THE Scottish Government has been accused of doing too little to tackle climate change after its long-awaited progress report revealed just three new initiatives.
Ministers set a new target to cut emissions from power stations by 2030, promised a strategy to heat homes more efficiently and vowed to restore peatlands, which are capable of storing greenhouse gas CO2.
The new measures were outlined in the Government's second Report on Proposals and Policies – known as RPP2 – which updates efforts to meet Scotland's target to cut harmful emissions by 42% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
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Unveiling the 170-page report, climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs it would keep Scotland "at the forefront of climate change action".
However, it was dismissed as appalling by Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie, while Labour claimed it failed to deliver the step change required to meet the ambitious 2020 target. Campaign group Climate Chaos Scotland said the plan was not credible.
In an unusual step, four Holyrood committees immediately announced a joint inquiry into the effectiveness of the measures.
Ministers are required to publish regular updates as part of the legislation which set the 2020 emissions target. The RPP2 report was closely based on an initial long-term plan, RPP1, published in 2010. The Government insists it is on target to achieve the 42% cut, with greenhouse gas emissions already 24% down on 1990 levels.
However, the most recent official figures, covering 2010, showed progress going into reverse as emissions rose 1.9% compared with the previous year. Ministers, whose target for the year was a 0.9% cut, blamed the cold winter.
Under the new initiatives unveiled yesterday, the Scottish Government will seek an 80% reduction in emissions from power stations by 2030.
The move – announced by Alex Salmond at an energy conference in Aberdeen – was welcomed by the renewable energy industry as a further commitment to move away from fossil fuels and towards wind and wave power.
Labour said it was achievable only on a UK-wide basis and urged SNP MPs to back similar proposals at Westminster.
The Government's new drive to heat homes more efficiently will see villagers or tenement neighbours encouraged to install communal boilers. As part of the third new measure, peatlands will be restored in a bid to trap millions of tonnes of CO2.
Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs: "Our commitment to tackling climate change and maintaining our position as a global leader is clear and underlined by the actions we have set out today."
But Tom Ballantine, of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: "This new plan does little to reassure us that early action will be taken to meet future targets, putting Scotland's credibility at risk at home and abroad."
Mr Harvie said: "This is clearly a government in denial about the problem. It is appalling that the defining issue of our age is treated with such contempt."
l A report on the future of offshore wind farms in Scotland has warned of "difficult challenges" between now and 2020.
A study of plans to expand the number of turbines in Scottish waters, published by a joint Scottish Government and industry working group, said support from the UK Government remained "crucial".