Regret over target climbdown

The Scottish Parliament.

Commentators expressed disappointment at the Scottish government’s 19 April decision to abandon its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2030.

Màiri McAllan, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy, delivered the statement to the Scottish Parliament, which was a response to the Climate Change Commitee’s recently published Progress Report, which had dubbed the 2030 target as “beyond what is credible”, pointing out that the country’s annual emissions reduction target has been missed in eight of the last 12 years.

McAllan expressed acceptance that the 2030 goal was “out of reach”.

“We must now act to chart a course to 2045, at a pace and a scale that is reasonable, fair and just,” she said, adding that the Scottish government would “bring forward expedited legislation to address matters raised by the CCC and ensure out legislative framework better reflects the reality of long-term climate policy making.”

CCC response
Responding to the statement, the CCC’s Interim Chair Professor Piers Forster, nonetheless felt the removal of the 2030 target was “deeply disappointing”.

“We are reassured that the Net Zero target remains in place but interim targets and plans to deliver against them are what makes any Net Zero commitment credible. They are essential for enabling a stable transition that protects jobs and the welfare of citizens and provides new opportunities. Long term planning is vital for businesses, citizens, and future Parliaments. Today that has been undermined.

“The Committee urges the Scottish Government to lay and deliver against new commitments as soon as possible.”

Stefanie O’Gorman, Director of Sustainable Economics, Ramboll, and member of the Climate Emergency Response Group (a collective whose participants span private, public and third sectors), seemed to feel it was a situation where anything but over-ambition was inappropriate.

“Having just delivered a report to the Scottish Government on the economic opportunities in Scotland’s net zero and climate adaptation economy, it is disappointing to see this climbdown on net zero targets. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 was always overly ambitious but ambition is needed to fight the climate crisis. The Scottish Government should not be punished for falling short of these optimistic targets, but it cannot be forgiven for not taking every opportunity to proactively work towards its ambitions. Simply pointing the finger at Westminster as a default position will not move the dial on Scotland’s climate progress. There are many actions within its control, such as the long promised 20% reduction in car kilometres goal by 2030 or resourcing up planning departments to reduce barriers to clean energy schemes, that are not currently being done. As it stands, the Government’s updated policy package is weak on supporting the green transition and loses opportunities for positive economic outcomes.”

Claire Mack, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables said the rollback on the landmark target was ” extremely disappointing”.

“Scotland was the first country in the world to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions in line with scientific evidence and the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency.
“This has helped establish Scotland as a globally recognised leader on climate action which is why the rollback on our landmark 2030 target and wider climate change legislation is extremely disappointing.

“At this crucial time, we need to signal confidence to investors and our supply chain that Scotland is the best place in the world to build the renewable energy projects which deliver energy security, economic growth and carbon reduction at scale.

“The Scottish Government must learn the lessons of these missed targets by urgently acting on the clear recommendations of the Climate Change Committee and delivering the strong policies needed to support delivery.

“This will be essential to ensuring carbon emissions are reduced at the rate required across every sector and to maintain investor confidence in Scotland’s renewable energy industry.
Others felt the climbdown was a symptom of successive failures to address the target competently.

Strategy failure accusation
Trade union group Unite said the Scottish government needed a ‘reality check’.
The group’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Scottish government ditching its emissions target is the latest setback in a growing list of failed green policies. The repeated inability to meet its own emissions and green jobs targets is inextricably linked. Government ministers need a reality check.

“The fact is you can’t meet emissions targets unless there is a coherent energy strategy in place and government ministers at Holyrood and Westminster have abysmally failed to deliver that.”
In February, Unite published survey findings involving its Petroineos oil refinery members based at the Grangemouth complex. The survey showed that the workforce emphatically believe there has been a collective failure to support them following the announcement by Petroineos in November last year to begin transitioning its Grangemouth refining operations.

Grangemouth oil refinery by night.

The survey found that only 3 per cent expressed any confidence in the ongoing “just transition” plans for oil and gas workers; and 88 per cent said that politicians were ‘not doing enough to support and protect jobs at Grangemouth’.

The Scottish government’s U-turn follows the recent figures published by the Office of National Statistics which revealed that the estimated number of jobs created in low carbon and renewables sector has contracted over the last year.

Overall, low carbon and renewable energy employment was estimated to stand at 25,700 in 2022 which is substantially down from the 29,700 estimated jobs in 2021.

The overall jobs total in 2022 stands barely above the jobs total estimate in 2014 of 23,200. In the offshore wind sector, 3,100 jobs were estimated for Scotland in 2022, down from 3,200 jobs in 2021. 3,100 jobs were also estimated for the onshore wind sector in 2022, down from 3,500 in 2021.

The figures are in stark contrast with the SNP-led Scottish Government in 2010 promising 28,000 direct jobs in the offshore wind industry alone by 2020, and a further 20,000 jobs in related industries.

Unite Scottish secretary Derek Thomson said: “Let’s remember that the Scottish government boasted that the offshore wind sector would create around 48,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2020. The latest figures estimate that only 6,200 people work directly in both the onshore and offshore wind sectors.

“Given this lamentable record it is hardly surprising that Scottish oil and gas workers have no faith in plans for a just transition for their jobs.”