Environmental campaigners have claimed it is “credible” for Scotland to achieve the target of having “net zero” emissions by 2045 – even though ministers’ current target is to reduce these by 90% by 2050.
WWF Scotland said a new report showed if “deep emissions reductions” were made across all sectors and carbon sinks were used to remove harmful greenhouse gases from the environment, the more ambitious target could be achieved.
Meanwhile, further action – including a significant increase in people eating plant-based foods instead of meat – could lead to the country reducing emissions by 120% by 2050.
Swapping 50% of meat for plant-based options could reduce emissions from the agriculture sector by about two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, research has suggested.
Gina Hanrahan, policy director for WWF Scotland said: “By 2050, the target date under the Scottish Climate Change Act, Scotland could be removing far more emissions than it creates, making a significant contribution to UK efforts.”
She spoke out after a report by Vivid Economics for the environmental charity indicated there are “multiple options for Scotland to deliver and exceed net zero by 2050”.
The Scottish Government has already brought forward legislation at Holyrood targeting a cut in emissions by at least 90% by 2050.
But Environmental campaigners and Green MSPs said the Climate Change (Emissions Reductions Targets) (Scotland) Bill does not go far enough.
The new report suggested Scotland’s power sector, transport and buildings could “all reach zero or near-zero emissions”, while industry could cut the amount of harmful gases it produces by “at least 60% without reducing productive capacity”.
The agriculture sector, which has been slower to reduce emissions, could achieve a cut of “around 35% while maintaining current production levels”, it claims.
Ms Hanrahan said: “We know that climate change is one of the biggest threats facing people and nature.
“To avoid the most dangerous consequences at home and abroad, we need to urgently cut our emissions and rapidly increase our carbon sinks through tree planting, restoring peatlands and improving the health of our soils.”
A decade after Holyrood passed its original climate change legislation, Scotland has “reduced emissions by nearly half and made truly incredible progress in cutting the carbon from our power sector”, she said.
Ms Hanrahan argued: “It’s crucial MSPs, who are debating the new Climate Change Bill confront the challenge head on and join the growing number of progressive nations by setting an iconic net zero target and speeding up the policy action need to end our climate emissions once and for all.
“This report makes clear that there is a credible route-map for Scotland to achieve net zero in the 2040s. We are laden with natural advantages for net zero.
“From our abundant renewable energy resource to our large land area suitable for carbon sinks, to our history of innovation and skilled workforce, this new report shows we can hit net zero before other UK nations and be among the global leaders on this issue.”
Green MSP Mark Ruskell welcomed the report.
He said: “By embracing an early target for net-zero we can protect our communities from climate catastrophe and drive the innovation needed to create new jobs, warm homes, sustainable food production and better public transport.
“We have just over a decade to change course but SNP ministers show no increased ambition.”
Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said: “WWF Scotland is right to say we are ‘laden with natural advantages’ for achieving net zero carbon emissions.
“Setting new target would affirm Scotland’s place at the forefront of climate change action and send a strong signal to business that we need to cut emissions more quickly and deeply than ever before across Scotland’s energy system.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to working towards net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases as soon as possible and we have been clear that we will set a target date as soon as this can be done credibly and responsibly.
“We welcome this contribution, on behalf of WWF Scotland, to discussions around the pace of decarbonisation in Scotland. It particularly highlights the importance of assumptions made now about future technological developments.
“We are currently awaiting independent expert advice on targets from our statutory advisers, the UK Committee on Climate Change.
“If the committee advises that a date for net-zero emissions can now be credibly set, we will act on that.”