SCOTLAND met its emissions target during the first year of the pandemic but the Net Zero Secretary has warned of a “substantial rebound” after Covid restrictions were eased.

The Scottish Government exceeded its interim target reduction for greenhouse gasses of 56% in 2020 by 2.7% (58.7%), compared to baseline figures from 1990.

However, the biggest drops were in domestic transport, aviation and shipping, all of which were severely impacted by Covid-19 restrictions during a significant part of 2020.

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Climate campaigners have urged the Government to “up its game” and use “enhanced measures” to make sure the country reaches its targets in 2030 and 2045.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson said that despite the pandemic impact, the figures show the “scale of transformational change” needed to consistently reach climate targets, adding that working from home and using cars less can have a “real impact”.

Matheson is due to make a statement on the statistics in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

The National: One of the main sectors which saw emissions reduce in 2020 was the aviation industryOne of the main sectors which saw emissions reduce in 2020 was the aviation industry

Overall emission figures for Scotland in 2020 were estimated to be around 40 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), a 5.4 MtCO2e decrease overall (-12%).

It adds: “The main contributors to this decrease between 2019 and 2020 were reductions in emissions in the domestic transport (-2.5 MtCO2e), international aviation and shipping (-1.1 MtCO2e), and energy supply (-0.8 MtCO2e) sectors.”

Energy supply, part of the move to renewable sources, has been on a downward trend since 2000 (26.5 MtCO2e), but has shown significant improvements from 2010 onwards (20.9 MtCO2e), and is now at its lowest in 2020 (5.3 MtCO2e).

Certain areas have also stagnated; including agriculture, waste management, business and residential emissions.

Transport has been the biggest polluter in Scotland since 2015, after a huge drop to energy supply, and even with a 3.5 MtCO2e drop between 2019 (12) and 2020 (9.5) it still takes the top spot.

Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) said that despite the record annual fall in emissions the figures “tell two stories”.

He said: “Measures brought in to protect public health during the Covid-19 lockdowns undoubtedly played a part, with more people working from home and travel restricted. However, we also know that emissions will have rebounded as these temporary measures were eased.

“Crucially, we need the Scottish Government to treat climate change as the emergency it declared it to be back in 2019, securing long-term reductions to emissions, while delivering a green recovery.

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“To achieve this, we need to see more ambitious action in all sectors, in particular transport, agriculture and housing.”

Robinson added that “climate action can reduce energy bills”, can provide energy security and that the cost of living crisis is being driven by the use of fossil fuels.

He added: “Failure to act will lead to greater uncertainty. The Scottish Government needs to invest fully in delivering against targets short and long term and in a systemic way.

“Unless enhanced measures are taken to improve delivery, the post-Covid-19 rebound in emissions will ensure that we miss our targets for 2030 and 2045.

The National: Matheson warned of a 'substantial rebound' of emissions in 2021Matheson warned of a 'substantial rebound' of emissions in 2021

“That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to seriously up its game.”

Net Zero Secretary Matheson said the data shows progress in reducing emissions across the Scottish economy.

He added: "Nonetheless, the most significant changes are in the transport sector and are associated with the temporary measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must be prepared for these figures to substantially rebound in 2021.

“There can be no satisfaction taken in emissions reductions resulting from the health, economic and social harms of the pandemic.

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“However, the data does provide a valuable lesson regarding the scale of the transformational change needed in response to the climate emergency and shows that embedding habits such as working from home and using cars less can make a real impact on reducing emissions.”

Matheson added that the Scottish Government has updated its climate change plan with “ambitious targets” and that the over 50% reduction in emissions since 1990 shows “long-term progress” being made to net zero.