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Scotland drops 2030 emissions target but retains 2045 net zero ambition

30 April 2024

Following sharp criticism from the Climate Change Committee (which said the Scottish government was failing to deliver on its net zero goals and had no credible delivery strategy), a target to reduce the country’s emissions by 75% by 2030 was dropped.

The Scottish Net Zero Cabinet Secretary Màiri McAllan said she “accepted” the target was no longer achievable.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) seemed reluctant to concede the target they had set was now impossible to achieve. This stands in contrast to the rhetoric deployed by Rishi Sunak in September 2023 when he announced delays to some UK-level net zero goals, positioning them as a ‘burden’ that the government would protect voters from.

The fallout from the SNP’s announcement was immediate and significant.

The SNP’s power-sharing coalition with the Scottish Green Party was dissolved days later, with disagreement over the decision to scrap the 2030 target cited as one of the reasons for the breakdown of the agreement.  Humza Yousaf subsequently resigned as First Minister.

Some commentary suggested that the disagreement over the climate targets reflected the divisiveness of net zero in Scotland, but a poll conducted whilst all of this was unfolding underscored the support among Scottish voters for the country’s net zero ambition.

Reference article:

  • Source: Net Zero Scotland

The latest from the Net Zero timeline:

Opinion Insight 14th March 2024

Grantham Institute survey: What benefits do people think climate policies will bring?

Policies to cut carbon can bring a range of ‘co-benefits’. From cleaner air, to warmer homes, to the prospect of green jobs, these co-benefits have often been advocated as a way to build support for net zero among people who may be more interested in these side-effects of climate policies than net zero itself.

In a new survey led by Neil Jennings at the Grantham Institute (Imperial College London), just over 1000 people were asked to assess nine different potential co-benefits of action on climate change.

The top response was ‘homes that are more affordable to heat’. This was chosen as the most important benefit for individuals, for communities, and for the country as a whole. It was also supported by voters of all parties. In the context of the eyewatering cost of energy over the past two years, cheaper heating bills were a universally popular co-benefit of action on climate change.

Another popular response was ‘improved energy security’. This makes a lot of sense, given that the rise in energy prices over the past two years was driven by a spike in the price of imported gas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And there’s growing evidence that renewables as a route to a more secure, homegrown energy system is a popular proposition across the political spectrum.

Interestingly, there was much less support for the idea that climate policies could be drivers of job creation. The prospect of green jobs has routinely been used by campaigners and politicians alike to build support for net zero. But this survey – backed by wider research – suggests that claims about green jobs may not land as well as is assumed.

But the survey makes it clear there’s work to do to persuade the public that even the most popular co-benefits are feasible in practice, with fewer people agreeing they’re practically achievable than identifying them as desirable in the first place.

The problem here isn’t a lack of positivity towards job creation, its the level of trust in the government to deliver them. Whether its warmer homes, energy security, or new green jobs, practical and tangible examples of climate policies actually delivering the benefits people want to see play a crucial role.

Climate policies really can deliver a whole host of positives. But when it comes to persuading the public of net zero co-benefits, seeing is believing.

  • Source: Imperial College London
  • Authors: Dr Neil Jennings, Dr Pauline Paterson, Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, Dr Candice Howarth
  • Date: 6th March 2024
Policy Insight 7th March 2024

Spring Budget 2024: A small number of ‘green-tinged’ measures

The Spring 2024 budget was extremely light on green spending announcements – making it one of the least green budgets” of recent years according to reporting in The Guardian.

Given that the net zero economy is booming across the country – and that both voters and MPs see clean energy as the sector most likely to generate further growth – the absence of additional green investment is perhaps the most striking climate takeaway.

There were a smattering of ‘green tinged’ announcements (rounded up by Carbon Brief) which included:

  • A rise in Air Passenger Duty levied on Business Class flights and above, which have higher per-passenger carbon emissions. This policy reflects the broad agreement among voters that those who emit the most through their flights should pay more. However, ‘new taxes on flying’ were one of the (not yet implemented) policies that Rishi Sunak ‘scrapped’ in his net zero speech in September 2023.
  • An extension of the current ‘windfall tax’ being levied on oil and gas company profits will be extended until 2029. This is a straightforwardly popular policy: polling by Greenpeace in 2023 found that almost nine in ten people (87%) want to see a loophole-free windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies. And Climate Barometer tracker data shows that energy companies are seen as one of main culprits for the current high price of energy (alongside the war in Ukraine, and the government themselves).

The budget did not include any measures to reduce the cost of charging electric vehicles (EVs) – something that the former Top Gear journalist Quentin Wilson’s FairCharge campaign had been calling for. In fact, by extending the freeze on duty charged on petrol and diesel fuels, the budget prioritised petrol and diesel motoring over EVs.

  • Date: 6th March 2024
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