Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: Scotland’s climate change plan 2018–2032 is updated

Scotland’s government says its “world-leading climate change legislation” sets a target date for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045.

“Our contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within one generation,” it adds as it publishes its Climate Change Plan update today.

The update reflects the increased ambition of the new targets set by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. To meet Scotland’s targets, a rapid transformation across all sectors of our economy and society is required. 


The Scottish government is:


The Scottish Government has published the following statements about its plans:

“Our environment and economy are intrinsically linked, and Scotland’s transition to a more prosperous, net zero emissions economy is already well underway.

“In direct response to the UN Paris Agreement, Scotland’s landmark Climate Change Act is the toughest, most ambitious legislative framework in the world. We have created jobs and backed innovative new industries while winning international respect for our ambition and leadership on climate change. 

“The Paris Agreement will support a worldwide market for low carbon goods and services, as other countries have committed to reducing their carbon footprint. It will also enhance the long term international competitiveness of low carbon business in Scotland by ensuring that more eco-friendly business practices are adopted elsewhere.

“Most of the low carbon economic activity in Scotland so far has been associated with the provision of renewables and low carbon electricity, but there is significant economic turnover for some other sectors, including provision of energy efficiency products and low carbon services.

“Low carbon investments may provide an opportunity for more balanced regional development within Scotland. Beyond the opportunities presented by renewable technology, smaller businesses across Scotland will also benefit from engaging in climate change mitigation through energy efficiency and low carbon heat and by promoting sustainable practices.

“By setting a 2045 target for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases, we continue to provide the necessary certainty and impetus to markets, businesses and industries to shift towards low-carbon technologies and practices.

Climate change and COVID-19

“Despite the enormous challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global climate emergency has not gone away – far from it – and we remain absolutely committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. That is why we have committed to a ‘green recovery’ from COVID-19. This is an economic recovery that helps us toward net zero emissions in a way that is fair, and that maximises the opportunities to deliver a thriving, sustainable economy. The climate change plan update is a key strategic document on Scotland’s green recovery.

Independent advice

Committee on Climate Change

“An independent statutory body, the Climate Change Committee, has an important role in providing expert advice as part of our approach to climate change and a green recovery. Scotland’s climate change legislation sets out a statutory role for the Committee, and we request regular advice, including an annual Scottish progress report on reducing emissions, advice on emissions reduction targets and regular independent assessments of Scotland’s adaptation programmes.”

Just Transition Commission

The Just Transition Commission began its work at the start of 2019. It was chaired by Professor Jim Skea, who was joined by eleven other commissioners including representatives from academia, industry, trade unions and the environmental movement. The Commission was asked to provide practical advice to Scottish Ministers on maximising the economic and social opportunities of meeting our climate change targets, while managing the risks and challenges.

The Commission spent just over two years, engaging widely across the country. They adopted a broad interpretation of just transition, considering a wide range of implications of net zero beyond solely employment.

Their final report was due to be published in March 2021. [* now updated with link to final report]

Climate Assembly

An independent Citizens’ Assembly on climate change was established in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. Scotland’s Climate Assembly brought a group of over 100 people together who were broadly representative of the Scottish population.

These Assembly Members took on the task of learning about, discussing and making recommendations on how Scotland can best tackle climate change. In June 2021, the Assembly reported on the outcomes of their deliberations and we will respond within six months.

Bills and legislation

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was amended by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, increasing the ambition of Scotland’s emissions reduction targets to net zero by 2045 and revising interim and annual emissions reduction targets. The amendments also update arrangements for Climate Change Plans to meet the targets and includes new measures, such as creation of a Citizens Assembly and a Scottish Nitrogen Balance Sheet. 

“You can find more about the background to the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 in the website archive.”

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