Transport is biggest challenge to Scottish decarbonisation, says climate watchdog

The decarbonisation of transport offers Scotland its biggest challenge in meeting its emissions reduction targets, despite outperforming the rest of the UK overall, according to the country’s climate change watchdog.

According to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2018 Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament, overall Scottish emissions were at 49% below 1990 levels in 2016. This puts the region on track to hit its next interim emissions reduction target of at least a 56% in actual emissions by 2020.

In the previous five years, this progress has been led by decarbonisation of the power sector and reductions in emissions from waste in Scotland. Over half (54%) of gross electricity consumption was met by renewables, with an estimate of 68% in 2017, putting the 100% target by 2020 in reach.

Total energy consumption was at just 17.8% from renewables in 2016 which, while above both the UK as a whole and the European Union average (16.7%), would require significant action if the interim target of 30% is to be reached by 2020 which was nonetheless deemed possible.

However, the CCC has said that progress in these areas “masks a lack of progress in other areas” and claimed that there were “no significant reductions” in most in most sectors outside electricity generation and waste.

“Transport is now Scotland’s biggest sectoral challenge” the report states, with the Scottish government’s ambition not yet backed up by its actions particularly on road transport.

The future decarbonisation of Scotland’s roads is very much led by the target it set in September 2017 to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2032, eight years ahead of the Westminster target.

ChargePlace Scotland, the national network of electric vehicle charge points developed by the Scottish Government through grant funding of local authorities and other organisations, stands at 964 locations according to its website. However, the RAC Foundation figure used by the CCC put it at 1,100 strong with a total of 2,100 connectors.

The report states that the number of public charging points increased by 41% in 2017 at a time when electric vehicle sales in Scotland were below that of the rest of the UK. However, while just 1.2% of car sales were EVs in Scotland last year, total EV sales increased by 67% compared to 24% in Endland, suggesting that demand for EV charging in Scotland is likely to take off at pace.

In the face of more stringent targets in the future around decarbonisation out to 2050, and the electrification of transport, the CCC has said more policy is needed to ensure Scotland is ready. To this end, it has called for a clear plan describing where and when public charging infrastructure will be introduced to ensure it meets demand in 2032.

Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “Scotland continues to lead the UK in reducing its emissions and has ambitious targets which aim to go further.

“However, challenges remain. Achieving a 90% cut in emissions by 2050, as envisaged within the new Climate Change Bill, means greater effort is now required across other areas of Scotland’s economy. This includes policies to drive down emissions in sectors where they are either flat or rising, such as transport, agriculture and energy efficiency in buildings.”

“Without real action in these areas, Scotland may fall short of its long-term goals.”

To date, the Scottish government has pledged to invest in the ChargePlace network until at least August 2019, and £15 million was recently allocated to fund 1,500 new charge points in homes, businesses and communities, including 150 new public charge points.

Further loan funding for electric vehicles is to be available until 2020, while the Energy Strategy commits to additional policy measures including expanding electric charging infrastructure up to 2022

The establishment of 20 ‘electric towns’ across Scotland by 2025 was also announced under a new Switched on Towns and Cities Challenge Fund, aiming to facilitate greater uptake of plug-in EVs by supporting high capital cost projects, awarding between £1.5 million to £2.5 million per project.

The locations or roll-out strategies of these pledges has yet to be revealed.

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