Last month, the UK Chancellor George Osborne slipped out a surprise announcement that he was dropping a previous commitment that all new homes built from 2016 would meet zero carbon targets. His aim was to “reduce regulation” for builders, but it is likely to result in new houses with less insulation and more wasted energy.
Osborne’s move prompted a howl of protest from UK businesses. In a joint letter, they argued that the sudden policy U-turn would inhibit investment, be “regressive” and “harmful to British industry”.
Now 20 academics, business leaders and professionals have signed an open letter to Sturgeon urging her to take a very different approach. “Work with us to develop new policies to ensure the wide-ranging impacts of the disastrous decisions now being made at Westminster will not be felt by the people of Scotland,” the letter says.
“Improving the condition and energy efficiency of the Scottish housing stock will be essential in meeting many of our environmental, social and economic objectives towards 2030 and 2050. Removing the current targets, or letting them slip further, will add to our legacy of sub-standard housing that is not fit for a world in which all homes will need to be zero carbon homes.”
The letter was co-ordinated by Dr Keith Baker, an engineering and environment researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University who helped found the Initiative for Carbon Accounting, an independent organisation that aims to improve assessments of climate pollution.
“George Osborne’s attacks on zero carbon homes and renewable energy have ripped the heart out of Westminster’s progress on meeting its emissions reduction targets. They have signalled to investors in low carbon homes and renewables that the future of these industries under his regime is uncertain,” he said.
“Homes will go uninsulated, research and innovation will be hit hard, and skilled jobs will be lost. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged and so are calling upon the Scottish Government and the SNP to call the Chancellor to account.”
Among signatories to the letter are: Professor Sue Roaf from Heriot-Watt University; Chris Stewart, chair of the Scottish Ecological Design Association: Ron Mould, from Glasgow Caledonian University: Neil Sutherland, managing director of the green home builder, MAKAR: David Aitken from Lochlie Construction Group; and Julio Bros-Williamson, from the Scottish Energy Centre at Edinburgh Napier University.
Another signatory, Norman Kerr, the director of Energy Action Scotland, pointed out that there were 940,000 households living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty in Scotland. “They need warm, dry affordable-to-heat homes, to maintain health, to play a role in tackling climate change, to contribute to the nation's security of supply, reduce social inequality and improve their day to day lives,” he said.
“The First Minister should reject, completely, the Chancellor's plans. She should bring forward the eradication of fuel poverty and move on climate change against targets they have failed to meet over the last four years.”
According to the local government minister, Marco Biagi, the Scottish Government introduced “more demanding” energy standards that will come into force in October. “We remain committed to all new buildings being nearly zero energy from 2019, in line with European Union (EU) requirements,” he told The National.
“Future reviews will investigate if further reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, advocated in the 2013 Sullivan Report Update, will deliver new buildings which meet the EU Directive and the potential to deliver a net zero carbon standard for new development.”
The Scottish Government was investing in energy efficiency initiatives for Scotland’s homes, he added. “We will always call the UK Government to account and voice our opposition to policies and legislation we do not believe to be in Scotland’s best interests.”