Committee on Climate Change – ‘Scotland has led the UK’
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has just submitted a report to the Westminster parliament on 25 June, 2020 entitled ‘Reducing UK emissions progress: Report to Parliament’.
It has some things to say about Scotland and the Scottish Government. It also seems to get tangled up over various parliamentary roles and responsibilities across the UK.
“Scotland and Wales both have their own legislated climate targets. Both countries were close to being on course to meet their next major climate targets for 2020 (Table 2.1, Figure 2.8), and will now likely outperform them due to the impacts of COVID-19.”
“Scotland has decarbonised faster than the UK as a whole from 2008 to 2017, whereas Wales and Northern Ireland have marginally increased their share of total UK emissions (Figure 2.9): Emissions fell by 19.8 MtCO2e (-33%) in Scotland, at a relatively steady annual decline.”
“Scotland has led the UK on the rate of power sector decarbonisation, and its emissions from power generation were just 1.2 MtCO2e in 2017. Scotland has substantial capacity for low – carbon generation with renewable energy making up 90% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland in 2019, …”
On agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry: “…. tree planting policy has failed outside of Scotland.“ And:“Rates of tree planting have varied significantly in England and across the devolved administrations. In 2018/19, Scotland accounted for 80% of new planting in the UK. For the UK as a whole, rates of tree planting have consistently fallen below what is needed to achieve Net Zero by 2050.”
On waste: “Recycling rates have also plateaued in England, although Wales and Scotland have seen improvement in the past decade.” And: “To date, only Scotland has legislated for a landfill ban on municipal biodegradable wastes by 2025 (delayed from 2021).”
The CCC states: “Fairness must be a key part of policy design” It then adds: “The Scottish Government has established a Just Transition Commission to advise on how fair transition principles can be applied to climate change action in Scotland. The Commission published its interim report in February 2020, identifying the need to: develop transition plans; engage widely with society; develop policy to share costs and avoid unfair cost burdens; and begin acting now to address inequalities.”
The CCC points to some exemplars: “Scotland and Wales have often led the way within the UK at tackling challenging areas for emissions reduction:
- Scotland’s Energy Efficient Scotland strategy has set out a long-term plan for decarbonising buildings, with clear standards set well in advance and backed up by regulation. That includes a proposal that all residential properties in Scotland will need to be EPC band C. Measurement of these standards will be key to ensuring success.”
(As an aside, the CCC report notes as an exemplar in England: “Nottingham introduced a Workplace Parking Levy, and re-invested the revenues into public transport infrastructure, leading to significant decreases in congestion and CO2 emissions, without reducing the number businesses operating in the area”.)
“Scotland announced two substantial packages of climate mitigation measures in its 2019-20 Programme for Government and Scottish Budget 2020-21. The Scottish Government has had a period of public engagement and consultation ahead of a planned update to the Climate Change Plan.”
On decarbonising transport, the CCC states: “The (Westminster) Government is currently consulting on bringing forward its ‘Road to Zero’ ambition to phase-out the sale of petrol and diesel cars. Our assessment is that the date should be brought forward to 2032 at the latest, as currently planned in Scotland.
Inter-governmental relations across the UK
The CCC report refers frequently to the roles of the various governments in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. It regards the achievement of Net Zero emissions as relying on all four governments: “The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must make full use of the policy levers available to them and work with the UK Government closely to ensure delivery in those areas that are not devolved. This means making particular use of devolved policy levers on the demand side even where supply-side policies are reserved to the UK government (e.g. encouraging walking and cycling), providing ‘soft’ support (e.g. advice on buildings retrofits) to support UK Government policies, and use of planning and procurement powers to drive decarbonisation.”
It also states: “Where powers are reserved to the UK level, the devolved administrations have an important role in ensuring that the emissions reductions take place.”
Perhaps rather oddly, this all seems to place an onus on the devolved governments to ensure the achievement of what is the responsibility of Westminster! It also seems to look to the devolved governments to make up for what is lacking in Westminster’s processes within reserved policy areas – specifically on what the CCC refers to as the ‘demand side’. Why is there NOT an expectation that Westminster will be held to account for delivering effectively within its own areas of reserved powers? Perhaps changing the boundaries of what is and what is not ‘reserved’ may be a more appropriate ‘fix’!
The report adds: “The UK Net Zero target will only be achieved if the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the parts of the UK Government which relate only to England, contribute to reducing emissions.”
However, the report fails to set out consistently and across all areas of Westminster’s responsibilities the latter’s progress/achievements (or not) within (just) England. It’s often hard to distinguish between what Westminster achieves within the scope of its powers for the whole UK from what it does with those of its powers that only extend to England.
There seems to be a recurring pattern across a number of policy domains where what happens in England is lumped within UK-wide information rather than always reported separately i.e. in an equivalent way to NI, Scotland and Wales.