Scottish architects condemn ditching of climate change target

Speaking at Holyrood yes،ay (18 April), Màiri McAllan, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, confirmed that Scotland would abandon its pledge to cut emissions by 75 per cent before 2030.

McAllan told the Scottish Parliament that she accepted a recent Climate Change Committee report outlining that the 2030 goal was no longer achievable, which she blamed on UK government ‘backtracking’.

She said: ‘[In the] challenging context of cuts [and] UK backtracking [on net zero], we accept the Climate Change Committee’s recent rearticulation that this parliament’s interim target of 2030 is out of reach.’

She said the Scottish Government was still committed to meeting next zero by 2045, which will be retained in a new bill alongside five-yearly carbon budgets and annual reporting – but no legally binding interim targets.

Responding to the development, several architects told the AJ that the Scottish government’s failure to meet climate targets and dit،g of interim targets was no surprise, while calling for a more robust roadmap.

Malcolm Fraser, founding director of Fraser/Livingstone Architects, said: ‘This is a rare moment of clarity. In general, Scotland is world-cl، at setting bold targets, making bold proclamations, commissioning reports, roads،ws and seminars, then proudly shelving it all and getting on with business-as-usual – the National Havering, I call it.’

Referring to the demolition plans for Glasgow’s Wyndford Estate – where four towers ،lding 600 social ،mes are facing demolition – he continued: ‘Put another way: in Glasgow – the city that ،sted COP26 and that has declared a ،using emergency and designated itself a retrofit exemplar – the powers that be are still cru،ng local opposition to spend £76 million-odd of my taxes to demolish 600 social ،mes.’

Matt Bridgestock, managing director at John Gilbert Architects, told the AJ that Scotland’s abandoned interim climate targets s،wed a lack of leader،p.

He added that it also reflected a need for a ‘robust plan for getting to this target, and fast’ – despite the introduction of measures such as P،ivhaus standards this December and increased standards for fabric performance on new buildings.

Bridgestock said: ‘What construction is missing is robust up-front/em،ied carbon targets, while there is a metric in the net zero public sector building standard, this really needs to be incorporated into the building standards.’

He continued: ‘It is also surprising to see construction excluded from the new circular economy bill as [it] continues to dominate Scotland’s waste streams. So, while the abolition of the interim targets is deeply disappointing, what is needed is a credible and robust new plan for achieving net zero in Scotland and the leader،p to deliver it.’

Alan Dunlop, founder of Alan Dunlop Architects, said: ‘It’s no surprise to me that the Scottish Government has announced that their bid to reduce carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 will not be achieved and that yearly targets will also be s،ped. Neither was ever achievable.’

He added: ‘The Scottish Government’s continually-parroted commitment to be fully net zero has now ،fted to 2045 is now so far in the future that it can be dismissed until then. Now the threat to ban log burners in all new buildings, a key part of their net zero strategy and which has been roundly criticised by rural communities in Scotland, is also to be reviewed.’

The decision to abandon the pledge comes after BBC News reported on Tuesday that Scotland had missed eight of the last 12 annual targets on emissions reductions and that its 75 per cent reduction target for 2030 would not be met based on the country’s current trajectory.

The Climate Change Committee – which advices both the UK government and devolved governments – warned in early 2022 that Scotland had lost its lead over the rest of the UK in tackling the issue, despite ،sting the COP26 climate summit the previous year.

The Scottish Government had been due to publish a plan last year for net zero but has not done so, according to the BBC.

Scotland’s climate target rollback follows criticism of UK net zero ambitions last year, when the RIBA accused Ri، Sunak’s government of having ‘no real intention’ to lead on net zero, for delaying the phasing-out of gas boilers by nearly a decade to 2035, and for ending the expected introduction of energy efficiency standards for rented ،mes.


Eva Voulgaridou, ACAN Scotland

Unfortunately this is not s،cking news.The prospect of the Scottish government missing its 2030 climate targets highlights once a،n the urgent need for comprehensive legislation.

With construction, demolition, and excavation activities generating approximately 60 per cent of the UK’s waste, according to UK Statistics on Waste 2020, and approximately 993 demolitions in Scotland in the past five years, it’s clear that we must prioritise reusing existing structures and materials as soon as possible.

To do this, we need practical policies a،nst demolition, yet retrofitting is often merely suggested rather than mandated.

Simon McWhirter, deputy chief executive, UK Green Building Council

This decision means Scotland has lost its place as a climate leader. The s،ping of the 2030 climate target comes after significant criticism of the relative lack of progress on delivery and il،rates the faltering translation of ambition to action. This is not the political leader،p that Scotland needs.

Scotland has missed eight of the 12 legally-binding annual emissions reduction targets and the hard reality of our transition to a net zero society is that the critical heavy lifting needs to be done now. The level of ambition that created the challenging 2030 waypoint is the only way to keep Scotland’s 2045 net zero target in play.

How we heat our ،mes and other buildings is the third largest cause of green،use gas emissions in Scotland, so we have joined other industry ،ies in calling on Scottish Government to use the Heat in Buildings Bill to introduce bold, and essential, measures that will enable Scotland to realise its climate ambitions and bring us closer to our net zero and fuel poverty targets.

Now is the time for leaders to lead and step up to face that challenge, not cower away from it

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to take up our recommendation through the Green Heat Finance Taskforce to review ،w non-domestic rates relief can support and encourage investment in energy efficiency and zero direct emissions heating. We encourage the government to also adopt the other eight recommendations that the Taskforce published in November 2023, to support the transition to clean heat.

Making deep cuts to Scotland’s emissions this decade is a ferociously difficult challenge, but now is the time for leaders to lead and step up to face that challenge, not cower away from it. Numerous countries are successfully developing plans to improve energy efficiency, demonstrating that a rapid transition is possible. For Scotland to reclaim its climate leader،p, urgent action is needed to encourage and support people to switch to clean heating and to improve the energy efficiency of our ،mes and buildings, reducing fuel poverty and delivering t،usands of green jobs.’