We play our full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C

Last updated: 04 November 2021

This outcome is about ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, by meeting our net zero targets and reducing emissions associated with our consumption of imported products. It is also about adapting to the effects of climate change.

Here we report three indicators that help us to monitor progress towards this outcome: greenhouse gas emissions, Scotland’s carbon footprint and nature-based solutions to climate change. Significant progress has been made in transitioning to renewable energy and in woodland expansion. However challenges remain in tackling emissions embedded in the products we consume and from hard to abate sectors of the economy

Scotland reduced its territorial greenhouse gas emissions, which is the basis used for statutory targets and international reporting, by more than 50% between 1990 and 2019. Scotland has set ambitious targets to further reduce emissions to net zero levels by 2045 at the latest.

Scotland’s carbon footprint, which provides a complementary measure to the main territorial emissions statistics and also includes estimates of emissions associated with the consumption of imported goods and services, has decreased since the 2007 peak but remains high on a per capita basis.

Nature-based solutions to climate change play a crucial role in achieving net zero, tackling biodiversity loss, restoring ecosystems and supporting resilience to the impacts of climate change. There have been recent positive trends in woodland creation and peatland restoration. However, to reach net zero we will have to plant significantly more trees and restore substantially more peatland each year.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Indicator Updated: 07 June 2022

Headline: Greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland have more than halved since 1990 but reaching net zero by 2045 remains challenging.

Source: National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI). Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This indicator reports territorial greenhouse gas emissions as a percentage change achieved from the baseline figure in 1990. This is the same basis used for reporting progress to Scotland’s statutory climate change targets and for the National Performance Framework indicator. Find out more about the greenhouse gas emissions indicator.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland have more than halved between 1990 and 2019. This was mainly due to an increase in renewable electricity generation that has replaced fossil fuel use. Scotland has a target to meet a 100% reduction in net emissions by 2045 (i.e. net zero) which will require significant further reductions across all sectors and also further expansion of Scotland’s carbon sinks through nature-based solutions and technological solutions. Delivery will depend on a national endeavour, with action from the public and all sectors of the economy to ensure a transition that is fair to all.

In line with a recommendation from the Committee for Climate Change, a new method of reporting emissions for the purposes of assessing progress against targets has been used for 2020, and comparisons with the baseline period (1995 base-year for F-Gas emissions, and 1990 for all other greenhouse gases) are available for years 2016 to 2020. Under this new method there was reduction in emissions of 58.7 per cent between the baseline period and 2020. An interim target for a reduction of at least 56% over the same period has therefore been met. More detail is provided in Scottish Greenhouse Gas Statistics 2020.

Scotland’s carbon footprint

Indicator Updated: 26 April 2022

Headline: Scotland's carbon footprint has fallen since 1998, but significant further reduction is needed, requiring both national and international action.

Source: Data produced by Leeds University and published by the Scottish Government. Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This indicator measures all of the greenhouse gases emitted as a result of the goods and services consumed in Scotland – wherever in the world those emissions are produced. Find out more about the Scotland’s carbon footprint indicator.

The carbon footprint of our consumption is complementary to the territorial greenhouse gas emissions indicator as it gives a further, more global perspective, to our contribution to the causes of climate change.

Scotland's carbon footprint is expressed in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2). Scotland’s carbon footprint peaked at 107.6 MtCO2 in 2007 and subsequently declined by 35%. However, from 2011 to 2017 only modest reductions have been achieved with a slight increase from 2017 to 2018, highlighting the challenges that remain with reducing the carbon emissions that arise from consumption in Scotland.

It should be noted that there are limitations on the accuracy of consumption-based measures, such as Scotland’s carbon footprint, even if compiled using the best available methodologies and data.

Nature-based solutions to climate change

Headline: Rates of woodland creation and peatland restoration are increasing but need to accelerate further.

The climate and nature crises are intrinsically linked. Nature-based solutions can play a significant role in reducing net carbon emissions, while also helping to tackle biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and support climate change adaptation and resilience. Evidence suggests that, at a global level, nature-based solutions have the potential to achieve around a third of the mitigation effort needed to deliver the Paris Climate Agreement. They also generate employment opportunities and other socio-economic benefits.

This indicator currently includes the following three metrics to monitor implementation of nature-based solutions to climate change in Scotland - focusing on woodland creation and peatland restoration. We are exploring options for further metrics relating to other habitats, soils and blue carbon.

(i) Woodland creation

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Source: Forestry Research (Forestry Commission). Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This indicator measures the area of woodland created each year in Scotland. Find out more about the woodland creation metric.

The total area of woodland in Scotland in 2020 is 1.467 million hectares, around 19% of Scotland’s total land area. There have been large variations in the annual area of new woodland created since the mid-1970s. The annual woodland creation targets are set out in the updated Scotland Climate Change Plan. The annual targets are:

Year Proposed annual Woodland creation target (hectares)
2020-21 12000
2021-22 13500
2022-23 15000
2023-24 16500
2024-25 18000

(ii) Woodland ecological condition

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Source: Forestry Research (Forestry Commission). Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

The ecological condition of woodland is also vital in determining its value to biodiversity. In this metric, the overall ecological condition of woodlands is assessed by evaluating fifteen individual criteria and reporting the total areas categorised as Favourable, Intermediate and Unfavourable. Find out more about the woodland ecological condition metric. The term ‘Intermediate’ should not be taken as implying an acceptable or sustainable condition, and a significant proportion of woodlands in this category require action to prevent their condition declining.

The vast majority of Scotland’s’ woodland (94%) is assessed as being in Intermediate condition. 1% is assessed as Favourable and 5% assessed as Unfavourable. The principle reason for woods falling into unfavourable or intermediate condition is due to the fragmentation of woods, low levels of older trees and of veteran trees.

(iii) Peatland restoration

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Source: NatureScot. Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This indicator reports the cumulative area of peatland assessed as “on the road to restoration” each year. Find out more about the peatland restoration metric.

Scotland’s peatlands are an internationally significant carbon sink and an important habitat for biodiversity. However, it is estimated that 80% of Scotland’s 1.9 million hectares of peatland is degraded. Degraded peatland can become a net source of carbon emissions. Peatland restoration is important for maintaining the health of the ecosystem and retaining the carbon stored within. Restoration also has important biodiversity benefits. 24,990 hectares were restored between 2012-13 and 2019-20. The annual rate of restoration has been increasing but will need to continue to do so to meet the long-term ambition to restore 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030.