Scotland’s climate change plan is no longer “credible”, the UK advisory body has said. In its latest progress report the UK Climate Change Committee stated that, with six years to go, it no longer believes the Scottish Government will meet its 2030 goal.

Among the factors blamed were delays to Scotland's updated climate plan and slippage on meeting targets. The lack of a clear strategy, the report said, has left the country “with a significant period without sufficient actions or policies to reach the target”.

The report noted that in 2021, Scotland, for the eighth time in 12 years, has missed its annual legal target The only sectors to reduce emissions in 2021 were electricity supply and industry.

“The required acceleration in emissions reduction in Scotland,” it said, “is now beyond what is credible.”

The progress report delivered an even more dire assessment than the previous, published in December 2022,  which warned of a "trend of failure"  given Scotland had made ambitious targets but still lacked a clear delivery plan.

That lack remains. Professor Piers Forster, interim Chair of the Climate Change Committee said: “Scotland has laudable ambitions to decarbonise, but it isn’t enough to set a target; the Government must act. There are risks in all reviewed areas, including those with significant policy powers devolved to the Scottish Government.

“Scotland’s Climate Change Plan needs to be published urgently, so we can assess it. We need to see actions that will deliver on its future targets.”

Commenting on the new report, the Convener of Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee, Edward Mountain, said that it represented ‘a reality check for us all’ and urged the Scottish government to lead from the front’.

“Reaching Net Zero,” he said, “means drastic measures need to be taken across all sectors and amongst every community. To make this happen, the Scottish Government must lead from the front.

“Clearly insufficient action has been taken to date. We urge the Scottish Government to present, as soon as possible, a coherent and practical delivery plan.”

The Herald: Scotland's historical emissions by sector from Climate Change Committee report

Among those targets significantly off track were peatland restoration, new woodland creation, heat pump installation and battery electric vehicle new van sales.

Particularly off-target were domestic heat pump installations, only 6,000 of which were executed in Scotland in 2023 - a figure of less than half of those indicated by the CCC’s pathway. The report said: “This needs to increase to more than 80,000 per year by the end of the decade.”

In 2022, just 10.5% of Scotland’s new car and 2.0% of new van sales were electric – both being lower than the UK as a whole.

Meanwhile, new woodland creation in 2022/23, amounted to only just over eight thousand hectares, an expansion that needs to more than double for the Scottish Government to reach its target of “18 thousand hectares per year from 2024/25”.

The report noted: “A quarter of approved new woodland was delayed or cancelled, likely due to skills and capacity issues.”

Often the targets that Scotland is failing to meet are high and laudable, but on peatland restoration, even the target falls far short of what the CCC states is needed. “Scotland,” says the report, “has missed its peatland restoration target for the fifth consecutive year, with the rate needing to nearly triple to reach the Scottish Government’s own target, which is in turn lower in ambition than the CCC’s recommended rate.”

The Herald: Peatland restorationPeatland restoration (Image: NatureScot)

The report highlighted that there is no strategy yet for decarbonising aviation in Scotland and no progress in addressing aviation demand growth, with the Air Departure Tax yet to be implemented.

The CCC welcomed the Buildings (Scotland) Amendment Regulations and the Scottish Government’s "bold proposals for its Heat in Buildings Bill” but noted that almost a "factor of ten" increase is now needed in the annual emissions reduction rate on buildings.

On carbon capture and “engineered removals”, it observed, Scotland is also in danger of failing. Whilst the report welcomed the development of the Acorn carbon capture cluster, it questioned whether Scotland would deliver the 3.8MtCO2 removal required by the plan, citing a feasibility study published by the Scottish Government which estimated potential for only "2.2 MtCO2 by 2030 in Scotland.”

READ MORE: Peatland restoration progress off track amid skills and funds barriers

READ MORE: Heat pumps: The realities of having a heat pump installed at home

READ MORE: Scotland must make peatland restoration 'new rural industry'

Climate change campaigners declared the report "embarrassing" for the Scottish Government and called on it to develop a “clear strategy”.

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Imogen Dow said: “The chickens have come home to roost for a Scottish Government that has repeatedly failed to implement the changes needed since the introduction of the climate targets over a decade ago. This is an embarrassing and abject failure of politicians to deliver on their legal commitments to the Scottish people.

“Good climate policies are popular and can change people’s lives for the better: from warm, well-insulated homes to affordable public transport run in the public interest. Yet Ministers have been either unwilling or unable to stand up to the oil lobbyists, the car fanatics and the climate delayers who have blocked necessary progress.

Fabrice Leveque, Energy Policy Manager at WWF Scotland said: “Although not unexpected, this report is yet another reminder of the Scottish Government’s failure to act with the speed required and this just isn’t good enough. It now needs to get serious on delivering its key policy commitments including the delayed Heat in Buildings Bill and rapidly improving its plans on agriculture funding.

"The more we delay, the more we add to the climate crisis and the longer people have to wait for the benefits of lower energy bills, warmer homes, healthier air and nature recovery.”

Responding to the report, Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan said: “I am grateful for the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee 2023 report.

“The Climate Change Committee have always been clear that meeting the legislated 2030 target – agreed by Parliament on a cross party basis - will be extremely challenging, and may not be feasible.

“We remain fully committed to meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2045, and in 2024-25 alone we are committing £4.7 billion to support the delivery of our climate change goals.

“Scotland is already half way to net zero and continues to decarbonise faster than the UK average. In the last five years we have created around 75% of all new woodlands throughout the UK in Scotland, launched the world’s largest floating offshore wind leasing round through Scotwind, ensured Scotland has the most generous concessionary scheme in the UK with more than a third of the population benefiting from free bus travel and invested over £65 million to support the installation of over 2,700 public EV charge points ensuring Scotland has the best provision of public charge points per head of population in the UK, outside of London.

“However, we are under no illusion that the hardest part of this journey is ahead of us which is why our ambitious proposals for delivery include publishing a final route map setting out our approach to reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030 and decarbonising buildings through our plans for a Heat in Buildings Bill. These underline our commitment to further reduce emissions whilst ensuring fairer, greener transport and homes as well as high quality green jobs.

"Over the past 12 months Scotland has faced a series of unprecedented changes by the UK Government, who have reneged on their net zero commitments, and rolled back on policies already announced and accounted for. We are also expecting a real-terms cut to our UK capital funding of almost 10 per cent over five years, totalling around £1.3 billion, which is deeply concerning given it has implications for the delivery of climate ambition in Scotland and our ability to produce a draft Climate Change Plan as intended. We have also faced opposition to modest measures in tackling the crisis, such as low emission zones, workplace parking and the deposit return scheme at a time when consensus is crucial to ensure that we have a sustainable planet.

“We will now carefully consider the report’s recommendations and our next steps – including legislative options - before providing a formal response.”