Urgent action is needed if Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets are to be met


Urgent action across all sectors is essential if Scotland’s ambitious climate and net zero emissions targets are to be met, according to the reports of four Holyrood Committees published today.

The committees delivered key recommendations on the Scottish Government’s updated draft Climate Change Plan. The Plan outlines proposals to meet Scotland’s climate change targets - 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2045.  

This comes ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year, the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

One of the concerns raised by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is that while the level of ambition in the Plan is welcomed, major action and transformational change across all sectors is now urgently required to reflect the nature of the climate emergency and the immediate opportunities to progress a green recovery.

The Committee notes, for example, that although Scotland has halved greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years, emissions will need to more than halve again over the much shorter period to 2032.
Gillian Martin MSP, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Convener, said;

“Scotland has committed to ambitious climate change targets and it is critical that for this ambition to be realised, the Scottish Government acts with the utmost urgency upon the recommendations we have made, across all four committees, today”.

“The pandemic has shown that we can act boldly and at pace in the face of a crisis. Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity today and our response to it must reflect that.”

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Local Government and Communities Committee and the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee have scrutinised the effectiveness of the plan, examining the ambition of proposals and actions across all sectors.
As well as calling for urgent action and transformational change across all sectors, the Committees believe that detail on how the Plan’s ambitions will be met is lacking in areas.

Proposals for transport for example, Scotland’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, should include a robust means of measuring progress towards the proposed 41% reduction in transport emissions by 2032. It should also include details of how timescales for reductions will be aligned with key transport policy measures.
Gillian Martin said; “To set us up for success from the outset, this Plan should lay out more developed sectoral implementation plans with details of the emission abatement attributed to policies and proposals within the sector envelopes.

“It should provide clarity around policies and proposals that are SMART*, around delivery levers, delivery partners and financing, and there should be clear timescales attached to this. We must capture the immediate opportunities to progress a green recovery.

“Our Committees heard consistent concerns about the credibility of the plan, particularly that there is a lack of measurable, time bound and funded policies and proposals and that the detail of where the largest challenges across the sectors lie is missing.”

** SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based

Notes to Editors:

In the reports, the Committees highlighted a range of issues including;

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee; Report here

• The Plan should provide more detail about how the policies and proposals across all sectors reflect the opportunities and implications associated with just transition and green recovery.

• Understanding the relative emissions abatement significance of policies and proposals is key – enabling potential risks and deficiencies to be identified and corrected.

• The Scottish Government should review the assumptions underpinning the Plan and the credibility of abatement attributed to Negative Emission Technologies (NETs), and given the uncertainties associated with this, set out a plan B for how equivalent abatement could be achieved.

• Recognise that land is a finite resource. The Plan should take a more integrated approach to cutting emissions across agriculture and the wider land use sector.

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee; Report here

• In order to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030, the Scottish Government must set out radical policy measures that address all four key factors identified by the UK CCC, namely: societal and technological changes, increasing car occupancy, modal shifts to active travel and public transport; while also addressing the challenge of achieving this goal in more remote and rural areas of Scotland.

• In addition to phasing out the need for new diesel and petrol cars by 2030, the Scottish Government should set out a timescale for phasing out new hybrid vehicles.

• To enable the agricultural sector to meet its 2030 climate change target, the Committee believes that the timetable for bringing forward a new rural policy for Scotland needs to be significantly accelerated, and that the Scottish Government must show leadership on the direction of travel on rural policies and what will be required in the future, to give confidence to land managers.

• The Committee welcomes the realistic targets set for new tree planting but calls on the Scottish Government to investigate how a more ambitious longer-term target of 24,000 hectares of new forestry per year, as advocated by the UK CCC, might be achieved.

Local Government and Communities Committee; Report here 

• That the Scottish Government consider potentially bringing forward the date of implementation for new zero emission heating standards to ensure that they “bite” earlier.

• More detail is needed on the practicalities of rolling out decarbonisation in our diverse housing stock, with further detail also on how home-owners will be incentivised and persuaded this would be in their interest.

• That the Scottish Government provide local authorities with necessary resources to support effective ‘front-loading’ of public engagement in planning, including support for the development of innovative processes such as local place plans and collaborative sessions.

• The Committee ask the Scottish Government to consider more flexibility around local government funding to allow each local authority to meet the needs unique to their area in relation to decarbonisation.

Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee; Report here

• The Scottish Government should put in place a long-term strategic framework addressing what the Royal Society of Edinburgh described as the competing issues of: addressing climate; ensuring affordability; providing energy security; and developing energy policy which is acceptable to the public, economically sustainable and just.

• An Annual Energy Statement should be published, showing the progress made in a meaningful, prominent and accessible way for policy makers, parliamentarians and the public.

• There is a notable lack of a business case for industry within the Plan, and the Scottish Government must work in partnership with industry to develop the business case for decarbonisation and mitigate against the risks to the economy, local communities, and the work-force of carbon leakage.

• On Negative Emissions Technologies, the Committee recommends the Scottish Government publish an industrial road map to set out in detail how the 2032 target for gross emissions will be met.


The updated Climate Change Plan was laid in the Parliament on 16 December 2020 at which point a Call for Views was issued. 156 responses were received across the four committees. A parliamentary debate is due to be held in the chamber on Tuesday 9 March 2021. 

The updated Climate Change Plan is an update to the 3rd Climate Change Plan, published on 28 February 2018, which covers the period to 2032.

ECCLR’s report notes that the 4th Climate Change Plan should align with the Paris stock takes, starting in 2024 and recommends that the draft plan be laid in Parliament no later than the end of 2023, with publication of the final plan by the end of 2024.

Media Information

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee;
Hilda Stewart; 07583107104; [email protected]

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee;
Kirsty Rimmer; 07816 361536; [email protected]

Local Government and Communities Committee;
Warren Hardie; 07870361440; [email protected]

Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee
Linda Peters; 07557 633713; [email protected]



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