GREENHOUSE gas emissions in Scotland have dropped by 50% in the past three decades but a Scottish Government target has still been missed.

Last year, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation setting the target for 2018 emissions at 54%. New statistics published today found that greenhouse gases had reduced by half from the baseline estimates by 2018, missing the target by 4%.

Climate activists described the statistics as "worrying", calling for more to be done to meet the 75% reduction target by 2030.

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 set a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045, with the Scottish Government to publish annual updates on progress. The legislation set a target on 2018, which had passed by the time MSPs voted on the Bill in September 2019. The target for 2020 is currently set at 56%.

The Scottish Government took advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in shaping the targets and said these are "regularly reviewed". The baseline period, according to the report, uses 1990 for levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and 1995 for other greenhouse gases.

According to the report, transport was the highest polluter, accounting for 12.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. A total of 41.9 million tonnes was released in 2018.

Land use and forestry had a net "sink" in 2018 – meaning emissions were offset by other factors in the sector – with a drop of 5.4 million tonnes. Between 2017 and 2018, source emissions rose by 1.5%.

The figures also showed a spike in renewable energy for the production of electricity, with 54.9% of the total, followed by nuclear power at 28.2% and fossil fuels at 15.7%. But electricity produced by fossil fuels rose between 2017 and 2018 by 51% to 2.6 gigawatts.

Every sector apart from international aviation and shipping recorded a fall in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2018, according to the report, with the energy supply falling furthest.

In April, the Scottish Government postponed the release of a climate change plan due to the Covid-19 pandemic, opting to publish at the end of 2020 instead of in the spring.

READ MORE: Electric cars 'could help drive Scotland's recovery from Covid-19 crisis'

Jess Cowell, of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: "It is incredibly worrying to see a 1.5% rise in Scotland's annual emissions compared to 2017 and the Scottish Government missing its 2018 target of reducing emissions by 54% since 1990.

"If the Government is going to meet the crucial target of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 we need to see action to reduce emissions showing up in significant declines in these figures.

"The burning of fossil fuels is the key driver of the climate crisis, the Government must commit to delivering a decisive just transition that ends our economic dependence on fossil fuels whilst protecting employment and securing social benefits for the communities who will be impacted by industrial change."

The Scottish Greens called for a “step change” in the way the country produces energy.

Environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “The sharp rise in energy is partly due to the closure of Hunterston nuclear power station being replaced by fossil fuels.

"This shows why we can’t rely on expensive and unreliable nuclear power and a new generation of gas power stations, instead we need a step change in investment in Scotland’s renewable energy generation, storage and grid infrastructure to meet our targets and create green jobs.”

The new figures came as a new report from the UK oil and gas industry commits it to halving operational emissions over the next decade.

The The UK Oil and Gas Industry Association’s Production Emissions Targets Report also outlines a pathway to becoming a net-zero basin by 2050.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “This is an important commitment from one of Scotland’s key sector and a significant step to support our just transition to net-zero emissions by 2045.”