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Technical Note: Sustainability

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions


To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

The indicator aims to monitor the contribution that Scotland is making to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The short term target is an interim target of a 42% reduction from the baseline by 2020, and assesses the progress being made towards the long term target. The long term target is an 80% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions from the baseline by 2050. 1990 is used as a baseline for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and 1995 for the F gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride).  This mirrors the requirements of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.


All the targets use the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) disaggregated greenhouse gas inventory and estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping as the main evidence source.

Information on trading in carbon units under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) are collected by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Environment Agency (EA).

The inventory data are those currently published by Ricardo Energy & Environment under contract to Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Scottish Government (SG), Welsh Government and Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland.  Ricardo Energy & Environment conduct detailed quality assurance.

Emissions will be published in the environment statistics section of the SG website:  http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Environment

The emissions figures are those published in "Greenhouse gas inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland" on the NAEI website.

The indicator uses the sum of the greenhouse gas emissions assigned to Scotland in the disaggregated greenhouse gas inventory (taking account of any removals such as those resulting from afforestation) and the emissions from international aviation and shipping, expressed as tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. These emissions are adjusted for trading within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the background to this is outlined below.


Scotland in the EU ETS

The EU ETS contributes to delivering Scotland’s Climate Change Targets through incentivising the reduction in emissions from Scottish organisations participating in the scheme. In 2014, there were 77 Scottish installations that surrendered emissions allowances in the EU ETS.

What are ‘traded emissions’ and ‘non-traded emissions’?

In the greenhouse gas inventory, source emissions can be categorised into traded and non-traded. Traded emissions capture those that come from installations covered by the EU ETS, whereas non-traded emissions are those which do not fall within the scope of the EU ETS.  The emissions from some sectors, such as the residential sector, are completely non-traded whereas emissions from other sectors, such as energy supply, business and industrial process are a combination of traded and non-traded.   For 2014, CO2 emissions from domestic and international aviation are estimated as being within the traded sector.

What are adjusted emissions and the Net Scottish Emissions Account (NSEA)?

The Scottish climate change targets are assessed against the Net Scottish Emissions Account (NSEA), which is detailed in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and has been reported for each of the years from 2010 to 2014 as part of the Act.  The NSEA accounts for the greenhouse gas emissions from sources in Scotland, Scotland's share of emissions from international aviation and international shipping, the effect of any relevant emissions removals (e.g. "carbon sinks" such as woodland) and the effect of the sale and purchase of relevant carbon units (tradable emissions allowances) in the EU ETS.

The EU ETS element of the NSEA is calculated by taking the difference between Scotland’s notional share of the overall EU ETS cap and the number of emissions allowances surrendered from Scottish installations in a given year. This amount is then added to non-traded net emissions to get the NSEA.   

In summary, Net Scottish Emissions Account =

Net greenhouse gas emissions, including international aviation and shipping – EU ETS surrenders + Scotland’s share of the EU ETS cap “specified amount”

The EU ETS was introduced in 2005; a similar adjustment was reported for all years since then.


For this target, as for the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, the greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and the F-gases - hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.


Baseline period:

1990 will be used as the baseline for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and 1995 for the F-gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride). This is in line with international requirements and the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

Baseline figure:

80.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (1990 for carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, 1995 for the F-gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons , sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride). (Note that the values along the trajectory required to meet 42% and 80% reduction targets are revised every year following annual revisions to the Baseline Period for the greenhouse gas inventory).

Scottish greenhouse gas emissions in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent:


Percentage change achieved from Baseline

Trajectory towards meeting 42% and 80% reduction targets

Baseline Period














































































The percentage reduction from the 1990 Baseline to the 2013 NSEA was 45.8%. This figure is 45.8% lower than the Baseline Period. This figure exceeds the percentage reduction required to meet the statutory 2020 (42%) target and it is outperforming the percentage reduction required on the trajectory to meet an 80% reduction in 2050.


This evaluation is based on a comparison of the percentage reductions in emissions achieved from the Baseline with the percentage reductions in emissions required in that year, on a trajectory to meet the 42% reduction target in 2020 and the 80% reduction target in 2050.

If the percentage reduction exceeds the reductions required for that year on the trajectory, it suggests that performance is improving. If the percentage reductions are less than the emissions reductions required for that year on the trajectory, this suggests that performance is worsening. If the percentage for that year remains below the trajectory, but emissions are increasing, this suggests that performance is maintaining.

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.


Every year, the greenhouse gas inventories are updated to reflect improvements in the underpinning science, data and modelling which often result in revisions to the entire time series.  These revisions also reflect changes to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines.  Some of the changes for the 1990-2015 inventory and for subsequent inventories are already known.   However, the exact magnitude and direction of future revisions are not currently clear but on balance we might expect emissions to increase over subsequent inventories.

There are a number of projects underway which might result in considerable revisions for future inventories in a number of sectors.  For instance:

•        There is a large project underway to improve estimate domestic and international shipping emissions

•        Further results from the Agriculture greenhouse gas platform will become available.  For instance, improved estimates of methane will be introduced as well as potentially more specific emissions factors for devolved administrations.

•        There is a project underway to better understand the behaviour of drained organic soils and the impact of this on how forests release or sequester carbon.   This may increase net emissions in this sector.  However, this may be counteracted by new data from the National Forest Inventory.

•        There is a likely to be a review of the carbon factors of some of the fuels not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), as these have not been reviewed for a number of years.

•        An improved methodology is being developed to better represent emissions from land use changes, although this is not expected for the 1990-2015 inventory.

Note that there are likely to be further revisions in the 1990-2015 inventory which have not been noted here.


Target: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020 from a 1990 Baseline (1995 for the F gases). To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 Baseline (1995 for the F gases).

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

For more information on this target please see the Government Economic Strategy:


End point: 2050 for the long term target and 2020 for the short term target.