FORESTRY figures have reacted with dismay after the Scottish Government confirmed it was scrapping a key climate change target.

Net zero secretary Màiri McAllan this week described the decision to ditch the pledge to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 as “a minor legislative amendment.”

The former forestry minister told MSPs that the government accepted a recent report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) that this interim target was now “out of reach.”

She said the government needed to act and “chart a course” to make the ambition to be net zero by 2045 “at a pace and scale that is feasible, fair and just.”

Ms McAllan said: “With this in mind, I can today confirm that, working with parliament on a timetable, the Scottish Government will bring forward expedited legislation to address matters raised by the Climate Change Committee, and ensure our legislative framework better reflects the reality of long-term climate policymaking.

“The narrowly drawn Bill will retain our legal commitment to 2045 alongside annual reporting on progress, while introducing a target approach based on five-yearly carbon budgets.”

However, forestry figures have accused the Scottish government of having fine words but limited action on climate change. The dropping of the 2030 pledge comes shortly after Scottish Forestry saw its woodland-creation budget slashed by £30 million

"Addressing the climate emergency is an essential task, not an optional one," said Simon Ritchie, policy and advocacy manager at Woodland Trust Scotland. "We are extremely disappointed by the announcement this flagship 2030 target has been ditched. Instead of stepping up efforts as we need to, the government that saw itself as leading the charge on this issue is faltering.

"The Climate Change Committee report in March this year was clear. Woods and trees are a vital component in addressing climate challenges. The Scottish Government woodland creation targets need to double, but instead a recent cut in money available for grants leaves only enough for half the current target to be realised. 

"We have heard fine words on climate but not seen the necessary action in their wake. That needs to change. We would like to see a climate summit that would allow the Government to sit down with all the interests to find a way forward. There is a lot of good will to get things on track."  

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of industry body Confor, said the news was "deeply concerning". 

He added: “Tackling climate change has been a flagship policy for the Scottish Government, and the driver behind increased funding for woodland creation. Following the cut to the planting budget announced in December this statement that Scottish Government will now seek to abandon its 2030 interim target towards net zero by 2045 is very concerning.

"Confor has been calling for additional funding to be allocated to woodland creation next planting season. Without that funding it is difficult to have confidence that the Government will put woodland creation back on track, and Scotland back on track for net zero by 2045.”

In her statement, Ms McAllan announced a number of measures which she said would help support Scotland’s “just transition to net zero”.

These included plans to triple the number of electric vehicle charge points in Scotland, and a pilot scheme with some Scottish farms to "establish future appropriate uptake of methane suppressing feed products or additives."

She also promised to launch a consultation on carbon land tax on the largest estates to "further incentivise peatland restoration, afforestation and renewable energy production.”

Ms McAllan told MSPs: “This government will not yield to climate culture wars.
“We will never shrink our duty to those impacted by climate change today and to future generations.

Forestry Journal: Màiri McAllan confirmed the pledge was being scrapped Màiri McAllan confirmed the pledge was being scrapped

“Together we can tackle this crisis with the pace and urgency required. Indeed with very minor legislative amendments we will pave the way for continued ambitious and pragmatic delivery in this most important challenge.”

Among those to criticise the Scottish Government during the debate was Labour MSP Colin Smyth, who referenced the CCC's insistence that woodland-creation rates have to double in Scotland. 

"This month the government is halving the woodland-creation budget," he said. "Does the cabinet secretary believe this will increase or decrease woodland creation? Will this be yet another missed target?" 

In response, Ms McAllan said: "75 per cent of all new forests created in the UK have been in Scotland. It is very easy to be Colin Smyth. It is much more difficult to be in government and delivering."