Scottish Government unveils plans for £1.8bn net zero spending blitz
The Scottish Government has unveiled a major £1.8bn net zero spending plan for the coming year, pledging to ramp up support for green infrastructure, low carbon heating, and tree planting as it seeks to place tackling the climate emergency "at the heart" of its programme.
Setting out the Scottish Budget for 2020-21 yesterday, public finance minister Kate Forbes announced a major package of funding to accelerate Scotland's transition to a net zero economy, which she claimed would support high quality jobs, boost public services, and tackle inequalities.
"The global climate emergency is at the centre of our programme for government and we have already put in place the most ambitious climate legislation and targets of any country," said Forbes. "This Budget will help deliver on that wold-leading ambition."
The draft Budget takes total low carbon capital investment to £1.8bn in 2020-21 - a £500m increase from last year - while all planned expenditure across the Budget has been assessed for its carbon impact in line with statutory requirements.
The net zero investment includes £220m seed funding for the Scottish National Investment Bank "to support its mission to drive the transition to a net zero economy", and a new £120m Heat Transition Deal to help decarbonise homes and buildings in Scotland.
Energy efficiency spending has been increased to £151m this year, while the Scottish Government also said it would set out a wider programme of work on green heat and energy efficiency in the summer.
In addition, public transport has secured a Budget boost, with increased investment in rail services of £270m, taking total investment in rail and bus services to £1.55bn in 2020-21, as well as more than £85m investment towards increasing active travel. A further £5m has been earmarked to fund the roll out of electric police cars.
The spending plan also features a major package of support for climate-friendly farming, including a £40m Agricultural Transformation Programme to support land managers to take actions towards achieving Scotland's 2045 net zero emissions goal.
The Scottish Government said it would expand its investment in forestry to over £64m to support its plan to plant 12,000 hectares a year, rising to 15,000 annually by the mid-2020s, which it said was in line with recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Moreover, £250m is set aside for peatland restoration over the next decade, starting with £20m in 2020-21, which the Scottish Government claimed demonstrated its commitment to "nature-based solution to the climate crisis".
"From increased investment in low carbon transport to funding for peatland restoration and forestry, this Budget sets out our spending plans to help us deliver the transformation we need across society to transition to net-zero," argued Forbes.
It comes ahead of the crucial COP26 UN climate change summit which is set to take place in Glasgow later this year, the organisation of which has led to tensions between Holyrood and Westminster. The UK government is still yet to name a replacement President for the summit after sacking Claire O'Neill last week further fuelling fears the planning for the crucial meeting is behind schedule and over budget.
Chris Stark, CEO of the CCC, welcomed the focus on climate action in the Scottish Budget, and reiterated that both the Scottish and UK governments "must demonstrate they can lead the world in tackling climate change" ahead of COP26 in November.
"Turning ambitious targets into fully-funded policies which deliver real emissions cuts are part of that story," Stark said. "Today's announcements show that Scotland is serious about the scale, and importance, of the net zero challenge."
Green groups also broadly welcomed the draft spending plan, but argued further efforts were still needed to credibly tackle the climate emergency.
WWF Scotland's head of policy Gina Hanrahan said the increased green investment would "help reduce emissions and soak up more carbon, create jobs and cleaner air", but added: "While some additional funding for energy efficiency is a move in the right direction, this falls short of the transformational funding needed to tackle our leaky homes, cut fuel poverty and put Scotland at the forefront of the transition to high performing, green homes."
"We want to see this prioritised for additional funding," she added.
Article & image source: BusinessGreen