It is “disappointing” that Scotland has missed its annual climate change target but good progress is still being made, a government minister has said.
Michael Matheson spoke after official figures showed Scotland missed its target on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
A report released on Tuesday showed a reduction of the greenhouse gas account of 51.5% in 2019 from the baseline period, despite legislation calling for a 55% reduction.
The legally-set targets for 2017 and 2018 were also missed.
Mr Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, updated MSPs later on Tuesday.
He said: “Whilst it is undoubtedly disappointing that the annual target has not been met, the figures do still show good progress.”
Scotland outperformed the UK in long-term reductions, he said, with the country now more than halfway towards the net zero goal.
He said the Government published an updated climate change plan in December 2020 which had more than 100 new policies while the targets for 2020 and 2030 “are the most stretching of any country in the world”.
Mr Matheson said the “eyes of the world” would be on Glasgow for the Cop26 summit later this year, providing an opportunity to showcase Scotland’s climate action.
Following the missed target, he said the Government would publish a “catch-up” report within six months.
The cabinet secretary said: “Even when we do fall a little short, as unfortunately is the case today, Scotland’s climate legislation ensure that even deeper reductions will be achieved in the future.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said the missed targets were “much more serious” than the cabinet secretary implied.
Mr Kerr said: “Yet again this SNP government has missed its own statutory target for reducing emissions.
“The cabinet secretary mentioned numerous actions about what is being done but we’re already seeing schemes fail.”
He continued: “Time and time again, in portfolio after portfolio – be it health, justice education, now this – we see this SNP government put statutory targets in place which are then missed, then blame others for that failure.”
Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon said the figures should be a “wake-up call to get our house in order”.
She urged the minister to publish the report faster than six months’ time, saying “that could take us to Christmas and after Cop26”.
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Three years of missed targets show that we do need that transformative step-change.”
He said the Government was not moving fast enough on moving homes over to green heating, despite an ambition for one million homes to be heated by clean energy by 2030.
Mr Ruskell said: “That’s 100,000 a year, cabinet secretary, and yet last year we only saw 3,000 installations in homes in Scotland.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “I welcome the cabinet secretary to his post but this is an inauspicious start.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be in reducing emissions and the Government’s warm words are simply making for a warmer planet.”
Tuesday’s report showed emissions in 2019 were 2.3% lower than 2018, with the reduction mainly coming from the business, energy supply and domestic transport sectors.
There was negligible change in the international aviation, agriculture and shipping sectors.
Domestic transport was the largest sector contributing to climate change emissions, producing the equivalent of 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e) in 2019.
Business and agriculture were the next-largest sources of emissions at 7.9 and 7.5 MtCO2e respectively.
In what was described as a “major revision” in the way greenhouse gases are accounted, the land use sector is now considered to be a net source of emissions rather than a carbon sink.
The report said: “Previously this category has been shown to be a net-sink of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.
“The reason for this revision is the inclusion of the effect of historical drainage and rewetting of peatlands that previously were not included in the data.”