Is Scotland hitting its climate change targets?

A look at whether Scotland is achieving its climate aims ahead of the crunch COP26 summit in Glasgow.

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The spotlight will be on Scotland when the global climate summit COP26 comes to Glasgow in November.

With every nation under pressure to cut its emissions and stop the world’s temperature from soaring, it’s being trailed as our “last best chance” to avoid catastrophe.

Scotland has vowed to be ‘net-zero’ by 2045 – but that’s just one of a number of aims the government has set.

Here, we take a closer look at the targets and ask whether we’re on track to hit them.

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What is net-zero?

Essentially, it means putting fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than we take out. 

When we reach that balance, through reducing our burning of fossil fuels and off-setting techniques such as planting more trees, we’ve reached net-zero. 

Scotland’s aim is more ambitious than the rest of the UK and many other countries around the world.

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Are we on track?

Late last year, the Scottish Government published an updated Climate Plan – a roadmap between now and 2032 that would help to reach our overall target.

Most recent figures on greenhouse gas emissions show that Scotland missed its target – it had hoped to reduce its emissions by 55% by 2019, but instead got to 51.5% compared to levels in the 1990s.

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Countries around the world must cut emissions to prevent climate catastrophe.

Richard Dixon, from the environmental group Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We’ve got quite tough targets, they are among the best, and if you created a league table we would be near the top.

“But they’re still not good enough.

“Everyone is supposed to be trying to keep the world below a temperature change of 1.5 degrees and our targets are not good enough.

“It’s not okay to say ‘we were one of the best’ when we are suffering from climate catastrophe in a few years’ time.” 

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Transport targets

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of targets around transport as it is the country’s largest pollution source.

The aim is to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and reduce the number of miles they travel.

Investment is being made in new forms of public transport, including hydrogen buses and trains, and it’s hoped Scotland’s railways will be decarbonised by 2035.

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A hydrogen-powered bus in Aberdeen.

But the most recent climate change committee report said: “The current trend on transport emissions is off-track for meeting Scotland’s interim emissions reduction targets and net-zero.”

It also said there had been “no significant behavioural shift away from cars towards public transport, walking and cycling in Scotland in the last decade”.

However, Cycling Scotland says there was a 47% increase in the number of people cycling between lockdown and March this year.

And the recent deal between the SNP and Greens also committed to an increase in investment in active travel. 

Renewable energy

Scotland has significantly increased the amount of energy coming from renewables.

The aim was to generate the equivalent of 100% of our electricity by 2020 from renewables and while that target was missed, it was only by a small margin at 97.4%. 

In the updated Climate Change Plan from the Scottish Government, the target is that half of energy demands across electricity, heat and transport come from renewables.

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The most powerful tidal turbine in the world is generating power off Orkney.

Fraser Stewart, an energy policy researcher at Strathclyde University, says: “We are doing well offshore and onshore and even with solar these days, we are seeing mass improvements.

“It’s a little disappointing that it feels like we took our foot off the gas a little bit there.

“However, on a good day, we are still over 90% renewables. We can do better and we can also do better to bring the benefits of those back into the country and back into communities as well.”

Heating homes

The aim here is for one million homes and 50,000 business properties to be using low or zero-emission heating systems by 2030.

The target by 2025 is that half of all new heating systems installed should be zero-emissions models.

But it will be a real challenge to retrofit and renovate the two million homes currently heated by gas. 

The energy ratings of our homes have improved in the past decade, with the number rated EPC C or above increasing, but many are still EPC D.

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Around two million homes are currently heated by gas.

However, the challenge remains in our non-domestic buildings, where three-quarters are EPC D or worse.

Tackling fuel poverty will be a key challenge, too. Places such as Orkney have been at the fore of renewables, but a large part of the islands community still lives in fuel poverty. 

Professor Tahseen Jafry, from the Centre for Climate Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University, says: “All of these changes come at a cost and not everyone can afford to make those changes in their lifestyles.

