Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has insisted she is “pretty confident” Scotland can hit its climate change targets – despite expert advisers insisting they are on the “fringes of credibility”.
Chris Stark, chief executive of advisory body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) previously told MSPs there are concerns over whether targets on cutting emissions can be met.
The CCC had recommended setting the goal of cutting emissions by 70% by 2030 with the Scottish Parliament then voting to go further and fixing a 75% target.
Stark told Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee: “In terms of the credibility of the plan, I think it’s on the fringes of credibility but so too is the Scottish 2030 target itself.”
But Cunningham told the same committee: “I am not entirely sure I would get terrible stressed by Chris Stark’s comments.
“The Committee on Climate Change, our statutory advisers, recommended 70% by 2030 – we chose to go beyond that to 75%.
“It would have been remarkable if Chris Stark had come to the committee and said ‘oh well now you mention it 75% is OK, we were wrong’.”
In that respect, the Environment Secretary insisted his remarks were “absolutely predictable”.
Cunningham was questioned by MSPs on the Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan, which was published in December and which sets out what ministers insist are “bold actions” aimed at helping meet emissions reduction targets in the period to 2032.
The plan sets out for the distance travelled in car journeys to be cut by a fifth by 2030, alongside promises for £180m in funding for carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, as well as £120m towards zero-emission buses.
But environmental campaigners at Friends Of The Earth Scotland have already accused ministers of “flawed thinking” and “unjustified optimism” over the proposals, which are meant to help the country achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.
Cunningham told the committee she was “pretty confident” about hitting the targets, adding: “Obviously the plan has been drafted against an extraordinary set or circumstances and has been done at haste, it is an update to an actual plan.
“I believe given that the CCC recommendation, originally for 70% by 2030 and that particular target was considered by them to be just about feasible, they felt they had recommended the most stretching target, and given the Parliament then effectively unanimously decided to go further than that, right from the start we have probably been in somewhat uncharted territory.
“We are however confident that this package does present a credible pathway to the envelopes, bearing in mind all the significant uncertainties there are, there are limits to devolution, there is technological advancement which without a crystal ball we can never be certain about, there is just transition, fuel poverty.”
She also told the committee ministers the the plan “provides a strong foundation, sets a pathway to 2032 and contributes to net zero by 2045”.