At the start of May, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised the UK Government and the Governments of Scotland and Wales to set new targets to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions effectively to zero, or ‘net zero’. For the UK as a whole, my Committee has recommended this happens by 2050. For Scotland, our recommendation is by 2045, reflecting Scotland’s proportionately greater capacity to reduce emissions.

The response to our recommendations has been astonishing. Unprecedented media interest, countless queries from members of the public, requests for meetings with decision- makers from business, industry, Government and Parliament. We’ve never been busier.

I don’t think we can take all of the credit. We’ve entered into the discussion at the crest of a wave of renewed interest in climate change at home and globally. There is a discernible appetite among the public, business leaders and politicians for tougher action, following the landmark assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year, and the recent youth climate strikes.

It is essential that we act. Climate change is happening now and the impacts will intensify if we continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels.

The Herald: This report responds to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. Our new emissions scenarios draw on ten new research projects, three expert advisory groups, and reviews of the work of the IPCC and others.This report responds to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. Our new emissions scenarios draw on ten new research projects, three expert advisory groups, and reviews of the work of the IPCC and others.

To read this report in full please click HERE

Rising global temperatures will only be halted when every country brings its emissions to net zero.

Our report showed how it can be achieved here – and I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has acted immediately to put our recommended 2045 target into the new Scottish Climate Change Bill. We await a similar reaction in Westminster.

But a new target is meaningless without sufficient action to meet it. We will need a huge increase in zero-carbon electricity supply, harnessing our abundant offshore wind resource.

Firm plans are needed for road transport, domestic heating and industry.

Scotland is the natural place to develop hydrogen-based solutions. We’ll need to turn theoretical plans to capture and store carbon offshore into reality – and develop natural stores of carbon in peatland and trees.

We shouldn’t be afraid of any of this.

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The work of my Committee shows that we already now know how to achieve it in every sector of the economy – and, better still, that the costs are manageable, if they’re spread fairly.

By committing to net zero, we’ll be top of the pack in addressing climate change globally. Among the first of the major economies to pledge to complete a journey that every country must eventually make.

This is the moment for maximum international influence – every country is now contemplating its responsibilities under the global climate accord signed in Paris a few years ago.

Scotland already has a special record, thanks to its willingness to embrace renewable energy. More recently, it has set strong ambitions for transport and improved housing. We’ve seen greater Scottish climate ambition than the UK in a host of areas, but we need even more.

Existing targets in the Scottish Energy Strategy and Climate Change plan must be delivered in full; challenges that have so far been out of scope must now be confronted.

Clarity on plans is needed as soon as possible. This is a transition on a scale that has never been attempted before, so we must manage the impacts on workers, consumers and our rural and island populations.

The ‘Just Transition Commission’ is considering how that can be achieved in Scotland, chaired by the brilliant Professor Jim Skea – a former member of the Committee on Climate Change.

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There are real opportunities for Scotland, but there are real costs too. Major investments must be financed. Industries, including oil and gas, must embrace the net zero goal.

We’ve been transparent about where the costs lie. But the wider benefits are there to see: cleaner air, healthier diets, improved health and the biggest prize of all, avoiding the costs of climate change.

We haven’t tried to wash these against the costs to give a false prospectus, but standard appraisal tells us that there are measurable benefits to Scots if we curb our polluting emissions.

Our recommendation rests on the need for a parallel UK-wide plan to reach net-zero. That asks a lot of governments in Edinburgh and London, who haven’t always been well-coordinated. Individuals have a role too. Small changes we can all make: choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport; making changes to our home to reduce energy use; choosing to fly less; eating less red meat; buying good quality products that last longer. Every step makes the goal easier overall.

As David Attenborough reminded us in his recent BBC documentary, the scientific evidence is that we could face irreversible damage to the natural world; and the collapse of our societies, if we do not take dramatic action on climate change within the next decade. As a Scot, I’m delighted to see us leading the way.

Chris Stark is Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change.

This article appeared in The Herald on the 16th May.

The Herald:

The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email