“The glue that is going to make this happen is finance, climate finance.

“Having access to financial resources is absolutely vital in reaching a low-carbon economy.”

What are the world’s targets?

We’ve probably all heard of the target of keeping global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a key commitment during a previous COP meeting in Paris. 

Globally, there have been warnings that urgent action is needed if we are to limit the impacts of climate change and reach the target. 

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COP26 is being seen as our ‘last best chance’ to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Maisa Rojas Corradi, from the University of Chile, is also a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

She says: “We need ambition and as usual, whatever we come up with at international level, it is too slow.

“There is no more time to have just speeches and discourses and signals of hope, we really need them to be implemented.”

What is Cop26 and why should I care?


‘Racist and sectarian’ singing at Orange marches condemned by police

Arrests made as chief superintendent says some participants intent on 'causing offence and stirring up hatred'.

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Outbreaks of “racist and sectarian singing” by people taking part in Orange Order processions through Glasgow have been condemned by police.

Officers made several arrests as thousands of people marched in the city on Saturday.

Crowds lined the streets in the city centre for the marches, including on George Street and West George Street, and there was a large police presence at Glasgow Green where members of the parades gathered in the afternoon.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Orange parades in the city and follows the cancellation of the biggest annual event, commemorating the Battle of the Boyne, the last two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Chief superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow said some participants were intent on “causing offence and stirring up hatred by singing unacceptable sectarian and racist songs”.

He said: “We are aware that on a number of occasions today there have been outbreaks of racist and sectarian singing by some of those attending to support the Orange Order processions, this is utterly unacceptable and we completely condemn this behaviour.

“Where possible, we are seeking to take action against those intent on causing harm and dividing our communities, we have already made arrests in connection with various offences and will continue to do so where required. With large crowds gathering today, our main priority has been public safety and to ensure minimum disruption to the wider public.

“Once again, we see a number of people intent in causing offence and stirring up hatred by singing unacceptable sectarian and racist songs, I want to again condemn this behaviour in the strongest possible terms.

“It is clear that sectarianism remains a serious, ongoing problem in Scotland and whilst policing has an important role in tackling this type of behaviour, this is a collective problem and needs to be addressed in a collective, collaborative manner.”

Earlier this week, Glasgow’s police chief warned the force will not tolerate “offensive behaviour, including hate crimes, drunkenness and disorder” and urged the “large majority” who behave in the “right way” to influence those around them.

Jim McHarg, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, told STV News: “As per normal, our members behave in the right manner and always have done and always will do.

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“Everyone in the parade shows respect to every part of the community and all we ask for is the people who come along to support understand that, and indeed the people who object to our existence – that they respect us.”

But the Church of Scotland took to Twitter as the marches took place to condemn anti-Catholic bigotry.

It said: “The Church of Scotland opposes anti-Catholic bigotry and sectarianism. We have a very close working relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.

“Over the years we have worked together to tackle sectarianism and support one another.

“We speak to leaders in the Roman Catholic Church every week and greatly appreciate the friendship that exists between our churches and our communities.”

Up to 800 police officers were deployed to manage the event, which saw marches proceed through the city centre and past Catholic churches.

Following an assault on a Catholic priest in July 2018, marches were re-routed to avoid passing St Alphonsus church on London Road in 2019.

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Members of Call It Out, a campaign group that opposes anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry, were spotted holding “peaceful vigils” outside churches on the routes.

A spokeswoman for the group said: “We are calling on all Glasgow citizens, trade unionists, anti-racists, equality campaigners and those opposed to egregious manifestations of anti-Catholic hatred to join us in peaceful protest in response to the imposition of these marches by anti-Catholic organisations.”

Scotland records another 27 Covid deaths and 6116 new cases

Scottish Government daily figures show almost 100 people are receiving intensive care in hospital.

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Coronavirus: Another 27 deaths have been recorded in past 24 hours.

