SCOTLAND’S Environment Secretary has stressed her updated climate change plan was never intended to draw up the “revolutionary change” needed to meet ambitious climate targets – despite a key pledge being just nine years away.

Ministers published their climate change plan update in December after MSPs voted to commit Scotland to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 on the way to becoming carbon net zero by 2045. The plan sets out how the Scottish Government hopes to reduce emissions with enough pace up to 2032.

Roseanna Cunningham downplayed calls by the Scottish Government’s statutory advisor, the Commitee on Climate Change (CCC) that the target and the plan to get there is “on the fringes of credibility” and suggested she is “pretty confident” that the 75% target can be achieved.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, Ms Cunningham warned the update to the plan, drawn up after the 2030 pledge “has been done at haste” - pointing to the next full plan, to be published just five years before the crunch target in 2025.

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She said: “The next parliament is going to have to do a brand new climate change plan.

“This was a fast, forced update to an existing climate change plan. The notion that we were going to introduce some kind of revolutionary change in any sector or at least map a pathway to that...would always have been an unrealistic expectation.

“Perhaps the next climate change plan will think about that.”

At an earlier appearance in front of MSPs, Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, warned that the plans and the 2030 promise was “on the fringes of credibility” - but praised the ambition.

Ms Cunningham stressed that the CCC has previously warned that a 70% reduction in harmful emissions by 2030 was “just about feasible” but added that “we chose to go beyond that”, claiming the comments by Mr Stark, the Scottish Government's former director of energy and climate change, were “absolutely predictable”.

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She added that the strategy “does present a credible pathway” for the Scottish Government to hit its climate targets.

Ms Cunningham added: “We do believe what is in front of you provides a strong foundation, sets a pathway to 2032 and contributes to net zero by 2045.

“I’m as confident as I can be that this actually does put us on the right road.”

MSPs have heard evidence that the reliance on carbon capture and storage to hit targets is a worry, given the technology has not yet been scaled up to be used on a vast scale and has not been proven to be 100% effective in stopping carbon escaping into the atmosphere.

The updated plan sets out that negative emissions technologies, including carbon capture and storage and biomass and biofuel, should mean 3.8Mt of carbon is taken out of the atmoshphere by 2030 - completely offsetting what ministers expect in total building and waste emissions in the same year or half of the industrial sector pollution. 

HeraldScotland: The Scottish Government's targets for negative emissions technologiesThe Scottish Government's targets for negative emissions technologies

Ms Cunningham admitted that “there are all sorts of areas where there are significant uncertainties”, adding that “we don’t have all the answers now”.

The Cabinet Secretary pointed to the advice from the CCC that carbon capture and storage will need to play a part in any nation becoming carbon neutral and significantly cutting emissions by 2030.

She added that the strategy is “dependent on this being brought forward as a usable technology”.

Asked by Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell if there is a “back-up plan” if the negative emissions technologies do not bring results in time, Ms Cunningham said “there are potentially alternative things” that could be explored.

Ms Cunningham said: ”Probably, it’s not the focus of it that’s the issue, it’s the potential speed of which it can be done.

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“The CCC themselves are confident that the negative emission technologies are a credible pathway to reaching net zero.

“What we have cast here is our best estimate of how well we can achieve this by the 2030 target date. We are confident that it’s technically possible by 2030 – that does include trial and demonstration projects which would mean large-scale installations by 2030.

“It’s going to be challenging – I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. What we are trying to do is set out a need for an urgent focus on this technology by both Scottish and UK governments - both governments do have a need and incentive to support and develop this.”