2030 Emissions Reduction Target

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 6 March 2024.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government whether it is on course to achieve its 2030 target for reducing emissions. (S6O-03157)

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

Scotland’s emissions halved from 1990 to 2021, while our economy grew by 57 per cent, which is a fantastic example of how economic growth and decarbonisation are mutually inclusive and reinforcing.

Scotland’s 2030 target, which every party in the chamber voted for, was always extremely stretching. Indeed, the Climate Change Committee was clear at the time that it went beyond what it would recommend. However, I will continue to push to meet our targets through direct action in Scotland and by working with the United Kingdom Government and pushing it to take action where that is needed.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, but she did not answer the original question, which was whether the Scottish Government is on course to achieve the target. It is a stretching target, and to achieve it would require an 8.9 per cent annual reduction in emissions from 2021 to 2030. Has the cabinet secretary had any discussions with the Climate Change Committee on that, and what does it say about whether Scotland is on course to meet that target?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

The Climate Change Committee is our statutory adviser on decarbonisation and the pathway to 2045, and I have had conversations with it on our near-term and mid-century targets. I am extremely proud of the progress that Scotland has made to date, but I am utterly clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, not least the very near-term challenge up to 2030. I am considering all those matters very closely, particularly in respect of the need to produce a climate change plan, and I will update Parliament on any decisions that are made in due course.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I have a number of supplementary questions, and I will try to take them all.

Photo of Bill Kidd Bill Kidd Scottish National Party

We here all acknowledge the fact that while Scotland is tied to the rest of the UK, the progress of our emissions targets will continue to be impacted by events at Westminster. Will the cabinet secretary therefore outline what impact UK Government policies such as rowing back on climate commitments and cutting Scotland’s capital budget by almost 10 per cent have had, and may continue to have, on Scotland’s emissions targets and journey to net zero?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

The UK Government’s rowing back on various critical policies, including the Prime Minister’s announcements last year, has the potential to have a devastating impact on our environment and, as was pointed out by many commentators at the time, demonstrates complete economic illiteracy. More than that, it has also inflicted a serious further blow to the UK’s already diminished international reputation.

I have to mention the budgetary settlement that Scotland has been handed, in particular the UK Government’s cut to our capital budget of almost 10 per cent over the next five years. All that taken together points to a Government that is completely unserious about the threat of the climate emergency.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

Last year, it was revealed that in 2021, Scotland yet again missed its legally binding target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. I was glad to hear that the Scottish Government has accepted or partially accepted 98 out of 99 recommendations from the Climate Change Committee. Can the cabinet secretary outline exactly what progress the Scottish Government has made on implementing the recommendations for reaching the 2030 target?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I mentioned in response to a previous question that I am proud of what this Government has achieved in respect of decarbonisation, whether that is Scotland planting 75 per cent of all new trees in the UK in recent years, investing £250 million in peatland restoration, placing 37 per cent of our waters in marine protected areas, developing four low-emission zones or completing the world’s largest leasing round of floating offshore wind. All that has helped to contribute to the fact that we are now halfway to net zero. However, as I have also said, I am very clear eyed about the challenges that are ahead, and I am considering all that in relation to the development of the climate change plan.

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary accept that a lot of businesses in Scotland are very keen to help the Government meet the net zero target? One thing that they hate more than anything else is when targets are shifted, as they have been under the UK Government, which is more interested in winning elections than in securing net zero.

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

Absolutely. With regard to the trajectory for net zero, as with most things, certainty and clarity on direction of travel is what business and investors seek most.

I point to the coming together of the economy and net zero within the Scottish Government as something that ought to give business great comfort in that regard.

As far as I am concerned, the energy transition is the era-defining opportunity ahead of us—economically, as well as being an environmental imperative—and I will continue to pursue that.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

When will the 2013 household waste recycling target be met?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

As Mr Golden knows, the circular economy and waste route map is progressing through parliamentary committees. That work, which is led by my colleague Lorna Slater, looks to update a spectrum of commitments, some of which were made prior to the climate emergency. I know that Mr Golden is involved in the scrutiny of the route map but, given that he has not been able to ask those questions of my colleague Lorna Slater in committee, I will endeavour to have a written update provided to him.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

Older interisland ferries, of which Shetland has several that are more than 40 years old, were not built with net zero targets in mind. Ferry emissions make up a large proportion of Shetland’s emissions output. What assessment has the Scottish Government made of the impact of replacement vessels and short sub-sea tunnels to connect communities and reduce emissions?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

The suite of options for better connectivity for our islands is currently being considered as part of the islands connectivity plan, which is led by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Fiona Hyslop.

Beatrice Wishart is right to point out the need to decarbonise our ferry fleet. We have to recognise that there is a pace at which that can happen, which is line with the technologies that are coming on stream and becoming commercially available. I am currently discussing that with my counterparts throughout the UK, with regard to the emissions trading scheme.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

The cabinet secretary has had discussions with the Climate Change Committee. Has it advised the Scottish Government that it will miss its 2030 emissions target—yes or no?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

It has always been the view of the Climate Change Committee that the 75 per cent target by 2030 was beyond what was achievable, and it advised the Scottish Parliament of that, prior to all members of this Parliament voting for it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions on wellbeing economy, net zero and energy. There will be a brief pause to allow the front-bench teams to change positions before we move on to the next portfolio.