A total of 27 new coronavirus-linked deaths have been recorded in Scotland, according to the latest Government figures.

The data shows a total of 6116 people tested positive for the virus in the last 48 hours.

The Scottish Government said Saturday’s case numbers may be higher than normal due to a backlog of data being processed following technical issues at Public Health Scotland on Thursday.

The latest figures mean the daily positivity rate currently stands at 9.0%.

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The death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 8,376.

A total of 99 people were in intensive care on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 12 from the day before, and 1052 Covid patients were in hospital overall, 15 more than the previous day.

So far, 4,151,735 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 3,802,183 have received their second dose.

PCR testing for travellers ‘essential to track new variants’

One of Scotland’s leading epidemiologists has backed the decision to keep PCR testing in place for international travellers.

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Those arriving in Scotland will still be required to take a pre-departure test.

One of Scotland’s leading epidemiologists has backed the Scottish Government’s decision to keep PCR testing in place for international travellers.

The UK Government has announced it will allow vaccinated travellers to replace the PCR test currently required on day two of their return to England with a cheaper lateral flow test from next month. They will also no longer have to take a pre-departure test before returning.

But those arriving north of the border will still be required to take the pre-departure test – including from non-red list destinations – before returning, even if they are fully vaccinated, and the day two test will have to be a PCR.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday, Professor Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, said she fully supports the Scottish Government’s decision to keep the testing regime in place.

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She said: “Letting go of PCR testing is letting go of one of the main ways we would identify new variants, and be able to even know if it was coming in, if it was being seated.

“And secondly, to be able to catch positive cases that we have tried to control and keep the numbers as low as we can and the pressure off the NHS.”

Prof Sridhar also said the Government needs to make PCR testing more affordable and accessible for those travelling to and from Scotland.

She said: “It is important to keep the testing in place because I was looking at some of the numbers yesterday and of the people arriving into the UK – and again, these are people who need to have a negative lateral flow test before flying – about 400 people are arriving testing positive after being fully vaccinated and about 1,000 people are testing positive for being unvaccinated.

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“If we’re not testing for those people coming in, they wouldn’t even know they’re positive and need to isolate, nor would we be able to sequence those to know if there’s a new variant coming in, which is one of the main things we are concerned about going into winter.”

The Scottish Government also confirmed in a statement on Friday that it will end its current traffic light system for international travel.

From October 4, the green and amber lists will merge but the red list will remain.

Current amber list rules – which allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolating – will be the default for non-red list countries.

Vaccinations that took place in 17 countries including Canada, Australia, Israel and New Zealand will now be regarded as eligible under the rules, joining jabs in UK, the EU, the USA and the European Free Trade Association.

Eight countries – including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives – are also being removed from the red list with effect from 4am on Wednesday.

Travellers from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to quarantine in a hotel from that date.


Man charged after disturbance in restaurant leads to hospital death

The 44-year-old was taken to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy after a disturbance at a premises in Inverkeithing.

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A 26-year-old has been arrested and charged in connection with the death.

A man has been charged in connection with the death of a man who was injured in a Fife restaurant.

Police Scotland said officers were called after a 44-year-old man was seriously injured at the premises on Inverkeithing’s High Street on Friday afternoon.

He was taken by ambulance to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy where he died a short time later.

A 26-year-old man has now been arrested and charged in connection with the death.

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He is due to appear at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Monday.

Police said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.


Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 musical reopens Edinburgh Playhouse

The show marks a triumphant return to the theatre which has been closed for 547 days.

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Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 the musical has arrived in Scotland – and it’s currently delighting audiences in Edinburgh.

The show, starring Louise Redknapp, marks a triumphant return to the Edinburgh Playhouse – the UK’s largest theatre – which has been closed for 547 days.

Country music superstar Parton produced the show and even makes a cameo appearance

Theatre staff say the first week has been “emotional”, but it’s “exceeded all expectation”.

