About Net Zero

Scotland led the world in becoming one of the first nations to declare a global climate emergency in April 2019. The need to take action to tackle climate change is more urgent than ever. So, as part of the global effort to fight the climate emergency Scotland has set an ambitious target to become 'Net Zero' by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. 

A group of people watering a plant

What is 'Net Zero?'


'Net Zero' means the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we’re able to take out will add up to zero. Our first step is to reduce emissions by changing our actions and processes, but not all emissions can be avoided. To get to net zero any emissions we create would be balanced by schemes that offset the same amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, for example by planting trees, restoring peatland or using technology like carbon capture and storage. Reaching net zero is key to tackling the global climate emergency, as well as the changes we need to make now because of the ongoing effects of climate change. 

Being 'Net Zero' will help transform the way we live for the better, making Scotland a healthier, cleaner, safer, fairer place for us and for generations to come. We must all act now to achieve it.
Scotland plans to reach net zero by 2045, with interim targets of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040. We’re one of the first countries to set these ambitious targets and have the drive, resources and passion to achieve it. This is our chance to set an example and lead the way in tackling the global climate emergency.  And we'll do this in a way that's fair and inclusive to everyone in society, making sure no one is left behind - this is known as a 'just transition'.
This is our chance to set an example and lead the way in tackling the global climate emergency. Now is the time to step up our fight for the protection of our planet and to create a cleaner, healthier, safer and fairer Scotland for us all and for generations to come. 


interim target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

The Climate Emergency


Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing mankind. The issue is referred to as the ‘Global Climate Emergency’ because the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are happening is unsustainable and the damage could become irreversible if we don’t act immediately. 

If global temperature continue to rise at the same rate as they have been, the increase in heat will drive regional and seasonal temperature extremes, reduce snow cover and sea ice, intensify heavy rainfall, and change or destroy habitat ranges for plants and animals, changing our planet in ways that’ll affect us all significantly. In Scotland, we’re already seeing the impacts. Over the past few years we’ve experienced summer heatwaves, flooding and extremely high winter temperatures. The climate emergency is already on our doorstep.  



If we do nothing

If we don’t take action to reduce emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change, there will be more…. 

Catastrophic flooding

  • Our beloved coastal towns will flood more frequently – it’s estimated that by 2080 the number of properties at risk of coastal flooding will increase by 90%. 

  • One in eleven homes and one in seven businesses in Scotland are already at risk of flooding. Around 2000 more properties will be at risk every year due to climate change. 

  • Flash floods (unpredictable, sudden and dangerous flooding) will occur twice as often by 2070 as they did in 1990. 

  • Signing up to SEPA’s Floodline service provides you with live flooding information and advice and will notify you when the area you live, work or travel through is at risk of flooding.

Biodiversity loss

  • Biodiversity is all the different types of animals, plants and other organisms in our natural world. We need our natural world for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. But already the impact from the climate emergency on biodiversity is devastating.  

  • Nature is not a nice to have, it’s fundamental to human life. We’re part of a complex ecosystem and if the foundations begin to crumble, the whole system will collapse. 

  • Changes in land use and habitat loss mean our nature is in crisis - nearly 25% of our wildlife is lost and 11% of species in Scotland face extinction. Climate change is only making this worse. Find out more in the State of Nature report

  • Our coastal habitats are seeing pressure from climate change through rising sea levels and storms that are causing our coastlines to waste away.  

  • Invasive non-native species, pests and diseases will thrive and spread under new conditions. 

  • Summer droughts and changes in water supply will severely limit natural growth, alter habitats and impact farming. 

  • Our peatlands, native woodlands, coastal and marine habitats have a vital role to play in taking carbon out of the atmosphere, adapting to climate change and reducing the risks of flood, drought and wildlife loss. 

  • By protecting, restoring and enhancing nature we’ll help reduce carbon emissions and reverse biodiversity loss. We need to make space for nature to allow it to thrive – and allow us to thrive. Find out what action you can take to help nature. 

Life threatening rainstorms

  • The heavy rainfall we experience across Scotland will become more intense and happen more frequently causing even more flooding. This will continue to impact our safety, homes and livelihoods as well as the environment and transport infrastructure.  

  • If emissions are high, it’s estimated that by 2050 rainfall in Scotland could increase by up to 42% in winter and 24% in summer. Our drainage systems could be unable to cope, leading to flooding sudden and severe enough to cause danger to life. 

  • It’s estimated that 284,000 properties are at risk of flooding and this is expected to increase by a further 110,000 with climate change by 2080. 

  • Check the Adaptation Scotland website for resources to help your community become more resilient to climate change. 

Similarly, coronavirus is a global crisis that has transformed many aspects of our lives. But it can also be a historic turning point in tackling the global climate emergency as it’s shown us that it’s possible to make big and immediate changes to the way we live. For some, we’ve changed how we travel and are walking, wheeling and cycling more than ever. For others we’re now working from home instead of the office, no longer needing to commute. We must build on this and learn from the changes we’ve made already as we pull together to save the planet.

As many individuals and organisations respond to the challenges of coronavirus, it gives us the opportunity to rethink our society and economy. We can start to build back a better world, to make this a 'Green Recovery' that creates opportunities and jobs for Scotland's people.

The time to change is now and Scotland is ready not only to act, but to lead the way.

A pair of hands holding a globe

How can we tackle it?


Firstly, we must recognise that climate change is something we need to tackle together – we can all make a difference. 

Together, reaching net zero will be key to tackling the global climate emergency, but we also have to be prepared to make changes now due to the ongoing effects of climate change. In Scotland our climate is already changing - we're seeing more warming, more extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

But we're no stranger to leading the way, pioneering new solutions and taking action. Reaching net zero means we'll have to change the way we live our lives, now and in the future. The scale of change will be unprecedented but by working together, supporting each other and all getting involved - government, organisations and individuals alike - we'll tackle climate change and reach our net zero target together.

Find out more about adapting to climate change.