MINISTERS have been urged to widen their efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland despite hitting climate change targets.

New data shows the amount of carbon dioxide in the country’s atmosphere in 2015 was below the benchmark of 46.928 million tonnes set in 2009.

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said that Scotland remains “comfortably” on track to meet its 2020 target, but opponents warn that more must be done after the figures revealed that CO² emissions had risen slightly.

Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said:“Despite a fall last year, it is clear that meeting these targets will become more challenging. Climate change is a global problem and tackling it is one of the most important things facing the whole world. 

“The SNP must get back to the day job and commit to new, climate-positive policies to tackle the issues it has avoided for too long.”

Emissions were measured at 45.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, up by 1.8 per cent on 2014’s figure.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 also contains an interim 2020 target to reduce emissions by at least 42 per cent on baseline levels.

By 2015, a reduction of 41 per cent had been achieved.

Ms Cunningham said: “This progress has been achieved against a backdrop of continuing data revisions resulting from improvements to the way we measure emissions. 

The statistics also show we continue to outperform the UK as a whole, with our efforts to drive forward transformative change in our energy system clearly paying off.  

“We always knew meeting our ambitious targets would be tough and that they bring a number of challenges, as well as opportunities.

The new data was welcomed by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) – a coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change and other environmental issues.

The group’s Jim Densham said: “It’s great news Scotland has hit the latest annual emissions reduction target. 

“This shows real progress is being made towards securing the clean energy revolution our economy and society needs. 

“Tackling climate change delivers huge benefits, such as reduced fuel poverty, cleaner air, thousands of jobs and improved health. To hit future climate change targets, we now need to build on the early successes to supercharge action on key areas. 

“These include homes, farming and particularly transport, which is for the first time the largest source of emissions.

“Transport pollution has been stubbornly high for decades and we need significant action to catch up with other nations such as India and Norway, which are planning to end the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030.”

ANALYSIS - Climate change could put whisky at risk and mean no more skiing

AS a relatively warm country firmly in the earth’s temperate zone, Scotland should be well placed to deal with the effects of climate change.

Yet experts say that as the world slowly heats up Scots can still expect to see massive changes as the landscape alters and weather patters change. If sea levels continue to rise at current rates, as a result of the melting of the polar ice caps in the face of rising sea temperatures, some of Scotland’s coastal habitats could be lost entirely.

This is a particular concern in places where coastal defences have been set up to stop those habitats from migrating further inland.

It has been reported that 100 hectares of salt marsh and mudflats are lost in the UK each year as a result of rising tides and the resulting erosion.

Climate change is also expected to make Scotland wetter. An increase in rainfall predicted to come about as a result of global warming will also raise the chances of Scotland’s 31,000 miles of rivers bursting their banks and flooding.

This will bring an increased risk of damage to property and transport networks, disruption to services and a likely loss of business. It could even threaten life in some low-lying areas.

Since the Met Office began monitoring began in 1961, the east of Scotland has seen a 36.5 per cent increase in precipitation, while the north and west of the country have seen a 67-69 per cent rise, leading to a notable increase in the frequency of floods and landslides in that time.

Global warming will also bring with it the threat of pests, diseases and non-native species that could harm crops and livestock, causing economic difficulties and increased pressure for farmers.

Records show that average temperatures in Scotland have increased by 0.5°C in the last 100 years.

Rising temperatures mean erosion and drying out of some natural habitats that could threaten wildlife, some parts of the country have become 45 per cent drier in summer.

Water shortages could strike at the heart of the whisky industry, which accounts for one quarter of the UK’s total food and drink exports and generates almost £4 billion for the UK economy.

The Met Office has also warned the Scottish skiing industry could disappear, taking local jobs with it as winters become too mild for regular snowfall. 

However, although a small nation on the international scene, Scotland remains at the forefront of efforts to mitigate climate change. The Climate Change Act, passed in 2009 by the Scottish Parliament
set binding targets to cut emissions for each year until 2020.

Last year, the UN climate change secretary Christiana Figueres praised Scotland’s progress on renewable energy and fighting global warming “exemplary” and said the fact that emissions had been cut by were “impressive”. 

She said: “It’s very much about the direction of movement here, the direction of travel, and that is undoubtedly the right direction of travel in Scotland.”