For one performer, opening night was emotional. Kirsty Shaw grew up around the corner from the playhouse and performing on its stage has been a lifelong dream

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Ms Shaw told STV News: “It was amazing because it was my first time back on stage after 22 months I think.

“It was just surreal because it’s my home, it’s where I grew up and I used to watch all the shows.

“I used to do Stage Experience which was like a summer school thing which was amazing, it’s a bit emotional.

“It’s a bit weird but it’s so good – we’ve got two other cast members from Scotland and you can tell that when we’re here we just have so much pride for this theatre and for Scottish theatre and for what we can do.”

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Despite a few safety measures in place, it does feel like a return to normality.

Pam Aldred, Edinburgh Playhouse: “It’s been emotional. For our theatre and for our industry.

“There were times when we thought ‘surely we’re going to get open at Christmas, no, it’s not Christmas. Might be Easter, no it’s not Easter.

“It just felt draining at times. It was really emotional and a bit of a roller coaster.

“When we all got that call back to say ‘right, we’re going to reopen’, I can’t describe the feeling. It was just incredible.”

The show will tour across Scotland later this year.


Man dies in hospital after being seriously injured at restaurant

The 44-year-old was taken to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy after a disturbance at a premises in Inverkeithing.

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A man has been arrested in connection with the incident.

A man has died after being seriously injured at a restaurant.

The 44-year-old was taken to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy after a disturbance at a premises in High Street, Inverkeithing, at about 4.35pm on Friday.

Officers confirmed he died a short time later from his injuries.

A police spokesman said a man has been arrested in connection with the incident and inquiries are ongoing.


Two-year-old girl dies after falling from pony at hunt meeting

The toddler had been riding with members of The Bedale Hunt on land in a village near Northallerton in North Yorkshire.

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North Yorkshire Police confirmed girl died in hospital in early hours of Thursday.

A two-year-old girl has died after falling from a pony during a hunt meeting in North Yorkshire.

The toddler had been riding with members of The Bedale Hunt on land in a village near Northallerton on Wednesday morning when the incident occurred.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed the girl died in hospital in the early hours of Thursday, with event officials saying members were “devastated”.

A Bedale Hunt spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a tragic accident happened on Wednesday, September 15, when a two-year-old girl fell from her pony and subsequently lost her life.

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“As a community we are all completely devastated but are pulling together to support the family involved.

“Our sincere condolences go to all those affected and we urge that everybody respects the family’s privacy during what is a very distressing time.”

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Police are compiling a report on behalf of the coroner following the tragic death of a two-year-old girl who was involved in a horse riding-related incident on land at Kirkby Fleetham, near Northllerton.

“It occurred at around 8am on Wednesday and the girl died at hospital during the early hours of Thursday.

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“The girl’s family are receiving specialist support while enquiries are ongoing into the incident.

“Police request that the family’s privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”


Opening hours for pubs, clubs and restaurants extended during COP26

Glasgow’s Licensing Board has agreed to allow one additional hour from the terminal hour when the climate conference is held.

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Glasgow’s Licensing Board has agreed to allow one additional hour from the terminal hour.

Pubs, clubs and restaurants in Glasgow will be able to stay open for an extra hour during COP26.

Glasgow’s Licensing Board has agreed to allow one additional hour from the terminal hour when the United Nations climate conference is held at the SEC.

The decision applies to venues with a premises licence allowing the sale of alcohol on site — and will run from October 31 to November 12.

Board members made the decision on Friday in private after hearing from a Police Scotland representative.

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A report presented to the board revealed: “The Licensing Board may, if it considers it appropriate to do so in connection with a special event of local or national significance, make a determination extending licensed hours by such period as the board may specify in the determination.”

Around 30,000 delegates from across the world are expected to arrive in Glasgow for the major climate talks, which have been billed as the world’s “last best chance” to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis by US climate envoy John Kerry.

