate how ministers are going to meet agreed legal targets to cut carbon pollution.
But according to the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) coalition, RPP2 is founded on the mistaken assumption that the European Union (EU) is increasing its 2020 target for cutting emissions from 20% to 30%. Although the EU has offered to do that if other countries take action, it isn’t expected to make any move before 2016 at the earliest.
As a result, even if the Scottish government successfully implements all its proposals and policies to cut pollution, it will miss its climate targets in 2014 and 2015. “Ministers are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the parliament with the current climate plan,” said SCCS chair, Tom Ballantine.
RPP2 was required under climate law to show how the targets would be met but it had “a black hole at its centre”, he argued. “Europe cannot move as quickly as the government assumes so the current plan pretty much guarantees that Scotland will miss targets in at least 2014 and 2015, with several more failures very likely.”
Ballantine pointed out that ministers had been repeatedly warned by advisers that they needed a contingency plan to deal with delays in raising the EU target. “No such plan is visible and there is just not enough effort planned here in Scotland to meet our targets,” he said.
He called on MSPs to press the Scottish government to come up with more carbon-saving measures in transport, homes and agriculture. “Ministers are failing to meet their legal duty to deliver on climate change,” he warned. “Scotland's reputation as a leader on climate change hangs on having a credible plan that will actually deliver the targets we have set ourselves.”
SCCS includes major environmental groups like WWF Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Friends of the Earth Scotland, as well as development charities, Christian Aid and Oxfam, the trade union, Unison, the National Union of Students in Scotland and the Church of Scotland.
Labour’s environment spokeswoman, Claire Baker MSP, pointed out that the Scottish government had already failed to meet its first climate target in 2010. It now looked increasingly likely that RPP2 was “doomed to failure before it has even been voted on in parliament,” she said.
“The Scottish government has been warned time and again, from leading campaigners to politicians, that they need a step change if they are serious about meeting their targets. So far they have failed to take the necessary action.”
Baker accused the Scottish National Party (SNP) of failing to match its rhetoric with reality. “By basing the vast majority of RPP2 on a proposed change to the European target,” she argued, “the SNP is trying to insert a readymade excuse for its own failure to meet its legal duty on climate change.”
The Scottish government insisted that it remained committed to action on climate change “even in the face of faltering ambition elsewhere.” Ministers are “confident” that a new EU agreement can be reached, given the good progress made in cutting emissions.
It was “commonly understood” that the Scottish targets were based on the EU moving to a 30% target, a government spokeswoman said. “It is disappointing that subsequent progress in Europe has been limited, however we continue to urge our European neighbours to share Scotland’s ambition on tackling climate change,” she added.
“RPP2 clearly shows how Scotland can reach each annual target from 2013 to 2027. And even at the EU 20% level, RPP2 levers more than the 42% reduction in Scotland’s carbon emissions that our independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, suggested was possible.”