Tuesday 17 July 2012

Missed Targets

Let me begin by praising the Scottish government. (I should have warned you to sit down before you started reading, shouldn't I?)

There can be no doubt that the current government has set some excellent targets on green policies. Readers of this blog will know about the target they set for 10% of all journeys being by bike by 2020. Yes, it may have been a little conservative in it's aims (some countries have over 30%), but considering that at the time of setting the target only 1% of journeys were taken on a bike (and that hasn't changed much) it was still brilliant to see the positive attitude that the government had towards cycling.

Cycling is, of course, not the only green policy target that the government set, and nor should it be. In the climate change Scotland Act of 2009 they set some tough yet achievable targets to reduce green house gas emissions, with 2010 being the first year with a defined target. In 2010 there was a target of a slight reduction in greenhouse gas production compared to 2009.

Today the figures have been released for 2010. Unfortunately there was no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact there was an increase in emissions, about a 2% increase. The government has missed it's first target. Not a great start. Of course there is always an excuse and the government is suggesting that the weather was to blame. Yes this will have had an impact, but is it enough to account for the difference?

Looking further at the figures, specifically at sources of the emissions and the change in emissions from 1990 until 2010, we find that only two emission sources have increased during that time, residential (3%) and transport (2%). The increase in residential may have been impacted by extremes of cold weather, but that would have no or little effect on transport, and cold winters, even if a bit unusual aren't exactly unexpected in Scotland.

So what can the government do then to remedy the situation? Continue as we are? Of course the science of reducing emissions is a complex one. There are probably a number of things that should be done to achieve the desired reductions. There is no single answer. However, there is one thing that they could do that would have an impact on the transport emissions, which are one of the biggest contributors at about 19% of the 2010 total emissions. Not only that, it would also fulfil another manifesto pledge.

Invest in cycling and get 10% by 2020.

I'm sure it's not straightforward to calculate, but it doesn't take an emissions scientist to work out that if we go from 1% of journeys by bike to 10% of journeys by bike that carbon emissions would drop significantly. There would be less traffic and less congestion. That figure for transport emissions would surely fall.

In this article it suggests that 

Later this year the Scottish government plan to lay before the Scottish parliament its second report on proposals and policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So perhaps as well as finding money from the transport budget there might be some money forthcoming from the 'carbon emissions budget. If they don't, not only will the 10% by 2020 target be missed, but the carbon emissions target will be missed as well.

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