The Climate Change (Scotland) Act set out the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% before 2050. Transport Scotland are playing a large part of making this target happen.

In order to achieve this, Transport Scotland developed a comprehensive plan to meet these targets. We publish our strategy as part of the Scotland wide emissions reduction plan, The Climate Change Plan. The draft version of the Plan was published in January 2017.

Transport Scotland also publishes the yearly Carbon Account for Transport, providing a detailed annual update on Scotland's transport emissions.

In 2014, transport emissions (including those from international aviation and shipping) amounted to 12.9 MtCO2e, below the 1990 baseline figure of 13.3 MtCO2e. Currently, transport accounts for 28% of total Scottish emissions. Within that long term profile, we have seen significant reductions recently: since transport emissions peaked at 14.9 MtCO2e in 2007, they have fallen year on year by a total of 2.0 MtCO2e. This is a 13% reduction in seven years.

The largest contributor to transport emissions is the road sector, accounting for 9.4 MtCO2e in 2014 (73% of total transport emissions).

Emissions from maritime transport are estimated to be 1.4 MtCO2e, or 11% of total transport emissions.

Aviation emissions stood at 1.9 MtCO2e in 2014, or 15% of the total transport emissions. Of this, international aviation accounted for 63% of all aviation emissions.

Rail accounted for 0.2 MtCO2e of transport emissions in 2014, or 1.3% of all transport emissions.

Climate change study

Transport Scotland commissioned two studies in 2005 which were then updated in 2009, looking at the risk of landslides and how climate change will affect the road network.

Read both of the reports below:

The Scottish Government is committed to providing a world class transport system which provides the people of Scotland with efficient travel and which allows the country and its economy to thrive. Our road network is central to this, but it is also severely affected by extreme weather, which will increase as the effects climate change escalate.

The general conclusion from the study is that the climatic changes expected in Scotland in the near future, until the 2020s, are relatively small.

However, even these small changes can make a big enough impact to warrant adjustment of current practices. While the report notes that these changes are likely to become more marked over the longer term, the degree of uncertainty associated with these predictions increases.

The published report presented a series of 28 recommendations for the design and operation of the road network focussing on responding to climatic changes predicted to occur in the near future.

In 2008 a further report was published to assess progress against the 28 recommendations. This report follows the same structure as the original study report and details the progress in implementing each of the recommendations in terms of their relative urgency

Carbon management on our operations

We have developed and implemented a Carbon Management System (CMS) to fulfil two crucial roles.

  1. Consistent and objective measurement of carbon emissions from Transport Scotland's construction and maintenance operations and schemes.
  2. Supporting design and construction optioneering for our operations and schemes.

We will gather data from across the operational, construction and maintenance activities of Transport Scotland. Our contracts with operating companies, particularly BEAR Scotland and Scotland Transerv, state that they have to supply and record carbon data via our CMS. Our major infrastructure projects will also use our CMS for monitoring carbon emissions.

Adapting to climate change

Tackling climate change is something that requires constant adaptation. The world's climate will keep on changing for decades to come, even as we take significant steps to reduce emissions today. We in the transport sector must think about how to adapt to the unavoidable consequences of a changing climate.

The Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 Act requires the development of an Adaptation Programme to address the risks identified in the first Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland (CCRA). Adaptation involves adjustment in the planning, operation and maintenance of our networks in response to actual or expected climate change. This will limit the harmful consequences of our networks and lead to beneficial opportunities to improve it.

Transport Scotland and the Society of Chief Officers for Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) are developing the Adaptation Programme transport sector element. To shape the public consultation, we have:

  • identified climate change impacts that may affect transport networks in Scotland
  • estimated the potential consequences and confidence for each climate change impact, along with the timescale for decision making
  • identified long-term priority objectives for each climate change impact with priority actions for the 5 years between 2012 and 2017
  • identified responsible organisations across the public, private and third sectors that could contribute to these objectives after the public consultation
  • chosen ouputs within existing policies that could support the achievement of the long-term priority objectives
  • proposed estimated costs for the implementation of outputs

The Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland states that can expect to get warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers. As the climate changes, Scotland will see:

  • more extreme weather events
  • more extended hot periods
  • major increases in maximum temperatures across the country
  • fewer days of snow and frost
  • longer periods of dry weather in the summer
  • increased rainfall on the wettest days of the year

This will lead to increased transport disruption due to flooding and landslides, scoured bridges, unstable foundations and the opening of northern Arctic sea routes.

