MINISTERS have been urged to ramp up road tax for car owners to tally up funding to subside public transport as part of a flurry of recommendations to tackle the climate emergency.

Scotland’s Climate Assembly has published 81 recommendations for Scottish ministers to consider adopting in their strategy to become carbon net zero by 2045.

Meanwhile, in a new report published today, the Scottish Government has been told by its statutory advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to “scale up delivery across all sectors in line with the ambition set out” by ministers, including the need to “publish a strategy” setting out how its ambitious target of cutting car kilometres by 20% 2030 will be achieved.

The Climate Assembly is a “mini-Scotland” with more than 100 members broadly representative of the population and operates independently of the Scottish Government. The assembly’s recommendations carry weight as ministers must publish a statement outlining how they will respond within six months.

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The assembly has called for a move away from private car use and more emphasis put on public transport.

Ministers have been told to “phase in increased road taxes for private car use and use the revenue to subsidise public transport” – while efforts should be focused on making public transport cheaper, or even free of charge “by reviewing tender processes to focus government subsidies into nationalised public/private partnerships or not for profit public transport providers”.

The assembly also wants ministers to “commit to working to decarbonise all internal flights within Scotland by 2025” and “place rail travel at the core of an integrated transport system, by subsidising rail infrastructure to make it more affordable and resilient than air travel, particularly for mainland journeys in the UK”.

An “Oyster card for Scotland” should also be introduced as part of a joined-up transport policy, under another recommendation.

The Welsh Government has announced it is suspending all future road-building plans to ensure its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 is met. The Scottish Government has resisted calls to end investment in road projects.

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In order for the increased road tax plans to be brought forward, it would need the approval of the UK Government – which has stressed that revenue from motoring taxes will need to keep pace with the transition away from petrol and diesel vehicles to continue funding infrastructure projects.

The Climate Assembly recommendations come as the CCC calls on the Scottish Government to back up commitments with more action, including setting out how its pledge to cut road kilometers by 20% in the next nine years will be achieved.

Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, has warned that “the Government must get real on delivery”.

He added: “Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet. Get it right and UK action will echo widely. Continue to be slow and timid and the opportunity will slip from our hands.

“Between now and COP 26 the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

Fabrice Leveque, head of policy at WWF Scotland, added that “the delivery of emission reductions by Scottish Government policies falls short of our targets”.

He added: “With the eyes of the world on Glasgow in November at COP26, the Scottish Government must get its own house in order domestically if we’re to play our part in keeping global warming below 1.5C.

The only way to do this is to bring forward the ambitious new policies that will deliver the urgent change needed.”

Other recommendations by the Climate Assembly include plans for a national nature service aimed at creating jobs in rewilding and environmental protection, enhanced training and opportunities in green jobs and a program of public education on climate issues.

Another recommendation made to ministers is to retrofit all existing homes by 2030, with all new buildings to be required to meet highly energy efficient Passivhaus standards.

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Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management and education and executive director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, said the recommendations were “a clarion call for climate action right across Scotland”.

He added: “For anyone who was still wondering what needs done on climate change, it's writ large here: much more, and much faster. These recommendations span every part of our lives, from heating our homes and the daily commute, through to what we buy and what we eat."

“In these times of Covid, the call for more climate education, green skills and job opportunities is an especially powerful one. As a nation, if we can get anywhere near the same levels of climate understanding, passion and commitment to action shown by the assembly members, then Scotland really can punch well above our weight in the global fight against climate change.”

Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson said the transition to net zero “must be a shared national endeavour”.

HeraldScotland: Net Zero Secretary Michael MathesonNet Zero Secretary Michael Matheson

He added: “It is clear that assembly members have taken great care to develop ambitious proposals and recommendations to provide support for the societal transformation we know will be needed for Scotland to become a net zero nation.

“We will take the necessary time to reflect fully on the assembly’s recommendations before providing a comprehensive and cross-Government response in-line with the requirements of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act.

"In this year of COP26, Scotland’s Climate Assembly exemplifies how we are putting people at the heart of policy making, by consulting, engaging and involving citizens in decision-making.

“The journey to net-zero will transform every aspect of our lives and presents huge potential for us to seize the opportunities that becoming a net-zero society presents for this and future generations.”

But the Scottish Conservatives have pointed to the failure of the Scottish Government to meet its own climate targets for the last three years in a row.

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The party's energy, net zero and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “The SNP’s promises on climate change simply don’t match the reality. Only last week we saw that they had once again missed key emission targets.

“It is little wonder that those participating in Scotland’s climate assembly came to the conclusion that ministers need to move far faster to tackle the climate emergency."

He added: "The SNP have failed to back up their words with meaningful policies that will actually help to achieve net zero emissions.

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“However, while everyone recognises the need to urgently tackle the climate emergency, policies cannot unfairly punish people for simply having a car. In many parts of Scotland, having a car is absolutely essential.

"The SNP will have to do far better when it comes to finding ways to reduce emissions while not hammering hard-working Scots.

“SNP ministers must ensure that the right balance is struck when ultimately deciding how to act upon the climate assembly’s recommendations.”