SCOTLAND could become “the world’s first zero emission aviation region” under ambitious plans to decarbonise scheduled flights by 2040.

The commitment is included in the Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan, which includes bringing forward phasing out new petrol and disesel cars and vans to 2030.

There is also a pledge to cut car travel by 20 per cent and plans to help create 1 million zero-emission homes by 2030.

The delayed blueprint, which was intended to be published in April includes dozens of new policies and proposals from the Scottish Government to support a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and map out how ministers hope to transform the nation into a carbon zero country.

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But ministers have been told to back up commitments with funding at next year's budget to match the ambition.

The plan commits that recarbonising aviation in the next 20 years will be brought forward in partnership with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited 99.

The Scottish Government will also “support trialling and the introduction of low or zero emission aircrafts”.

The plan states that ministers will “explore the potential for the purchase of zero/low emission aircraft” and be leased back to operators.

It adds: “Moreover, as part of that strategy, we also make a new commitment to explore options for incentivising the use of more sustainable aviation fuel, recognising that significant levers in this area are reserved.”

The document also points to a pledge to “reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030”, which is described as a “truly world-leading aspiration”.

It adds: “Once the pandemic has moved to a phase to allow more certainty regarding future travel demand we will produce a route-map to meet the reduction.

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“Alongside that we will phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, bringing this ambition forward from the 2018 plan by two years. We will work with public bodies to lead the way by phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel light commercial vehicles by 2025.”

The plans include a £180 million emerging energy technologies fund which will support the development of Scottish hydrogen and carbon capture and storage industries over the next five years – as well as support development of negative emissions technologies.

An extra £120 million will be made available for zero emission buses, £50 million will be used to create ‘active freeways’ - sustainable transport links between towns and cities.

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Our commitment to tackling the twin-crises of climate change and biodiversity loss is unwavering and is central to our green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Scotland has the most ambitious climate legislation in the world. Our 2030 target of 75 per cent reduction goes beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed globally to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees. It is therefore rightly ambitious and extremely stretching.

“Our climate change plan update sets out the policies that will be introduced, boosted or accelerated in light of the new targets, and will support green recovery.”

Ms Cunningham added: "These policies and proposals set us on a pathway to a just transition to net zero. This journey will not be easy. We know there are factors we can’t control, including technological advances and the limits of devolved power.

“We will need to be innovative, to learn as we are going and to utilise new and exciting technologies and ideas, seizing on the multiple benefits our journey to net zero presents. We also need the UK Government to match not just our ambition but our action.

“Responding to the global climate emergency is a truly national endeavour and we must all play our part. It will require the UK Government, businesses and indeed our whole society to contribute to the transition and deliver the change that we need.

“As we look ahead to COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, we must also remember that we need this spirit and commitment to be applied internationally.”

But the Scottish Greens have called for ministers to match the ambition with enough funding to ensure plans are brought forward.

Scottish Green environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “It is good to see this plan finally published, and parliament will be giving it intense scrutiny in the New Year.

“However, it fails to commit to the kind of transition from fossil fuels that we have started to see in Denmark, New Zealand, France and many other countries. Instead, it remains heavily reliant on untested technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage to keep the oil and gas industry running at maximum levels of extraction.”

He added: “There are some welcome commitments on transport including a mention of free bus travel for young people, which is part of the current budget deal with the Greens.

“But on the promise to cut traffic by a fifth, the Scottish Government have a dismal record at delivering anything other than traffic growth. If the government is serious about alternatives to private car use then that needs to be reflected in the Scottish budget, redirecting the billions of pounds currently being spent on road expansion to green transport infrastructure.”

Scottish Conservative Environment spokesperson Liz Smith said protecting biodiversity and tackling the climate crisis is “absolutely crucial”.

She added: “The SNP Government must ensure that we remain on course to meet the commitments set out in last year's climate change bill.

"With COP 26 coming to Scotland next year, we have the chance to show we can lead the world when it comes to the green recovery but the warm words must be translated into firm action from SNP Ministers.

"It is essential that we see strong co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments as we all play our part in striving to tackle climate change in the years ahead."

Commenting, Scottish Labour environment, climate change and land reform spokesperson Claudia Beamish, added: “The bottom line is that people cannot afford for the Scottish Government to get this wrong.

“Scottish Labour’s utmost priority for scrutiny will be ensuring this Plan is equitable and secures multi-benefits for climate, people, and nature.”