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Report Backs A New ‘UK Office of Climate Responsibility’ to End Flatlining Carbon Cuts

Figures show Scottish carbon reductions “stagnating”

A new report by Our Scottish Future calls for the creation of a new green network of UK institutions to cut carbon emissions and warns current targets in Scotland will be missed without urgent action.  

Written by sustainability expert Dr Peter Wood, the new paper – entitled “A Net Negative Nation – hitting Scotland’s climate targets” – recommends the UK and devolved governments jointly set up a new ‘Office of Climate Responsibility’ to test every action by government, the private sector and civil society against climate change targets.

Like the Office of Budget Responsibility, it would provide rapid reaction in each parliament of the UK on whether Ministers were living up to green pledges. 

The paper also backs a UK wide Agency on Climate Cooperation– chaired by the First Minister of Scotland – to direct investment on the coming green revolution and calls on all Governments to do more to inspire community action, and individual and social activism.
 
Writing the foreword to the paper, former Scottish Green party leader Robin Harper, the chair of OSF’s Environmental Commission writes: “We need to co-operate rather than compete; we need constructive dialogue; and in the face of the environmental emergency that looms, we should be abandoning the toxic binary politics of today in favour of constructive dialogue.” 
 
The call for a UK wide shake-up follows warnings this week by Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that targets set by the Scottish Government to slash carbon by 75% of 1990 levels by 2030 are likely to be “enormously challenging” without “deep cooperation with UK policies for decarbonising”. 
 
Today’s OSF report confirms official figures which show that, between 2016 and 2019, the rapid process of decarbonisation in Scotland has stalled. 

Scottish Government figures show that in 2016, 48.5 mega-tonnes of Co2 were released into the atmosphere; by 2019, the figure had fallen to just 47.8 mega-tonnes. 

The OSF report warns that the 2030 target set by the Scottish Government is implausible on current trends.  

It concludes: “The data shows that progress in reducing emissions in most sectors has stagnated. Between 2016 and 2019, the figures have flatlined. This puts the Scottish Government’s target to slash carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 into stark relief. Bluntly, if the figures for 2016-19 are repeated over the coming three years, then the legally-enshrined target set by the Scottish Parliament becomes a practical impossibility.” 

The OSF paper says a new Office for Climate Responsibility would be given legal status to ensure all government activity is compliant with net zero timescales. It would also advise on local delivery – such as the reduction in new road building. 

The paper also backs the creation of a new UK Agency for Climate Cooperation Acceleration, made up of devolved governments, English regions and the UK Government, to coordinate strategic projects across the country – such as new renewable energy projects, rail network improvements, and reforestation.  

And it urges governments to encourage a post-Covid revival of community action across the UK, in supporting voluntary groups to gain valuable skills through restoring community assets and natural heritage sites, or hosting international ‘Attenborough Scholarships’ and exchanges.  

In his foreword, Mr Harper adds: “Scotland has been handed the advantage of the biggest wind energy resource in Europe. We have already been criticised – quite rightly – for the absence of meaningful detail and lack of obvious strategies to achieve our other announced targets.  

He added: “This report by Peter Wood will help to set us on the right road, opening up a wide range of areas for discussion and the development of common strategies to take us more safely forward”. 

Notes

Earlier this week, Mr Stark told the BBC’s Not Hot Air that the Scottish Government’s 75% target was “an enormously challenging target.” He added: “It rests on Scotland doing more and earlier than the rest of the United Kingdom. So far I haven’t seen a strategy from the Scottish Government that would deliver that. It is a very good challenge in the year of COP for the Scottish Government to come up with that but it also rests on deep cooperation with UK policies for decarbonising and I’m afraid that is another area where we are not seeing that kind of coordination.” 

Figures for Scottish emissions can be found here.

About the Author

Dr Peter Wood is a sustainability researcher with over ten years experience in policy and behaviour change. He is currently an Associate Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Science and Management at The Open University in Scotland. He lives in Edinburgh.

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