How we stay informed

Adaptation Scotland are a friend of Transport Scotland and they play a critical role in keeping all sectors informed of what is in store for the country. It provides a plethora of scientific analyses, facts, figures, projections and advice to help ensure that Scotland is both prepared for and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The American Metrological Society published a series of short papers, jointly edited with the Met Office, which explored how six extreme events in 2011 could be explained from the perspective of climate change. This is a form of attribution science, which links extreme and severe weather with anthopogenic climate change.

The 2020 Climate Group

The 2020 Climate Group was created to help put the Scottish Government's policy targets into action. The Scottish Government's aim is to reduce emissions by 42% by 2020, with the longer term goal of an 80% reduction by 2050.

On 14 March 2011, the Scottish Government published its climate change Report on Proposals and Policies (RPP) or, as it is more formally known, Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022. Its publication marks a transition from policy analysis to actual implementation of the various policies and proposals set out in the report. The 2020 Climate Group wants to make the policies and proposals a reality.

Transport Scotland the 2020 Climate Group ran a joint seminar to discuss, at an operational level, how vehicle fleet operators might implement the emission reduction policies and proposals outlined in the RRP. The seminar also helped to identify what barriers might exist to achieve these goals, and what opportunities the transport sector could pursue.

The seminar was attended by:

  • a range of public and private sector vehicle fleet operators
  • companies involved in the manufacture of low carbon vehicle technologies
  • organisations represented in the Transport Sub-Group of the 2020 Climate Group
  • representatives from Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.

The seminar included workshop discussions on eco-driving, low-carbon vehicles and freight efficiencies.

Opening remarks

Ian McKay, Director of Scottish Affairs, Royal Mail and Chair, 2020 Transport Sub-Group

Ian welcomed delegates and thanked Transport Scotland for facilitating this important event. The event was designed to allow debate in the area of climate change and carbon reduction, to move beyond the areas of policy and financial responsibility within companies and public sector organisations, and to engage with those who would face the task of actually delivering the targeted reductions.

Participants in the seminar had been invited on the basis of their hands-on experience and important knowledge of transport issues in Scotland, and to hear their practical advice on how best to achieve progress in this important area for the benefit of all fleet operators and in the interests of reducing the risks posed by climate change.

Referencing the events in Japan the previous week, Ian stressed the importance of not relying on as yet unknown technological advance in order to achieve carbon reduction. Rather, it was important to explore the options available now and, through discussion and comparison of experience, to set a forward course of direction.

Ian hoped they would enjoy their day and asked that delegates also provide feedback on other areas that might be addressed at a future time.

Donald Carmichael, Director of Transport Policy, Transport Scotland

Today, the Scottish Government publishes its climate change Report on Proposals and Policies (RPP) or as it is to be formally known Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022. Its publication marks a transition policy analysis to the actual implementation of the various policies set out in the RPP. The final target for 2050 is a reduction of 80% in emissions over 1990 levels, with an interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020. While we are already half way towards meeting the interim target, emissions in the transport sector have increased by 9% since 1990.

The 2020 and 2050 targets are set in law in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The commitment underpinning the legislation will not waver much, if at all. There is political commitment at EU and UK levels too. Consequently, we have to live with the reality of EU and national regimes prescribing ever tougher emission standards and more environmentally responsible procurement practices. So we need to make a reality of the transport initiatives. Success will depend on technology, behaviour change and partnership. We need all three. Groups like this, under the 2020 Climate Change banner, must play a pivotal role.

