Norman Kerr: Climate action can end fuel poverty

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LAST Friday, the Scottish Government missed its 2011 climate target for the second year in a row. It only missed the target by a narrow margin, but it sent a signal that the government must up its game.

It needs to meet challenging targets on climate change and on fuel poverty elimination.

Emissions from housing make up a quarter of domestic emissions in Scotland. Meanwhile, more than a third of Scots live in fuel poverty.

We believe that radical action is needed to tackle this twin scourge.

Tackling climate change tackles fuel poverty, creates jobs in insulation and saves money on healthcare costs. This is preventative spend at its best.

Scottish ministers published a draft climate plan (the Report on Proposals and Policies) in January and the final version of this plan is due to be published soon.

Ministers have a crucial opportunity this week to make radical improvements to this plan to cut emissions when they address the subject in the Scottish Parliament.

We are joining the call by WWF Scotland and others for ministers to grasp the opportunities of bold action on climate change.

Cutting emissions will lift people out of fuel poverty and enable people to live in better quality housing.

More specifically, as part of the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland – a coalition of environmental, fuel poverty and housing organisations – we are calling on the housing minister to bring forward minimum standards of energy efficiency in Scotland’s housing.

No-one should have to live in an energy-inefficient home, we believe.

Such properties waste energy that is both costly and polluting.

By improving domestic energy efficiency levels, we can reduce waste and lower the overall demand for energy that has to be generated in the first place.

This action will be beneficial in terms of climate change. In addition, reducing consumers’ energy bills will reduce fuel poverty levels, which have recently been on the rise.

Now is the time to inject a sense of urgency into action to tackle both climate change and fuel poverty.

• Norman Kerr is director of Energy Action Scotland.