The drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, published by the Scottish Government today (7 June 2022), was due to reduced car traffic during lockdown, say campaigners. The statistics, which are published every year to monitor Scotland’s progress in reducing the emissions which cause climate change, show a 12% reduction from 2019 to 2020.

Emissions from domestic transport, Scotland’s largest emitting sector, dropped by 20.9% from 2019 to 2020. This was due to Covid-19 restrictions taking vehicles off the road, in particular during the first lockdown. There was also a substantial drop in aviation and shipping for the same reason.

The biggest drops in emissions came from:

  • Domestic Transport (-2.5 MtCO2e, Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) 
  • International Aviation and Shipping (-1.1 MtCO2e) 
  • Energy Supply (-0.8 MtCO2e)

The reductions in Domestic Transport and International Aviation and Shipping amount to 66% of the total reduction across all sectors. (3.6MtCO2e of a total 5.4MtCO2e reduction).

Gavin Thomson, transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“It’s hugely disappointing that it took a deadly pandemic to reduce our transport emissions. In 2020 we saw unprecedented changes to public life, but we know from the 2021 statistics on air pollution that we are likely to see a significant increase in more recent figures. Since 1990, our transport emissions had not reduced year-on-year until the pandemic hit. 

“Governments and councils need to make sustainable transport the easy, affordable, permanent choice. This means investment in communities, improving our public spaces and running public transport for the public good rather than private profits. Transport is key to fighting climate change and we’re still waiting to see that reflected in the decisions being made by our politicians.”

Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistics for 2020 can be viewed here: www.gov.scot/isbn/9781804355572

The Scottish Government’s press release for this publication is here: https://www.gov.scot/news/scottish-greenhouse-gas-statistics-2020/ 

2020 was also the first year Scotland didn’t breach legal air quality limits, due to reduced road transport in March-May 2020. https://foe.scot/scotlands-most-polluted-streets-2020/