John Curtis, Head of Low Carbon Vehicles, Transport Scotland

While Scottish emissions overall have been reducing since the 1990 baseline year, this is not the case for transport emissions which – apart from a dip in 2008 – have continued to increase. The public and private sectors can show leadership in reducing emissions by the way they operate their vehicle fleets. The RPP has four measures directly applicable to fleets: eco-driving, low carbon vehicles, freight efficiencies and van efficiencies.

Eco-driving is a proven success. Average fuel savings of 7% can be expected for cars and 10% for HGV scheme. Eco-driving training is commercially available across Scotland for HGVs and van drivers. The Energy Savings Trust has provided training and information to car drivers. The question before us is how do we increase uptake? We consulted on Low Carbon Vehicles (LCVs) and have already made investment. We can expect to see up to 150 LCVs added to the public sector fleet in the months ahead. About 50 hybrid buses will be added to bus fleets. And current funding will see about 375 charging points provided in various central belt locations. For the future, we need to develop forward strategies for the widespread adoption of LCVs with the public and private sectors. This is not something Government could or should do on its own. We need to hear your views on the key steps that we need to take with the 2020 Climate Group and other stakeholders.

At a seminar in March 2010, freight and local authority delegates told us they were aware of alternative fuels such as bio-fuel, hydrogen cells and electric vehicles. They were then waiting to see which option was going to be most sustainable in the long term before investing. Is the long term soon enough? The EU has reached agreement on new standards for new van emissions. What other steps can we take to encourage more sustainable van use by fleet operators?

Climate seminar: Eco-driving

Eco-driving is a way of driving to maximise efficiency and minimise emissions. Most fleet operators had used eco-driving training to encourage fuel savings but the range of experience was varied. One operator had a fleet where 75% of HGV drivers were receiving training, while another was working in partnership with vehicle manufacturers to further improve efficiencies.

Benefits and recognition

  • strong financial incentives to improve efficiency, saving on fuel costs that annually cover millions of pounds
  • reduced maintenance costs
  • reduction in accident rates of around 25%
  • eco-driving supports the the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) requirements of HGV and Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers

Management plays a crucial role in such behaviour-change measures. One fleet operator present recognised driver performance in staff awards and competitions and operates a green points scheme whereby savings are shared with drivers. They also noted that driver unions ought to be involved in recognition and competition arrangements.

Monitoring and review

There was strong support for the need for training. Without it, eco-driving measures will not be effective. The group agreed that training needs to be supported by systems that monitor both vehicle and driving behaviours on an ongoing basis.

One fleet operator attributed 15% fuel efficiency savings to performance tracking telematics, while another used a coloured lighting system to communicate fuel efficiency to the drivers. Vehicle manufacturers are often best placed to recommend the best type of telematics.

Data monitoring also led one operator to have vehicle modifications made to maximise fuel efficiency through:

  • gradual acceleration
  • vehicle and engine speed limiters
  • devices that cut off engines after 10 minutes idling

One public sector body has adopted a ‘driving at work’ policy for employed drivers, including training and daily vehicle checks, to also ensure road safety and road worthiness as a key element of the organisation’s risk management regime. One participant thought these ‘hard’ measures to be more effective and direct than training investment.

A delegate suggested that operators should be obliged to publish mileage and fuel use and that investment in eco-driving ought to become a regulatory requirement for fleet operators.

Obstacles and other issues

Despite the clear financial incentives of engaging in eco-driving activities, experience suggests that ‘investing to save’ can be difficult within organisations. Local authorities were described as increasingly cost-driven, and often guilty of 'short-termism' as a consequence of electoral issues, while companies are ‘run by accountants’.

It was also evident that changing driver behaviour is not easy, particularly where delivery timetables are tight. While drivers are professionals and eco-driving is therefore part of their job, the evidence is that they need to see the benefits to accept the need for change. Organisations with a positive competitive culture between drivers saw an increase in eco-driving.

