Scottish climate change policy : an overview

McGregor, Peter G and Swales, J Kim and Winning, Matthew A (2011) Scottish climate change policy : an overview. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, Special E (1). pp. 27-34. ISSN 2046-5378

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Despite much of energy policy being a reserved issue for the UK Government, Scotland has pursued its own distinctive energy policy (Allan et al, 2008a), particularly in relation to climate change. The Climate Change Act (Scotland) was passed in 2009 and outlines Scotland’s commitment to tackling climate change. It requires Scottish greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2050 to be 80% less than their 1990 levels, with an interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020. Climate change is an international problem which appears to require a global solution and it is therefore not clear that the appropriate spatial scale for policy action is the regional or even national level. The Scottish Government is aware of this, but claims that such emissions’ reduction targets can be used as a means of supporting the UK’s international commitments and also showing leadership to encourage other nations to tackle climate change. However, Scottish climate change policy must also be considered in the context of Scottish energy policy as a whole. The Scottish Government has other energy policy goals, notably security of supply, affordability and economic growth through the development of low carbon technologies, notably renewables. This paper is intended to provide a brief overview of the main issues involved in Scottish climate change policy. We give a brief background, in Section 2, on international, EU and UK climate change policy. In Section 3 we provide an overview of the main features of the Scottish Climate Change Act and highlight particular differences with the UK equivalent framework. In Section 4 we discuss the issues surrounding low carbon technologies and their impact on climate change policy in Scotland. We consider the policy instruments available to the Scottish Government while functioning within EU and UK frameworks in Section 5. In Section 6 we conclude and identify avenues for future research.