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Scotland facing a ‘monumental task’ on eco housing - claim

A key minister in the Scottish Government has warned that the country faces a ‘monumental but essential task’ if it is to overhaul its ageing housing stock and find ‘practical solutions’ to cut emissions and address the climate crisis.

Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens and the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, put forward this message as he officially opened the first-ever Green Home Festival as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Monday.

He was the keynote speaker at the launch of the five-day event, put together by the Construction Industry Collective Voice (CICV).


Harvie, who was speaking to delegates at the Scottish headquarters of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), set out the scale of the challenge and some of the measures the Scottish Government was taking to try and tackle today’s environmental issues.

“Our homes and workplaces account for around a fifth of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Our statutory target for 2030 means that we need to reduce emissions from heating buildings by 68% below their level in 2020,” he said.

“This is a monumental but essential task. Our building stock is relatively old, and wasn’t always built to high energy standards. This legacy of poor energy efficiency has contributed to emissions and fuel poverty, so we need to start drastically improving that standard.”

He said that, by 2030, the Scottish Government want to see a large majority of homes achieving a level of energy efficiency at least equivalent to an EPC rating of C. All homes will meanwhile need to meet that standard by 2033, ‘where feasible and cost effective’.

This, Harvie argued, will not only cut emissions from buildings, but it will also help make energy more affordable, ‘by removing poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty’.

Harvie, who is MSP for the Glasgow region, also warned that Scotland needs to switch to zero direct emissions heating, as well as improving energy efficiency.

He claimed that meeting the 2030 target means Scotland will need over a million homes and the equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings to switch from fossil fuels. He called this is a ‘huge transition’, which will affect communities, businesses and homes across Scotland.

“Getting there will need a much faster installation rate for these zero direct emissions heating systems. In recent years that rate has been around 3,000 homes annually, but we need to reach around 200,000 each year in the latter part of this decade,” he said.

Harvie believes that the cost-of-living crisis and the unprecedented surges in energy prices will make the challenge even harder – and claims the government can’t foot the bill on its own.

“Our funding will make a huge difference to the heat transition. But the cost of transforming our building stock – around £33 billion to 2045 – can’t be met by government alone,” he said.

“Our Green Heat Finance Task Force is now working on innovative solutions to maximise private sector investment, and to find new ways to help spread the upfront cost of making properties warmer, greener and more energy efficient.”

Harvie concluded: “We know there will be more issues to resolve and we intend to tackle these collaboratively, drawing on the best knowledge and ideas from across society.”

“The climate emergency is already here. But if we adopt many of the actions and ideas being discussed at this week-long Green Home Festival, they will stand us in good stead to mitigate its worst consequences.”


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