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Blog Post 2 September 2021

Net zero by 2045: how Scotland is tackling the climate emergency

In November, Scotland will host one of the most important climate events in history: COP26. The climate talks are potentially the world’s last change to get runaway climate change under control.

We have more information about the event, as well as key areas where our expert advice can help reduce emissions to reach net zero by 2050, on our campaign page.

With the eyes of the world on Glasgow between now and November, we decided to find out how Scotland is tackling climate change – and what progress has been made since the nation declared a climate emergency in 2019.

Net zero targets

The Scottish Government has legally committed to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK.

The target is among the most ambitious anywhere in the world, with interim goals of 75% emissions reduction by 2030 and 90% by 2040, compared to 1990 levels. To help Scotland transition to net zero, the Scottish Government has set out several commitments, including:

  • £1.6 billion low carbon funding to secure a just transition to a net zero economy.
  • A 20-year vision for energy efficient, zero carbon housing.
  • £500 million for infrastructure to support active travel.

Let’s take a closer look at Scotland’s progress in tackling the climate emergency to date, in the three key areas of renewable energy, homes and buildings, and transport.

Renewable energy

According to data from the UK Government’s independent advisors on climate change, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 31% in the 10 years to 2018, faster than any other UK nation over the same period.

This reduction was led by improvements in the power sector, where Scottish renewable generation has tripled, and fossil fuel generation has fallen by more than 70% in the last decade.

Power generation is certainly a major driver in Scotland’s plans to become net zero by 2045. In 2015, for example, renewables became Scotland’s largest power source. And in 2018, Scottish Power became the first major UK energy company to generate all its electricity from wind.

However, the government narrowly missed its target of generating 100% of its electricity demand from renewables by 2020, achieving a total of 97.4% last year.

Homes and buildings

Scotland’s 2.5 million homes currently account for around 15% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the 2045 net zero target, all homes and buildings will have to significantly reduce their energy use, and most will have to switch to a zero emissions heating system.

Most homes (approximately 2 million) use mains gas as their heating fuel, while just 278,000 households (around 11%) are heated using a renewable or low carbon system, such as a heat pump or biomass boiler.

And while the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes is improving, around 1.4 million properties are still rated below the recommended minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘C’, based on data from the 2017 Scottish House Condition Survey.

To address this challenge, the Scottish Government published a draft Heat in Buildings Strategy earlier this year, which sets out how Scotland will reduce emissions from homes and buildings over the next two decades.

This will include scaling up the installation of zero or low emissions heating systems like heat pumps, so that at least 64,000 homes install renewable heating systems per year by 2025 – with ambitions for even more. It will also see thousands of homes install energy efficiency upgrades like insulation and double glazing, to bring all residential buildings up to a minimum EPC ‘C’ rating by 2040.

Transport

Transport emissions are Scotland’s single largest source of greenhouse gases, accounting for 36% of total emissions in 2018 – so this is an important sector where progress needs to be made to reach net zero.

Most vehicles on Scotland’s roads are still powered by petrol or diesel, however supporting the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) is an important element of the government’s Climate Change Plan, which also aligns with the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.

Good progress is being made here, both in Scotland and the rest of the UK. In May, the UK Government announced that half a million ultra low emission vehicles were now being driven on roads across the country. And as of June 2021, there were over 2,500 public EV chargepoints in Scotland – representing 10% of the UK total.

The Scottish Government is also introducing low emission zones in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen to improve air quality, encourage the use of shared transport and active travel, and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

Our work in Scotland

Energy Saving Trust delivers services in Scotland that help residents save energy and reduce carbon emissions. We deliver the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland programme, which provides free, impartial advice on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greener travel.

The service also offers a range of interest-free loans for energy saving home improvements, as well as ebikes, electric vehicles and home chargepoints. The programme has saved more than 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2008, as well as saving householders over £1 billion in energy bills.

At Energy Saving Trust, we’re aiming to be at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency in Scotland – and the rest of the UK – for many years to come. As host of the critical COP26 climate summit in November, Scotland must continue to decisively reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors and transition to a net zero society by 2045.

Last updated: 1 September 2021