Staff turnover levels was also cited as a reason for lack of investment in training.

Other issues raised included how organisations with large ‘grey fleets’ (in which drivers use their own cars to drive for work purposes) might stimulate drivers to undergo eco-driver training and how the key messages from the seminars might be communicated to the many smaller fleet operators.

Key messages

  • corporate leadership is essential to its successful uptake
  • eco-driving produces operating efficiencies significant enough to suggest that corporate investment in training has a significant net benefit in reducing fuel and other operating costs
  • such savings increase where eco-driving is supported by ongoing monitoring, through telematics systems and reviews
  • changing driving behaviour is easier once drivers themselves see the benefits, leading to an improvement culture
  • organisations with large grey fleets ought to encourage their drivers to undertake eco-driving training
  • the advantages of eco-driving needed to be communicated to the large number of smaller fleet operators to encourage them to invest in training and monitoring

Climate seminar: Low carbon vehicles

Most operators at the seminar seemed to have experience of low carbon vehicles, although for some it was limited. Their current high procurement and maintenance costs, alongside perceived reliability issues, are huge disincentives. Making a business case for LCV procurement is extremely difficult.

High costs and reliability issues

Low carbon vehicles can be three times more expensive to buy than conventional vehicles. Low carbon refuse vehicles can cost as much as £125,000. The amount saved from fuel efficiency does not cover the increased costs in procurement. Even residual values and returns upon disposal are unlikely to be high.

Manufacturers' unit costs, it was reported, have to stay high without increased demand. Scotland Excel, a procurement centre for the public sector, received a nil response from manufacturers to a tender specification for LCV supply.

In addition, attendees at the seminar raised continuing concerns about reliability and vehicles being pulled from service. Breakdowns were up by 45% in one fleet and the cost of downtime was reported at £600 per day. The negative impact of LCV performance on customer service could not be ignored. The weight of vehicle batteries also reduced the amount of vehicle load capacity.

Future procurement

Further uptake of LCVs is only likely to occur when there is an appropriate subsidy in place. Participants did hear that hybrid Ford Transits were currently available at only 10% additional discount.

Procurement officers in organisations needed to be better informed and give greater recognition to the environmental imperatives of the climate change legislation. It was also suggested that a model LCV specification might be useful across local authorities, while the benefits of centralised procurement could be considered.

Alternative fuels

The seminar heard that hybrid buses purchased by one operator under Transport Scotland's Green Bus Fund were registering 25-30% in fuel savings. It was unclear whether these savings would cover the additional upfront costs of purchase. Some buses used waste-derived fuel while six ran on bio-methane. Hybrid engines were deemed unsuitable for heavier vehicles.

Delegates also explained that the repairs and fuel processing associated with bio-fuels may be cancelling out the benefits of their use. Hydroscopic fuels suffered from water contamination, while some manufacturers were not honouring engine warranties if high proportions or biofuels are used. There were also concerns around higher bio-fuel volumes and the need to minimise degradation.

One operator told the seminar that he had looked at all the available low-carbon options a few years ago. SAAB biofuel vehicles were ultimately bought, yet are currently running on unleaded fuel because no biofuel is available. Others discussed the bio-methane produced by Scottish Water and the end of the EU gas conversion scheme.

More positively, the seminar also heard from delegates that technology currently exists for vehicles to produce their own hydrogen fuel from water. It was noted that EU vehicle engine standards introduced to improve air quality actually reduced fuel efficiency, thus increasing CO2 emissions.

Suggested approaches and messages

A more joined-up strategic approach to alternative fuels and infrastructure is needed and legislation is required to encourage the industry to raise their standards. Some suggested lobbying the UK government to incentivise the use of alternative fuels through fuel taxation.

