Behaviour Change Will Help Scotland Meet its Emissions Target

Scotland needs to act on its policies and make behaviour changes to meet emissions targets.
Published: Tue 17 Mar 2015

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Scottish ministers have to step up their action plan on climate change after missing their statutory targets for cutting emissions for the third year in a row. Under Scotland's climate act, the emissions target for 2012 was 53.226mte CO2, only marginally lower than the 2011 target. However, the country emitted 55.6mte CO2, and has now failed to meet any of its targets.

Carbon reduction needs bigger effort

Gina Hanrahan, Climate and Energy Policy Officer, WWF Scotland, who spoke at Low Carbon Scotland, says that the targets were not overly ambitious and that efforts across the government, public and civil society must be increased in order to push for more ambitious policies next time around.

Hanrahan believes that the RPP2, the Scottish Government's second report on proposals and policies for meeting its climate change targets, need to flex and improve over time.

One of the assumptions listed in the RPP2 is that that the EU will aim for a 30% greenhouse gas target by 2020. “That is now off the table. That essentially means that the RRP2 proposals won’t be enough for us to hit any targets through to 2020. So we need to accelerate proposals and policies and introduce some new policies in key areas-transport being one of them,” explains Hanrahan.

While there is some funding going towards travel and behaviour change focus programmes like the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) initiative, developed to encourage more people to reduce their car use in favour of more sustainable and cleaner modes of transport, the programmes must be scaled up.

“We can’t be afraid of managing demand. So, how do we get people out of their cars? Not just by building new infrastructure but by putting policies in place that encourage people to get out of their cars.”

Changing behaviour towards energy consumption

Behavioural change comes from a wide range of factors, says Hanrahan. “One of them is the material infrastructure that we work within as well as policies and incentives that we implement. All of these things together will lead to behavioural change.”

Lars Fabricius, Managing Director, SAV Systems, who also spoke at Low Carbon Scotland, says that the technology to offset emissions exists but the appropriate mindset does not. He explains that people have to adjust to the technology and learn how to apply it.

He points out that behavioural change is not easy to achieve and does not receive enough attention.

“There are too many engineers involved and people are excited about sexy technologies. But the reality is that the practical side, although less sexy, is more important.” He adds that cultural change on an organizational and country level is the most difficult.

Fabricius says there seems to be more talk than action around carbon reduction in the UK: “It’s a “nice to do” as opposed to something that is fundamentally very important. It’s not been taken seriously enough. The UK is expecting no pain but a lot of gain. Nothing happens like that.” He adds that the UK needs to work together as a community in order to reduce carbon.

Climate change policy-an ideal time

Hanrahan believes that it is an important time for climate change policy since the Paris climate change talks take place at the end of this year, the UK elections are around the corner, and Scotland will be receiving its next climate change action plan.

She says, “We need to be bold and brave. We need ambitious policies because those policies will really deliver benefits for Scotland ‘s wider economy.”

She says that the WWF are working closely with the Scottish government in order to understand and set out the infrastructure projects that the country needs for the next two to five decades."

“We have a very strong engineering and innovation tradition in Scotland. We need to turn this ingenuity and engineering history towards engineering the low carbon future,” says Hanrahan.