The Committee for Climate Change has published its latest report on progress in reducing emissions in Scotland (https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-emissions-in-scotland-2020-progress-report-to-parliament/). The report rightly notes the significant progress which the power sector has made towards reducing carbon emissions in Scotland and the UK as a whole. The switch to low carbon generation has contributed two thirds of the total fall in emissions in Scotland, driven by the increase in renewable generation from wind power, and the reduction in fossil fuel capacity – including the closure of all of Scotland’s remaining coal fired plants. The new context of delivering a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis creates a further imperative for action.
Scotland will very likely meet its target for generating 100% of its electricity from low carbon sources this year, but emissions from other sectors have not fallen to the same extent. In order to meet the target of Net Zero by 2045 much remains to be done over the forthcoming decade. Whilst electricity generation in Scotland has effectively been de-carbonised, meeting emissions targets in other sectors such as transport and heating buildings will require electrification and both increased generation capacity and flexibility in the grid. Plus there is the contribution which Scottish wind farms make to the UK power supply as a whole.
The Committee has identified clear priorities for the Scottish Government. Central to these are producing a new Climate Change Plan before the year end, creating the pathway to deliver Net Zero by 2045, and putting in place a UK Emissions Trading system. Amongst the more detailed recommendations is the strong steer that the next National Planning Framework should be aligned closely with achieving Net Zero 2045 – providing a favourable planning framework to provide a low carbon and efficient energy system and climate resilient infrastructure. This should provide a positive consenting regime for onshore wind and other renewables consistent with other land use policies and promote repowering and life extensions.
COP 26 has been postponed until November 2021 and Glasgow’s role as host city creates a window of opportunity for Scotland to demonstrate its success as the model for tackling climate change. Between now and then a new policy framework can be put in place to enable renewables to be a leading force in the drive towards Net Zero 2045. It’s important we don’t miss this opportunity.
Tim Wheeler, Principal Planner, November 2020.