Progress in reducing emissions in Scotland – 2021 Report to Parliament

Paul Richardson ,
9 Dec 2021

Paul Richardson, Policy Adviser (Agriculture and Climate Change) at Scottish Land and Estates, provides a brief summary of the Climate Change Committee’s Progress in reducing emissions in Scotland – 2021 Report to Parliament, published on 07 December 2021.

The Climate Change Committee have published their tenth annual “Progress in reducing emissions in Scotland – 2021 Report to Parliament”, assessing Scotland’s progress towards meeting climate targets using the latest available emissions data.

The headline message is that whilst the Scottish Government’s very (in some cases overly) ambitious targets are laudable, there is a risk they will be missed as the detail is lacking in almost all policy areas as to how to achieve them, despite Scottish Ministers having control over most of the key policy levers. The report also specifically identifies an urgent need for a post-CAP low-carbon agriculture policy and clarity as to the funding which will be available. Consultations and strategies must now turn to the delivery of a comprehensive, detailed policy framework and implementation.

In 2019 (the most recent data available), sectoral emissions expressed as metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) were largest in surface transport (9.5), buildings (8.5), agriculture (7.5), and manufacturing and construction (6.0). For agriculture specifically, this represents a reduction of 13% compared to 1990 but no change on 2018.

One notable revision in the Scottish greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is the representation of emissions from drained and rewetted peatlands and updated estimates of grassland emissions, adding to net emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). These revisions mean the LULUCF sector is now estimated to be an overall net source of emissions (rather than a net sink) of 2.7 MtCO2e in 2019.

There was recognition in the report that future changes to the Global Warming Potential (GWP) measures – which are used to convert emissions from different gases into a single comparable metric and evaluated over a 100-year time frame (GWP100) – will significantly affect emissions as measured in MtCO2e. This will be particularly important in measuring methane emissions.

Extending to 134 pages, the full report covers several sectors from surface transport, to aviation, shipping, manufacturing and construction, fuel supply, buildings, agriculture, land use, power, waste, and F-gases. This includes a table of recommendations for each sector, with proposed timelines and where areas of primary responsibility rest with the Scottish Government or require a joint UK approach.

I would encourage members to read the summary of progress to reduce emissions in agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry section (pages 39 and 40), as well as the next steps and recommendations (pages 123 to 127), and finally the relevant sectoral recommendations tables in the Annex. We (SLE) can probably support most of the agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry recommendations, though more detail is required on those to “enact in law a ‘Nitrogen Balance Sheet’”, and “encourage a reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy products”.