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The steps needed to deliver a low-carbon country

 

The Scottish Budget offers a clear and tangible test of how the Scottish Government plans to secure the benefits of a low carbon economy. We can ask, does the budget match the Governments climate action plan, does it commit to a low carbon economy and does it attempt to mitigate the impact of changes to UK funding programmes? Unfortunately, and despite the clear statements from the Scottish Government that achieving the benefits of Scotland’s climate ambitions requires greater policy effort and new political commitments, the budget for 2015-16 offers little that is new.

Over the past few months WWF Scotland has proposed a number of changes that not only cut emissions but also improve household income, tackle fuel poverty and help reduce the burden on our health system. In particular we have highlighted the value of: increased funding to help improve households’ energy efficiency and the establishment of improved household energy efficiency as one of the Scottish Government’s big infrastructure priorities; new funding schemes to support the development of district heating systems; and more funding to increase cycling and walking in Scotland.

Cyclists in town ©iStockCyclists in town ©iStock

Funding for improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s housing stock should be a priority for any Government that wishes to tackle inequality; support job creation and reduce the burden on our health service. Yet we know that one year off from the Scottish Parliament’s fuel poverty target date there are over 900,000 households in fuel poverty this winter.

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland has argued that making Scotland’s houses more energy efficient would reduce illnesses related to damp, cold homes and help reduce the seasonal increase in the number of people – up to 2,000 – who die each winter in Scotland. This view is supported by the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group for England, which showed that for every £1 spent on fuel poverty, 42p is saved by the NHS. At the same time research by Consumer Focus Scotland has shown that tackling fuel poverty through improved home energy efficiency would cut household fuel bills, by an average of £505 in treated households and create almost 9,000 jobs by 2027.

The case for increasing support to improve our housing stock is further strengthened by the strong climate change argument for action. The UK Committee on Climate Change has said that “substantial additional policy effort by the Scottish Government will be necessary if it is to achieve its insulation and fuel poverty targets” and the Scottish Government’s own climate plan requires a 70% increase in emissions savings from its energy efficiency programme in the coming year.

It’s clear that increasing the energy efficiency budget would be a win-win-win for the economy, health and the environment. Yet the draft budget for 2015/16 offers no change from the funding allocation from last year.

Heat map of house ©EXHAHeat map of house ©EXHA

It’s been great to hear MSPs raising these points as the Scottish Parliament has considered the draft budget and it is encouraging to hear the Finance Secretary John Swinney, say that he would ‘consider seriously’ the case for increase support for energy efficiency. We hope this statement leads to significant changes to the draft budget.

2015 will be a year of climate action, countries across the world have committed to setting their own climate targets in the run up to the UN Conference in Paris in December. In the run up to Paris, Scotland has the opportunity to tell a powerful story of how climate ambition can be turned into policy action that delivers a strong economy, tackles inequality and creates opportunities for innovation and investment. But if we are to tell that story we need to be able to look beyond the positive renewables sector and point to homes that have been retrofitted, the growth of low carbon, affordable heating and a sustainable transport system. The Scottish Government should use this budget as an opportunity to write the next chapter in our story of a low carbon Scotland.

Do you agree more funding is needed to improve energy efficiency?  Leave us a comment.

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