Environmental campaigners have branded the Scottish Government’s new Climate Change Bill a “missed opportunity” despite ministers pledging to bring in a tougher new target for cutting emissions.
New legislation, announced by Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, will commit the country to reducing harmful emissions by 90% by 2050 – up from the previous target of 80%.
The Scottish Government insisted advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change expert group shows the new target is “at the limit of feasibility”.
Environmental campaigners have been pressing for a 100% reduction in emissions – known as a “net zero” target – to be in the new bill.
Tom Ballantine, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has failed to live up to its own rhetoric on global climate change leadership by failing to set a net zero emissions target in the Climate Change Bill published today.”
The Scottish Government has “disregarded the voices of over 19,000 people in Scotland who asked for a net zero target by 2050”, he added.
However, Ms Cunningham insisted Scotland’s legislation would be “tougher” than the 100% targets that have so far been set by a handful of other nations.
She also stressed ministers were committed to achieving “net zero” as soon as possible, with the new law requiring ministers to keep this under review and take expert advice every five years.
Scotland’s original Climate Change Act of 2009 had set targets to cut harmful emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
As well as requiring a 90% reduction by 2050, the new Bill will introduce more challenging interim targets, such as a 56% drop by 2020, a 66% reduction by 2030 rising to 78% by 2040.
Ms Cunningham said: “Our Climate Change Bill sets out our commitment to reduce emissions by 100% with ambitious interim targets which strengthen Scotland’s world-leading position on climate change.”
She added: “Our 90% target will be tougher even than the 100% goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally-binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy.
“By 2030, we will cut emissions by two-thirds and, unlike other nations, we will not use carbon offsetting, where other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal.”
Mr Ballantine said: “The Government claims Scotland will be one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions but the bill does not commit to that. It sets a target of only a 90% reduction in emissions by 2050.
“By failing to ally with the global momentum towards zero emissions, led by countries like France, Sweden and New Zealand, Scotland is missing a huge opportunity to end its contribution to climate change in a generation, attract clean investment and retain its position as a leader on the global stage.
“We’re now calling on MSPs from all parties to push for stronger targets on emissions – net-zero by 2050 at the latest, 77% by 2030 and the action needed to deliver on them in line with the Paris Agreement.”
Mark Ruskell, climate spokesman for the Scottish Greens, branded the 90% target as “timid”.
He said: “This is hugely disappointing and will shock the many thousands of Scots who fed into the government’s consultation, calling for a net-zero target.
“This timid decision shows how weak the SNP are on the climate crisis. They’re making excuses but they should be seizing the opportunity.
“Science says we need strong action now. Other countries such as New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden have already set net-zero targets in their legislation, thanks to Greens in government.
“Scotland has a chance to drive up improvements in housing, jobs, transport and farming but it seems it’s going to take opposition parties and the wider climate movement to force the SNP to do the right thing.”