Green ... Green with envy

I want to praise Scotland for the decision they took in Holyrood today over reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They have introduced new tougher targets which are reported here:

     MSPs get power to fine over climate change, The Scotsman


     MSPs pass 'landmark' climate laws, BBC website

There are some very interesting new ideas, because as well as doing the things that we might expect only government can do, the new laws will eventually be able to compel companies and even individuals to improve their energy use by, ultimately, imposing fines for failure to do so.

Not just energy use will be dealt with. The measures could also force reductions in the overuse of packaging, and better recycling targets.

The intermediate target is for a 42% reduction by 2020, and for an 80% reduction by 2050. It is also pleasing to see that the bulk of the reductions must be made in Scotland, with no more than 20% of the target met by offsetting and trading outside the country.

But there will be carrots before sticks, such as £50 reductions in Council Tax.


In the article in the Scotsman one sceptic is reported as saying:

"As far as reducing emissions by 80 per cent, banning the internal combustion engine, and coal-fired power stations from Scotland would not get close to doing it. This is clearly unobtainable."

Well, let's think about it. Our use of energy splits into three chunks: power generation, transport and heating.

• Scotland can easily generate all its electricity and more from renewables. I can virtually guarantee they won't have any-coal fired power stations in 2050.

• I am also sure that the only petrol or diesel internal combustion engines will be found in museums or at vintage car rallies. I'm sure we will still have cars, buses and trucks, but they will be either electric or hydrogen (fuel cell or internal combustion) and that the hydrogen will have been produced using "surplus" power from intermittent renewable sources such as wind.

Those two will achieve a reduction of say 65%. Most of the rest will depend on how we deal with buildings. It's relatively easy to deal with new buildings either through tougher building regulations or through the planning process. The more intractable problem is how to deal with the large stock of existing buildings, many of which have very little insulation. That's where the Scottish model is strong.


I'm envious because we in Wales should be doing the same things. To our credit we have done some clever lateral thinking, but we simply don't have any powers to legislate in this way. We can't even put a 5p tax on plastic bags ... let alone deal with large scale power generation!

The final irony is that what Scotland has done is entirely uncontentious. It had all party support and was passed unanimously ... the only voices of disquiet were from those who would have preferred the targets to be even tougher.

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