COMMON Weal’s head of policy and research Dr Craig Dalzell was, like other climate campaigners, “not at all surprised” to hear of the Scottish Government’s reported intention to drop its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.

The policy think tank member, who assisted in the “world’s first comprehensive Green New Deal”, spoke to The National ahead of the announcement by Net-Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan on Thursday, confirming media reports from Wednesday night.

Common Weal, which focuses on environmental sustainability among other issues, has been vocal in the route Scotland must take to ensure a future for the country and a chance of meeting the world-leading, ambitious targets set by the Government in 2019.

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The goalposts had been set at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030. This will no longer remain but the net-zero aim by 2045. However, Dalzell (below) and his colleagues had simply been waiting for the targets to be revised after seeing the Government response to their work

The National: CRAIG Dalzell.

“The targets were never really backed up with any plan. Even back in 2019 when we published our Green New Deal plan in response to those targets.

“The vision for that project was ‘right, if you are serious about these targets, this is what you have to do’ – and the Scottish Government dismissed the report entirely. So, if you're not going to do the work, you're not going to meet the targets.”

This message has been resonating around the climate target narrative as the lack of action from Scottish ministers has been highlighted in the face of the  lofty target.

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Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), reacted by describing the decision as “the inevitable and damaging consequence of their abject failure to deliver the speed and depth of climate action needed since the 2030 target was set".

Dave Hawkey, senior research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Research Scotland, said it showed “laudable targets mean nothing if they’re not backed by credible policies to deliver”, adding: “Scotland’s consistent failure to meet its climate targets reveals the gap between the Scottish government’s words and the actions we need to reach net zero.

“For all the Scottish Government’s strategies and visions, tangible progress decarbonising the everyday economy - how we heat our homes, how we get around, and the food we eat - has been glacial.”

Laura Young (below), climate campaigner and ethical scientist, said it was “extremely disappointing” after politicians and representatives “went all over the world talking about the fact that Scotland was the first country to declare a climate emergency”.

She added: “They had these really ambitious targets but what we have seen is that they have not been putting action behind them.”

The National: Laura Young

Dalzell simply stressed that its not the targets that are the problem for governments worldwide, it is the action going forward to deliver those targets.

“The problem is when you're seeing the governments not meeting those targets, they are not going forward with the action plans that would result in the meeting those targets.

“It doesn't matter what they said and why they said it was never going to happen. The saying goes around climate circles, ‘everything we all at once’, you know? If they are to take their 2030 target, but the 2045 target still remain, they need to immediately produce a credible action plan that shows that they can still reach the 2045 target despite the delays.”

Dalzell also suggests accountability for when these targets are not met, and when action is not delivered should be introduced to ensure policy is not just empty words. He floated ideas such as should ministers should be resigning after the failure or if the Government should be taken to court after breaching a legally binding commitment.

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He cited a recent court case tried in the European Court of Human Rights which ruled the Swiss government had violated the human rights of its citizens by failing to do enough to combat climate change.

In what was described as “a decision that will set a precedent for future climate lawsuits”, the court sided with women living in Switzerland aged over 64 who argued their government's climate inaction put them at risk of dying during heatwaves.

So, what's going to happen before the Scottish Government is taken to actual legal consequences for failing to deliver? Dalzell stated: “You can’t include the words ‘legally binding’ and then just decide to drop the target when it is inconvenient?"

The Government won’t just be looking to salvage its climate plan, but also its credibility on climate action following the announcement.

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During the announcement, McAllan (above) said the “challenging context of cuts and UK backtracking” on environmental action means Scottish ministers have accepted the “interim 2030 target is out of reach”.

She added: “We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale which is feasible, fair and just.”

She pledged a “new package of climate action measures”, with the Scottish Government working to treble the number of charging points available for electric vehicles in a bid to encourage more people to switch away from petrol and diesel.

This could lead to about 24,000 additional charge points being installed across the country by 2030, she said.

READ MORE: New multi-million-pound port project announced for Scottish island

To encourage more people to ditch cars, she said the Government will also “explore a new national integrated ticketing system for public transport in Scotland”.

Promising pilot projects to reduce emissions from methane suppressing feed additives and accelerate peatland restoration, McAllan focused on rural initiatives such as the expansion of the Cairngorms community deer management scheme nationally and the Regional Land Use Partnership network.

The Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign, coordinated by Scottish Environment LINK and backed by more than 40 environments, farming and food organisations, welcomed the Government’s intention but stressed the need for a more ambitious framework for action on agricultural emissions.

The National: Protesters at the COP26 climate change talks in Glasgow. Picture: Ellie Chowns

Deborah Long, chief officer of Scottish Environment LINK, shared that the group was “deeply concerned” by the target modifications and the impacts which Scotland are already seing across the country.

“Now is not the time for the Government to take its feet off the pedal," she added.

“The Scottish Government has been proud to position itself as a world leader on climate. If it really wants to lead the way, it must provide a credible support system for farmers and crofters to reach Net Zero. The measures announced today are a start but they’re not enough.

“People want sustainably produced food, and many farmers and crofters want to work in ways that are better for the planet. We need the Scottish government to do all it can to make farming work for nature, climate, and people.

“We also need to speed up action to restore soils, peatlands, and woodlands, which can play a hugely important role in sequestering and storing carbon.

Long concluded: “Nature can be our first line of defence against climate change if we help it recover.”