Scotland’s targets for cutting emissions are “fantastic” but the Government’s current policies mean the country is likely to fall short in achieving them, the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned.
The Scottish Government’s climate change plan aims for net-zero emissions by 2045, with interim targets that include a 75% reduction from 1990’s emissions levels by the end of this decade.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Rural Economy Committee about the strategy, the CCC’s chief executive Chris Stark said the 2030 target would be “very, very difficult to meet” with the current policies.
While he expressed confidence that net-zero could be achieved by 2045, Mr Stark argued the Scottish Government needs more “tough” policies rather than relying on positive incentives to encourage people and businesses to change their behaviour.
Witnesses from the independent advisory group to the UK and devolved governments also bemoaned the lack of an effective strategy within the Scottish Government’s plan to tackle emissions from the agriculture and farming sectors.
Citing the Government’s policies for improving infrastructure, such as electric car charging points and the stated ambition of reducing the distances travelled in cars by 20% by 2030, Mr Stark said: “These are the right kinds of targets to drive progress.
“The question in my mind is whether we have the policies in place to actually meet those new objectives that we see in the climate change plan.”
He said the proposal to reduce car miles by a fifth by 2030 is “the biggest new element of the transport plan”, but suggested that even the CCC’s “very ambitious assessment” does not judge that to be achievable.
He said: “We have ambitious policies to try and push those things, and their combined effects in our analysis are to reduce demand for car kilometres by sums of 16% by 2030.
“So the key thing for me is that will not happen unless there’s a combination of carrots and sticks, and the kind of policies that are being proposed in this pot in this document are mainly carrots.
“The 17 proposed policies that we see at this point we just come up with are almost all carrots, with the exception of that workplace car parking levy and fuel duty considerations from the Chancellor in London.
“That balance out doesn’t seem right to me.
“The Scottish Government has notably moved towards carrots mainly as its major way of encouraging people out of cars, but all the evidence suggests that you need to have some sticks in there.
“It’s not enough just to say that the UK Government are going to look at fuel duty, it’s not enough for, say, the vexed issue of parking levies in workplaces; there needs to be more if that is the ambition.
“Right across the piece, there’s a need for tough policy when it comes to transport if this is the ambition that the Scottish Government wants to deliver on.”
The CCC’s “Scotland champion”, Professor Keith Bell, added: “The gathering of quantified evidence on the effectiveness of different policy interventions – both carrots and sticks – is what we need to be able to be confident of what is actually going to deliver on that target.
“The target is fantastic, as we’ve said, from a climate change perspective, but the quality effectiveness of policy to deliver on it you have to gauge.
“We hope that the policies will be proposed in the near future, we’ve got to look to evidence from other places because the experiments and the kind of trials haven’t really been going on to that extent here, to give confidence that those will be effective.”