The Licensing Board report added: “As well as a curated programme of events intended to complement the main COP26 programme, there will be various fringe events across the hospitality and events sector within the city in order to encourage businesses and residents to get involved in the climate change conversation.

“COP26 presents an opportunity for an animated and vibrant ‘COP City’ to promote a successful conference, a successful host nation and a safe and secure event.”

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Denise Hamilton, from the neighbourhoods and sustainability team, recently told a meeting of the city’s local licensing forum that the council hoped the event would “benefit hospitality and licensed trade”.

She said a “difficult balance” between helping “businesses to thrive” and preventing the spread of Covid-19 would need to be found.

“We want Glasgow to benefit from having COP in the city, but we also want to ensure that our businesses and residents are not put at risk.”

By Local Democracy reporter Drew Sandelands


Cooking oil fuels ‘perfect flight’ from London to Glasgow

Aviation chiefs say flight from Heathrow to Glasgow produced 62% fewer emissions than same journey in 2010.

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The plane was taken to the runaway by an electric vehicle.

Recycled cooking oil helped fuel what has been described as the “perfect flight” between London and Scotland.

British Airways (BA) said the 52-minute passenger service from Heathrow to Glasgow Airport was “carbon neutral” due a combination of sustainable fuel, an optimised flightpath, electric vehicles and CO2 offsetting.

Compared to the same journey in 2010, the flight produced 62% fewer emissions, according to British Airways and air traffic controllers at NATS.

Glasgow Airport bosses and BA said the flight was designed to demonstrate progress being made by the aviation industry to cut emissions as world leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow for crunch climate talks at COP26.

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However, environmental campaigners described the idea of a “perfect flight” as “complete fantasy”.

What made it the ‘perfect flight’?

  • Sustainable fuel made from recycled waste cooking oil was mixed with traditional jet fuel to meet industry standards;
  • The plane was an Airbus A320neo, which is said to be the quietest and most efficient aircraft in the BA fleet for short-haul journeys;
  • It has lighter seats and catering trollies, while in-flight manuals and magazines have been replaced by digital downloads, reducing fuel use, BA said;
  • The plane was pushed back at Heathrow using an electric vehicle, while only one of its engines was used to taxi to the runway, halving the amount of power used.
  • Air traffic controllers at NATS directed the plane on its climb and descent, to avoid levelling off and unnecessary fuel burn;
  • Computer systems worked out the best altitude to make the journey more efficient.

The passenger flight left Heathrow at 10.36am on Tuesday morning, before landing in Glasgow at 11.28am.

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports Ltd, which owns Glasgow Airport, said: “This flight demonstrates the progress the industry has made during the last decade and how we can work collectively to decarbonise aviation.

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“As one of the UK’s largest airport groups, we are committed to achieving net-zero by mid 2030s. This involves decarbonising our own infrastructure, including the roll out of fixed electrical ground power, which is powered using 100% renewable energy sources.”

‘Real progress’

British Airways said the experiment – which involved fuel giant BP and plane manufacturer Airbus – offered a “glimpse into the future” of commercial aviation.

BA chairman Sean Doyle said: “By working together with our industry partners, we’ve delivered a 62% improvement in emissions reductions compared to a decade ago. This marks real progress in our efforts to decarbonise and shows our determination to continue innovating.”

‘Complete fantasy’

Campaign group Aviation Environment Federation reacted with scepticism to the airline and airport’s claims.

Policy director Cait Hewitt said: “The idea that we’re anywhere near a ‘perfect flight’ is a complete fantasy. The planes of today are noisy, polluting and carbon-intensive and the industry doesn’t yet have the technology on hand to solve any of those problems.

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“Turning used cooking oil into aviation fuel might help reduce waste and recycle some carbon, but once it’s burned, it makes just as much CO2 as kerosene.

“And there really isn’t enough chip fat around to power the world’s aviation fleet.”


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