Reducing our emissions


Why is transport seen as so critical?

Transport, including shipping and aviation, was responsible for 24% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 (latest figures available as at March 2013) [1]. In Scotland, overall transport emissions increased between 1990 and 2010. Clearly then, action over transport emissions is particularly important. There’s a particular need to stabilise growth in air travel; between 1990 and 2009 Scotland’s aviation emissions increased by a massive 144% [2].

Is home energy efficiency the most effective way to make a difference?

Energy efficiency of our homes is hugely important, but won’t be enough on its own. Energy demand reduction is crucial, so we have to work on this too.  Most efficiency gains achieved over the last few years have been cancelled out by increasing overall demand. But energy efficiency measures make sense as making Scotland’s homes more energy efficient also provides health and social benefits, reducing fuel poverty and providing people with a warm, comfortable place to live.

Are biofuels the answer for transport fuels?

Biofuels are a form of bioenergy, in other words an energy source based on biological matter, such as ethanol-based car fuel. They count as renewable energy because plant and animal materials can be easily regenerated. However, there are major concerns around social impacts, particularly in developing countries, as a result of loss of agricultural land for food production land being used instead to grow biofuels for foreign markets [3].  Biofuels growth is also a major predicted cause of further deforestation, and relying on large areas of land for fuel production could displace natural habitats and damage important ecosystems [4]

Can’t we just increase the efficiency of cars?

Among other things, the Committee on Climate Change recommends measures such as encouraging a market for low-carbon cars, establishing a charging infrastructure in Scottish cities for electric vehicles, and providing personalised travel planning advice for all households[5].

But, as with all technological solutions, the we need to reduce the demand for car travel as well as making it more efficient, because growth in passenger car miles is forecast to grow at a faster rate than the rate of development of efficiencies. The best ways to cut car transport emissions at present are to travel by car less, slow down (emissions rise sharply over 70mph), drive gently (racing starts and sudden stops increase fuel consumption), car share, and cycle or walk more for shorter journeys.

Do we have to stop flying?

Aviation is the fastest rising carbon emitter; left unchecked, it is expected to exceed the UK government’s 2050 total CO2 target by 134%. In other words, if every other aspect of our lives was carbon neutral, the UK’s air travel alone would exceed the target for overall emissions. Because the aviation industry does not pay VAT or fuel duty, it’s estimated that it’s effectively being subsidised by around £7 billion/year whilst more sustainable transport means are rendered uncompetitive. As well as reducing passenger air travel, emissions can be further cut by things like buying locally produced food.

How can Scotland’s peatlands help?

Peatlands are vitally important in the global carbon cycle, and represent the single most important terrestrial carbon store in the UK, with 60% of the UK’s peatlands located in Scotland.  Ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide are lost to the atmosphere from the UK’s damaged peatlands each year.  Keeping them in an undisturbed state, or restoring them, is therefore an important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This also benefits wildlife, for which peatland is a rich natural habitat. The Scottish government is taking some important steps and has committed £1.7m to restore damaged peatlands [6].

What can I do to reduce my CO2 emissions?

There are many things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, some of which you may already have done!  Here are some ideas to get your started:

  • Insulate your home
  • Use energy-efficient lightbulbs and appliances
  • Turn thermostats down
  • Use public transport, carshare, walk or cycle rather than driving
  • Do an eco-driving course to drive more efficiently
  • Take short showers rather than baths
  • Fly less
  • Buy local, seasonal and organic foods or grow your own
  • Eat less or no meat
  • Recycle and buy recycled products
  • Switch to a green energy supplier
  • Use saucepan lids when cooking
  • Turn lights off when out of the room
  • Unplug mobile phone chargers
  • Wash clothes at cooler temperatures
  • Install micro-renewables…

To find out more, go to the Greener Scotland website at




[1] UK Committee on Climate Change, March 2013, Second Scottish Progress Report, P13,

[2] UK Committee on Climate Change, January 2012, First Scottish Progress Report, p25,;  

[4] Transport and Environment, May 2012, Biofuels: dealing with indirect land use change,

[5] UK Committee on Climate Change, January 2012, First Scottish Progress Report, pp. 25, 27,;  

[6] Scottish Government, 22/10/12, Funding for Peatland Restoration,


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