On 5 December 2008, the Scottish Government published the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. Scotland is playing a leading role internationally in taking action on climate change and bringing forward a Scottish Climate Change Bill is a key commitment for the Scottish Government.

The Bill will create a long-term framework for the current and successive administrations in Scotland to target a reduction in Scottish greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 80% by 2050. This framework will help build a sustainable future for Scotlan, contributing to the country's sustainable economic growth by moving the public and private sectors towards a low carbon economy. This latest development will be of interest to stakeholders and investors in the renewable energy and clean tech industries, as well as Scottish companies that will be affected by the proposed emission reductions in GHGs.


The publication of the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill follows the Royal Assent of the UK Climate Change Act on 26 November 2008. Following the Scottish Parliament's agreement to a Legislative Consent Motion in December 2007, most of the provisions of the UK Act extend to Scotland. However, as the Scottish Government has explained, Scotland's emissions and the potential to reduce those emissions are different from the rest of the UK. Scotland has 'massive' potential for renewable energy, particular marine and wind Energy. The Scottish Bill will be the driver for devolved climate change policies tailored to Scotland's potential for emissions reductions. The Scottish Bill differs from the UK Act in various respects, including as follows:

  • Although both the UK Act and the Scottish Bill provide for an 80% reduction target in GHG emissions by 2050, the interim target in the UK Act is a 26% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020 in contrast to the interim target in the Scottish Bill of a 50% reduction by 2030.
  • Unlike the UK Act, the Scottish Bill includes emissions from international aviation and shipping that are attributable to Scotland in the targets from the outset. The UK Government has included only domestic aviation and shipping emissions in the targets, although has a set a target for 2012 for consideration of international emissions inclusion.
  • The UK Act will place responsibilities on large and medium sized companies to disclose their carbon emissions from 2012. The Scottish Bill does not outline any equivalent responsibilities for Scottish companies.
  • The Scottish Bill introduces annual targets which Scottish Ministers must set for each year between 2010 and 2050. For 2010 the target must be less than the estimated emissions for 2009, for 2011 - 2019, each year the target must be less than the preceding year. From 2020 is it specified that the target reduction must be at least 3% less each year that the target for the preceding year. The UK Act requires five-year budgets to be published by the Secretary of State setting out how the longer term targets will be met. They will set upper limits on the level of emissions that can be produced over each five-year period. The first three of these limits (up to 2022) must be published before June 2009.

Both the Scottish and UK regimes provide for more ambitious targets than those recently announced by the European Council. On 15 December 2008, the target for the EU was announced to be a 20% reduction of the EU's GHG emissions by 2020.


The Scottish Bill is currently being considered at Stage 1, and has been referred to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee as lead committee, to the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee as secondary committee and to the Finance Committee. It has a further 3 stages to progress through before it can receive Royal Assent.