A MINISTER admitted his government was decades behind on the progress needed to decarbonise buildings and insisted independence would allow Scottish consumers to reap the economic benefits of net zero.
Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Government’s minister for zero carbon buildings, acknowledged that ministers are decades behind their European peers in moving away from fossil fuel heating systems.
The co-leader of the Scottish Greens told the Herald that Scotland is transitioning to heating buildings without using fossil fuels, which will cost around £33billion, “too late”.
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He said: “Scotland should have been building energy efficient homes and things like district heating systems for decades, for generations.
“Some of the other European countries like Denmark that we work very closely with to learn from their work over the past decades – they have been doing this for a very, very long time.
“Scotland should have been in this position. We should not be in the position again where large numbers of people are living in poor, energy inefficient homes and dependent on fossil fuels when we could already be moving quickly to zero-emission heating.
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Mr Harvie added: “The whole world is behind the climate curve.
“Scotland could and should have done a lot more about this decades ago.
“So we’re not where we should be, but we’re making rapid progress and I think we have a very good chance of not only ensuring that the heating program in buildings helps Scotland meet its national climate targets, but do it in a socially just way that helps people move out of energy poverty.
Edinburgh and Glasgow, with large amounts of flats, have pledged to be net zero by 2030 – where Mr Harvie said there was “huge potential” to develop district heating networks.
In April, The Herald revealed that Nicola Sturgeon was lobbying the City of London for investment to help fund her government’s net zero strategy – with an admission that private funding will be key to paying for the priority.
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On Thursday, Ms Sturgeon announced that an expert group of investors and asset managers will advise on how Scotland can create the right conditions to attract global capital investment to develop a just transition for workers in carbon-intensive industries. But that doesn’t include heat advice in the building strategy, despite the huge funding gap.
Mr Harvie said: ‘We have estimated the overall thermal transition in buildings to 2045 to be £33 billion.
“If we are successful, it can be done, it can be done affordably.
“This will involve a mix of public investment, as well as investment from private building owners.
“You need to make sure that this private investment is backed by public investment, including through loans and grants. It’s a huge job.
“We could have built much more energy efficient homes 20, 30, 40 years ago – we didn’t, so now we have renovation work to do as well as improving new building standards.”
Mr Harvie said an independent Scotland could make faster progress in meeting legal climate targets than if the country remained tied to the UK.
Scotland has pledged to cut 1990 carbon emissions levels by 75% by 2030 and end its contribution to the climate crisis in 2045 by becoming net zero.
The Greens co-leader said Scotland needed to ‘raise the scale of their ambitions’.
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He added: “There are areas where we could do more with the full powers of independence.
“For example, Scotland produces a huge amount of electricity from renewables – it’s cheap, it’s plentiful, it’s going to keep growing and yet Scottish consumers aren’t getting the value from it. in their electricity bills, because the UK regulates the energy market in such a way that electricity prices are effectively set according to gas prices.
“Now that’s nonsense and we’re arguing that they need to break this artificial link between electricity and gas prices – we’ve been arguing for years.
“They keep indicating that at some point it can happen – it’s not enough.”
Mr Harvie added: “We need to move with pace and if we have the power to regulate separately in Scotland we could continue to be part of an overall electricity market in Britain, but we could ensure that domestic consumers benefit from this cheap and abundant market. domestic renewable energy supply.
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