THE FAILURE of the Scottish Government to meet its own climate emissions target has been blamed on the “beast from the east” bringing cold weather to the nation in 2018. 

New statistics show that by the end of 2018, Scotland was unable to reduce its emissions by the 54 per cent requirement from levels in 1990, with a Scottish Government report stating that “the target for 2018 has not been met”.  

The Scottish Government has committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, including aviation, to net zero by 2045 but plans for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee to set up low emission zones have been delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis. The latest climate change action plan will now not be published until the end of this year, after the Scottish Government announced a delay due to the pandemic.  

Last year, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation setting the target for 2018 emissions at 54 per cent. The legislation set a target on 2018, which had passed by the time MSPs voted on the Bill in September 2019.The target for 2020 is currently set at 56 per cent.  

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Research found that source emissions actually increased by 1.5 per cent from 2017 to 2018. In the power sector, emissions from fossil fuel increased by 51 per cent to 2.6 gigawatts over the same period of time.  

The Herald:

Emissions from homes increased by three per cent and the transport sector remains the largest source of emissions in Scotland.   

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the annual increase is “certainly disappointing” and stressed that the bar has been “intentionally been set to provide an extremely stretching pathway to net zero”. 

She added: “By being ambitious and by stretching ourselves in pursuit of net zero, we will go a long way to reaching our destination.” 

Ms Cunningham put the increase in emissions from 2017 to 2018 down to “changes to the national energy mix and freezing temperatures from the beast from the east during the early months of 2018” which led to “a rise in emissions  from energy supply and heating use for buildings. 

She added: “While emissions reductions were seen in all other sectors including transport, industry and agriculture, during 2018 the overall effect was a 1.5 per cent increase and we expect a substantial part of that was driven by the cold weather.” 

The Environment Secretary stressed that the Scottish Government “remains absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s emissions contribution by 2045” with a 75 per cent reduction target by 2030. 

She added: “Covid-19 means that our starting position has most definitely changed, but our ambitions have not.  

“We are committed to delivering a green recovery from this pandemic.” 

Scottish Green environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said the Scottish Government “has failed to have any positive impact whatsoever on transport emissions” 

He added: “This is what happens when politicians congratulate themselves over targets but won’t commit to serious action to meet them. This is a climate emergency, and instead of cutting emissions Scotland continues to hurtle towards climate breakdown.   

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 “Transport remains the biggest contributor to Scotland’s poor record. It’s now indisputable that the Scottish Government’s agenda of massive road investment at the expense of public transport, cycling and walking has failed.   

"The Covid crisis has encouraged people to take up walking and cycling. That opportunity to invest in that infrastructure is now, not after our roads become choked with traffic again.”  

The figures also showed a spike in renewable energy for the production of electricity, with 55 per cent of the total, followed by nuclear power at 28 per cent and fossil fuels at 15 per cent.  

But electricity produced by fossil fuels increased between 2017 and 2018 by 51 per cent to 2.6 gigawatts.  

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur added: "There needs to be a green recovery to the coronavirus crisis. We've got record low borrowing rates and a rock bottom oil price. To get the economy firing on all cylinders we can make a record investment in green infrastructure, taking advantage of our experienced engineers and groundbreaking science. 

"Transport emissions are rampant so the Scottish Government must today withdraw its support for an expansion of Heathrow - already the single biggest emitter in the UK. It is utterly incompatible with the First Minister's declaration of a climate emergency." 

Every sector apart from international aviation and shipping recorded a fall in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2018, according to the report, with the energy supply falling furthest.  

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Jess Cowell, of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: "It is incredibly worrying to see a 1.5 per cent rise in Scotland's annual emissions compared to 2017 and the Scottish Government missing its 2018 target of reducing emissions by 54 per cent since 1990.  

"If the Government is going to meet the crucial target of a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 we need to see action to reduce emissions showing up in significant declines in these figures.  

"The burning of fossil fuels is the key driver of the climate crisis, the Government must commit to delivering a decisive just transition that ends our economic dependence on fossil fuels whilst protecting employment and securing social benefits for the communities who will be impacted by industrial change."