Eco News January 2023
The Climate Change Committee (CCC)
which advises the UK and Scottish governments says the Scottish government still needs progress in several sectors, notably reduction of car use, energy efficiency in homes, cutting aviation and decarbonising agriculture. Patrick Harvie, Greens’ zero-carbon buildings minister, has ‘not made a dent in the big challenge of decarbonising heating in housing’, according to Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC. He says the lack of progress risks making the targets meaningless, and that targets such as a 30% cut in agriculture emissions in the next decade smack of ‘magical thinking’ without any realistic policies in place to bring this about.
under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which ran from 7th to19th December is working to protect and restore biodiversity, aiming to protect at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030. Targets for halting extinction and tackling pollution and pesticide use and establishing monitoring systems are being considered. Campaigners want a Paris-style deal for nature to combat the destruction of habitats which drives up carbon emissions and raises temperatures through burning. Peatland, woodland and mangrove restoration help sequester carbon and stop temperatures rising. But anything agreed at Montreal is not legally binding, and the USA was an observer only.
Up to one million species are at risk of extinction, with global wildlife declining 69% over 50 years, and three quarters of the world’s landmass has been altered by human activity. The UK stands accused of delays in rolling out nature-friendly farming payments in England.
Targets for CBD from Aichi, Japan, in 2010 have been missed, and it seems fanciful to say that developed economies will move away from the perceived imperative of economic growth, which is pursued at all costs. Survival International on the other hand claim that efforts to protect 30% of earth’s landmass will further exclude indigenous people and local communities.
Greening Off-grid Rural Homes
Residents in areas like the North-East and Highlands and Islands living in off-grid properties are not exempt from upgrading their heating systems within 3 years. But Patrick Harvie’s favoured sustainable option of a heat pump will not be suitable for nearly a quarter of Scotland’s 170,000 off grid properties and upgrading to electric systems could cost up to £32,000, with no indication of whether government grants will cover all or part of the cost. All Scotland’s properties must meet a minimum EPC3 (Energy Performance Certificate) by 2033, with possible trigger points for reaching that standard before then, for example the sale of the house. Although this is only supposed to apply to properties where it is technically feasible and cost-effective to reach level C, the rules and exemptions are far from clear.
How long does it take for ‘green’ measures to pay off?
The answer is 17 years, according to NatWest Bank, which conducted an experiment, spending £190,000 to make a number of homes energy-efficient, then saw how long the investment would take to pay for itself. For £21,171 worth of green investment in a property, a household saves only just over £1200 a year on bills, so it is definitely for the long-run.
Nearly half Scotland’s species are in decline, according to the 2019 State of Nature Scotland report. In the global ranking of Biodiversity Intactness Index, Scotland is 212th globally, scoring only 56%. Scotland’s forest coverage is now only 18%, down from a high of 80%, and species like wolf, lynx, bear and elk have been lost. The beaver is being reintroduced, but there are only between 115 and 315 Scottish wildcat in the wild. Wild Atlantic salmon is in steep decline, and curlew declined by 59% between 1995 and 2018, with lapwings down 56% and rooks down 34%.
Avian flu decimated the Great skuas, adding to ongoing decline. Insect populations are also under threat, with over one in three Scottish butterfly species endangered, including the Scotch argus and dark green fritillary. Mountain hares and arctic-alpine plants are also on the danger list. The RSPB has called for a Natural Environment Bill with binding targets to protect 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030.
An emerging danger is feral goats which damage habitats, and can climb up trees and even the sides of a house. Wild herds are spreading all over Scotland, currently in Islay and Jura, Inversnaid, and Galloway, and around the A87, including Shiel Bridge village. The Glen Shiel goat herd now numbers over 100 and endangers arable crops. The deer population is also out of control is regularly culled.
UN Targets/Net Zero
Scotland’s failure to meet 11 of 20 UN targets on environmental protection is the subject of a complaint the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC), claiming the Scottish government is in breach of international law. The group, comprising Planning Democracy, environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and RSPB Scotland is complaining about a breach of Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, which guarantees a healthy environment. The ACCC can issue cautions in case of non-compliance.
Think tank Reform Scotland said there is a lack of clarity from the Scottish government as to how they will meet their net-zero targets and called for an immediate ban on the sale of new gas cookers and a ‘pay as you drive’ scheme on ALL Scotland’s roads, so it is clear they do not have rural areas in mind, or anyone who works at different times to the standard.
The rapid acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) has led to their sales outstripping sales of diesel cars for the first time, but crucially the growth in the number of rapid chargers has slipped back, with just over 6700 in place at the end of November 2022. Sales of EVs number 267,000 vehicles. The number of charging points available is not going to meet the government’s own planned ten-fold increase in EV use by 2030. The charge point network, both rapid and slower, has grown to 28,000. Some drivers had to wait hours to charge at Christmas. The aim is for 300,000 charging points by 2030, the equivalent of 115 new chargers installed every day, not the 24 per day which is currently achieved.
The Scottish government is trying to attract private investment for a new public electric vehicle charging fund. The RAC thinks Value Added Tax (VAT) should be cut on public charging points from 20% to 5%. The sale of new petrol and diesel cars is due to be banned in 2030, although some hybrids will be allowed until 2035
And other problems exist too. The sheer weight of electric vehicles will soon pose a danger to parking garages and infrastructure like bridges and will add to the deterioration of all roads. At twice the weight of an average vehicle, this is a problem which will soon be upon us.