AMBITIOUS plans to slash carbon emissions in homes and businesses in Scotland have been watered down, as the “difficult times” for the construction industry continue to bite.
The Scottish Government pledged to reduce emissions from newly built residential properties by 30 per cent as part of a flagship plan to increase the number of green homes.
However, the target has been scrapped and replaced by plans to reduce it by just 20 per cent, with Scottish ministers blaming the UK’s “challenging economic” situation.
The SNP government had also promised a 50 per cent reduction in emissions from new non-domestic buildings, as part of its plan for “A Low Carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland”, published in 2007 shortly after it came to power.
But planning minister Derek Mackay has now issued a fresh target of 40 per cent for non-domestic buildings, with a consultation being launched next month on the proposed new levels for emissions reduction.
He insisted the new proposals would reduce carbon emissions for new homes by around 75 per cent, compared with the standards that existed in 1990, as well as cutting fuel bills for families and businesses.
Mr Mackay said: “The Scottish Government is committed to reducing Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions and building standards have a vital role to play in this. But in these challenging economic times, it is important to strike a balance between making our buildings greener and increasing the burden on the construction industry.
“These proposals maintain the Scottish Government’s commitment to ambitious emissions reductions, but will limit the impact on both industry and on the cost of new homes at this time.
“Beyond this consultation, we will look at other options for making emissions reductions which are comparable with the Sullivan Report aspirations for new buildings. To assist in this, I intend to reconvene the Sullivan panel next year.”
Lynne Sullivan, author of the 2007 report on emissions, who has been asked to lead a new expert panel to review the targets, admitted the economic crisis had affected the original plans.
She said: “The construction industry is still experiencing uniquely difficult times that were not envisaged when the expert panel produced our original report.
“The minister … has shown strong leadership, proposing greenhouse gas emissions reductions that strike a good balance between delivering on climate-change mitigation and being achievable for industry.”
However, opposition parties last night claimed the government’s decision was “very disappointing”, after ministers had heavily promoted other environmental targets.
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “Buildings are the source of nearly half of our CO2 emissions. If the Scottish Government backslides on the need for energy-efficient buildings, it will simply store up problems for future generations.”
Labour MSP Claire Baker said: “When a minister starts making excuses at the launch of the consultation, one cannot hold out much hope.”
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said: “If the Scottish Government is serious about tackling climate change, it shouldn’t shirk on Sullivan’s ambitious proposals. These watered-down recommendations are a half-hearted approach to a serious problem.”