Currently the development of a persuasive business case for the procurement of LCVs was compromised by:

  • high purchase costs
  • uncertainty over fuel efficiencies being sufficient to balance additional purchase costs
  • their reliability and its impact on customer service, maintenance and downtime costs
  • potentially low residual values

Consideration might be given to the benefits of a common approach on LCV procurement across local authorities, or to a national LCV procurement framework, perhaps via Scotland Excel

For the time being at least, continued subsidy would be required to incentivise increased uptake. The seminar also noted that:

  • Government and/or the 2020 Climate Group should show leadership and direction on alternative fuels to reduce uncertainty and financial risks
  • industry standards needed to be improved, perhaps by legislation
  • The UK Government might be lobbied to incentivise use of alternative fuels through fuel taxation
  • area-based low emission initiatives could be considered by the public sector.

Climate seminar: Freight efficiencies

Rail freight

One operator spoke of a desire to see more freight move by rail but acknowledged that this was unlikely in Fife due to track access difficulties and a lack of rail links to St. Andrews or Kinross.

Another advised of the potential for waste to be transported to the central belt from the Highlands were it not for track access difficulties. A national operator also voiced doubts about the rail network's capacity to take more freight, which was supported by another delegate's suggestion that rail wasn't suitable for transporting its good as it did not have specialised equipment.

Supply chain development

One participant advised that his organisation was proactive in supply chain partnerships and worked with both shipping and rail operators to scope various transport options. IKEA was held up as a standard for environmentally minded practices. The international organisation runs a very thorough process for ensuring that suppliers fulfil particular environmental requirements.


45% of home deliveries result in non-delivery, adding considerably to fuel use. It was also noted that in the current economic climate, empty running in return trips from continental Europe was now standard procedure for operators.

It was suggested that new warehouse infrastructure should be equipped for low carbon vehicle use.

Key messages

  • Road congestion added to fuel consumption. More road and rail infrastructure investment might complement the roles of eco-driving, LCVs and alternative fuels in reducing emissions
  • Rail track access was a substantial issue in moving freight from roads.

The Climate Change Plan

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires the Scottish Government to publish regular plans for meeting future emissions reduction targets.

Since 2009, Transport Scotland has published 2 plans:

  • Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022 - The Report on Policies and Proposals (RPP)
  • Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting our Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027 - The Second Report on Policies and Proposals

In January 2017, the Scottish Government published a draft version of the latest emissions reduction plan, "The Climate Change Plan - the draft third report on policies and proposals 2017-2032" .

The Vision

Transport Scotland aims to reduce emissions from transport in ways that promote sustainable environmental and socio-economic wellbeing. As Scotland's economy and population grows, so too will the demand for the movement of goods and people. As technological change accelerates, together with behaviour change we will be able to achieve economic growth and accommodate increased transport demand with significantly reduced emissions.

In the Plan, we set out our vision for the future of Scotland's transport:

"By 2032, transport emissions should have reduced by 4.2 MtCO2e or more compared to today. Low emission cars and vans will be widespread and becoming the norm; low emission HGVs will be more common; a third of ferries owned by the Scottish Government will be low carbon; aircraft fleets will be on the cusp of radical new designs; and ground operations at Scottish airports and ports will involve low carbon solutions.

Ultimately, by 2050 Scotland will be free from harmful tailpipe emissions from land transport, with other transport modes decarbonising at a slower pace, resulting in a healthier, more active population."

Policies and Proposals

The Climate Change Plan focuses on 8 policy outcomes, each supported by individual policies, policy development milestones and proposals.

The Climate Change Plan is currently in the draft stage. A final version of the Climate Change Plan will be published following parliamentary scrutiny.

Additional Research

Transport Scotland commissioned independent research into the potential for reducing transport emissions across all fuels and technologies for the period out to and beyond that covered by the Plan.

The research, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Potential in the Scottish Transport Sector From Recent Advances in Transport Fuels and Fuel Technologies, was used in informing the development of the policies and proposals within the Plan.

This research was published alongside the Climate Change Plan in January 2017.


A sustainable, low carbon transport network brings many additional benefits to communities, businesses and the third sector. Transport Scotland is committed to maximising these co-benefits.