THE target of one Scottish council to become a net zero region by 2025 is set to be pushed back by 15 years.

The extremely ambitious aim was created in 2021 when Dumfries and Galloway Council declared a climate emergency and vowed to go all out to reduce carbon emissions.

But the task has proved much more complicated than expected – and council watchdog Audit Scotland criticised the local authority last year for having no firm plans in place to achieve its lofty goal of net zero within the next few years.

This forced council officers and councillors back to the drawing board to come up with revised plans and a new deadline for bringing the region’s carbon emission levels down to net zero.

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At next week’s full council meeting, a report will be tabled recommending pushing back the original regional target to 2040 and establishing a separate target for the council’s own emissions. Councillors will be asked to approve these proposals.

The report by Simon Fieldhouse, the council’s environment manager, states: “We would propose that Dumfries and Galloway Council (DGC) establish two net zero targets – one for DGC and one area-wide for Dumfries and Galloway, with different dates.

“We would propose that interim checkpoints are established to facilitate and capture the work undertaken to support the delivery of those targets: 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2027, and a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2031.

“We would recommend that Dumfries and Galloway Council becomes a carbon neutral organisation by 2033.

“We would recommend that Dumfries and Galloway Council supports the regions to become a net zero region on or before 2040, with a transition to a carbon negative region by 2045.”

The National: Loch Trool in the Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom.

While the council has been making steady progress in reducing its own carbon footprint year-on-year in its buildings and operations, the local authority only accounts for between 0.6 and 0.7 percent of the carbon footprint of the whole region.

The council report also reveals the unique difficulties this region faces which is not experienced by other councils.

It states: “The council’s own estate emissions are understood to be less than 1% of the total area wide emissions, and much of the emissions within the region are outwith the direct control of the council.

“For example, agriculture emissions are a significant proportion of area-wide emissions in Dumfries and Galloway, dominated by emissions from cattle.

“Dairy farming is one of our largest sectors, with 48% of Scotland’s dairy herd located in the region.”

Nevertheless, it is still widely accepted that councils have a critical role in achieving Scotland’s national climate change goals and contributing towards the Scottish Government’s national target of net zero by 2045.

The majority of councils have set a net zero target for the council’s own emissions, which ranges from 2030 to 2045.

Whilst there is no specific legal requirement for councils to set area-wide emission targets, many councils (59%), including Dumfries and Galloway, have done so.