Scotland could reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 and has the potential to play a “pivotal role” in wider UK decarbonisation efforts, according to a new report from the WWF.

The report, published by the wildlife conservation charity’s Scottish arm, says Scotland could reach net zero emissions before 2045 with options for further reductions. The Scottish government’s current target, outlined in its Climate Change Bill, is to reduce carbon emissions north of the border to 90 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

The UK government is currently exploring with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales what steps must be taken to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

Deploying currently known emission reduction measures, Scotland would be able to cut its emission to around 13 MtCO2e per year by 2050, which could be offset by other greenhouse gas reduction (GGR) measures across Scotland’s relatively large land mass, such as planting new forests.

Scotland has just under a third of the UKs land area but only eight per cent of its population and a slightly higher (nine per cent) proportion of its current emissions.

The report, which was produced by consultancy Vivid Economics for WWF Scotland, says that zero or near-zero emissions can be reached in the Scottish power, transport and buildings sectors if existing efforts are ramped up.

The study forecasts that power generation in Scotland will be close to zero emissions at 1.2 MtCO2 with large exports of renewable energy to the rest of the UK and some emissions from the gas plants, which will be fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, still needed to ensure grid stability.

And buildings can reach zero emissions by supplying heating through a combination of heat pumps, district heating and the use of biogas and hydrogen.

Industrial emissions can be cut by at least 60 per cent without reducing productive capacity through a combination of electrification, use of hydrogen as fuel where possible, and the deployment of CCS across large plants.

The study says that a “significant proportion” of the UK’s GGR measures can be deployed in Scotland.

Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, called on the Scottish government to bring forward its carbon reduction target.

“WWF Scotland is right to say we are ‘laden with natural advantages’ for achieving net zero carbon emissions.

“Setting a new target would affirm Scotland’s place at the forefront of climate change action and send a strong signal to business that we need to cut emissions more quickly and deeply than ever before across Scotland’s energy system.

“New evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year on the timeline we have available to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change explains why we need to act now.”