United Nations scientists have warned that most countries are on track to totally botch the climate goals needed to curb catastrophic global warming. But there’s at least one bright spot.
Scotland is on track to move its energy sector to 100 percent renewables by t he end of this year. That’s just in time to host the United Nations’ international climate talks in November. At least someone’s doing something right.
Environmental organization Scottish Renewables put together a report tracking the country’s renewable progress. It shows Scotland renewables provided 76 percent of the electricity consumption based on 2018 data in the report, and the percentage is expected to keep rising and will reach 100 percent soon. That’s because unlike many countries, Scotland is actually moving away from fossil fuels rapidly. Scots have completely kicked coal, shutting down the nation’s last coal-fired power plant in 2016. And it only has one working fossil fuel-based energy source left, a gas-fired plant in Aberdeenshire (though two more gas plants are slated to be built).
The nation has been replacing all that dirty energy with renewables. In the first half of 2019, Scotland’s wind turbines provided enough energy to power every home in the nation and millions of homes in North England, according to the country’s World Wildlife Fund chapter. Its single largest power source, the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, is capable of generating enough power for 450,000 homes. Eventually, it will have an even bigger wind farm. Construction on the Seagreen Wind Energy Farm is slated to begin in 2022 and when complete, the offshore wind farm is expected to produce enough energy to power a million homes by itself.
The UK—which Scotland is a part of—has set the target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but Scotland plans to do so even sooner. The country set a legally-binding target to reach net-zero by 2045 with a 75 percent reduction compared to 1990 levels milepost in 2030. And that’s net-zero for all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.
Scotland is aiming for net-zero, which means the country can still emit some greenhouse gases if it plants trees and builds carbon-capture technology (which is super controversial and largely unproven to work at a large scale). But notably, unlike other countries, their government doesn’t plan to use carbon offsets, where as the country’s Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, “other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal.”
There are still other sources of emissions the country will need to tackle to be truly net-zero like heating, transportation, and agriculture. So the country still has its work cut out.
But Scotland is way ahead of many of the other countries, setting it up as a shining example during crucial climate talks there in November. The world’s largest current emitter, China, has said it plans to peak its emissions in 2030. Which good, but that’s woefully inadequate to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), let alone to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Meanwhile the fifth largest emitter, Russia, hasn’t even bothered to set a goal. And of course the world’s largest historical emitter, the U.S., is pulling out of the agreement altogether. They all should take a look at Scotland and think about how to match it. And frankly, from where I’m sitting—in a country that’s seeing environmental rollbacks and awful environmental injustices despite scientists warnings that the climate crisis will be deadly for Americans—Scotland looks pretty good.