Practical barriers to achieving net-zero carbon emissions – like how to heat our homes without gas – are being ignored by campaigners intent on disrupting our daily lives, says John McLellan.
Like thousands of Edinburgh people, we live in a drafty Victorian house which costs a fortune to heat. For the next five or six months, a soft but steady stream of chilled air from the window will numb my fingers as I type these columns, while in the bedroom folded-up sheets of A4 might stop the frames rattling but not the curtains gently exhaling in the breeze.
We should really get the windows replaced but the nice wooden ones aren’t exactly cheap and, well, we might move when the Last of the Mohicans leaves school in a couple of years so we never quite get round to it.
It’s not that we are hardy types who like the place being the same temperature as it was when it relied on open fires in every room, or that we’re too tight to fork out, because when the boiler packed in once too often after another ineffectual service, we went for broke (almost literally) and had the latest gas combi installed, complete with fantoosh phone app gadgetry to adjust the temperature in each room so we don’t have to heat the whole place if only one or two rooms are in use.
That’s the theory anyway, as we soon found out the little wi-fi signs with a red line through them means uniform heat throughout the house; freezing. With no means to turn the damn thing on, it was coats and jumpers time, but of course it sprang to life in the middle of the night when we didn’t need it.
These tales of domestic heating hassle have a point, though, because it’s the kind of thing hundreds if not thousands of Edinburgh people will face if the city is to meet the council’s ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. A report by academics from Edinburgh and Leeds universities, approved by the Policy & Sustainability Committee yesterday, said the domestic sector “remains recalcitrant to emissions reductions efforts” largely because gas is still the preferred fuel and all the thermostats, efficient combi boilers and insulation will only achieve so much.
Then there is the fact that nearly half the housing stock was built before 1950 and over half of all property, like ours, has no wall insulation. The report shows that even with the most aggressive, high-cost approach the domestic sector will not get near net-zero carbon by 2045, never mind 2030, and in fact throwing more money at the problem won’t be much better than a cost-neutral approach. Only the industrial sector has any chance of hitting the target by 2030 and it is only responsible for 17 per cent of emissions, compared to 29 per cent from domestic sources.
The whole programme is set to cost the city over £8bn and while it’s true there is an expectation that everyone will do their bit and the vague promise of their investment being recouped over 16 years through reduced energy costs, the reality is that many householders don’t have a spare 20 grand for energy solutions. And even if we all spend what is needed it still won’t get to zero.
The only option is an off-set programme, but who pays for that? Will those whose houses are heating colanders be forced to contribute to forestation programmes? At least I can say I’ve planted two trees, although I’ll probably get pelters for the choosing a pretty but non-indigenous Japanese cherry.
These are the barriers being ignored by climate change extremists intent on disrupting daily lives to force both the Scottish and UK Governments to make the country completely carbon neutral by 2025. It simply can’t be done without forcing every single gas-powered household to rip out the radiators and the occupants to wear coats like coachmen from a Christmas card. When politicians pander to the youth vote by patronising school strikers and the like for making a principled stand, this is what they are actually thanking them for. Yes, we’ll get our windows done and hopefully get the bills down further, but even if David Attenborough comes round with a polar bear to threaten us, the gas hob and heating are staying. He can take the bloody app system with him, though.
Clear the streets of leaves, then pay to have them taken away
Edinburgh always looks magnificent when the trees turn to autumn shades, but the blessing of abundant golden foliage also brings the creation of little lakes as the fall blocks the drains. The city council’s answer is to get residents to clear the leaves themselves and while harnessing the pubic spirit is no bad thing, Blitz spirit and all that, the irony is the SNP-Labour-led administration has set its face against outsourcing any of its services, yet is now asking the public to take the strain for nothing.
Well not quite nothing, because residents have had to pay the council to empty the garden bins in which most garden leaves are dumped. So by all means plant more trees, but make sure you take care of your gutters too.
Ian Murray is still helping the hard-left
There is nowhere more leafy than Edinburgh South and on Thursday evening the Unite union’s bid to deselect the sitting Labour MP Ian Murray was blown away by 158 votes to 13.
Perhaps members’ minds were concentrated by his indication he would stand as an independent but it has laid bare divisions within the party and reminded the large tactical vote from which Mr Murray benefits that, whether a thorn in his leadership’s side or not, in a predominantly middle-class seat he is still helping a hard-left party’s bid for power.
And with Labour seemingly set on a deal with the SNP to enable a second independence referendum, for unionist voters he is not the safe anti-SNP option of old so at the next election he’s unlikely to benefit from a repeat of what was virtually a clear run in 2017.
An Epic new party
But a new political force has emerged in Scotland, not forged out of Brexit disagreements but from the battle of wills within the Edinburgh SNP. Three ex-Nationalist councillors who have been sitting as individual independents have been denied committee places which go to parties on a proportionate basis, so forming an official group should qualify them for a seat at each meeting.
The trio has to pick a name, perhaps Continuity SNP, Separatists Apart or Nationalist Originals? No, the front runner is said to be the confident sounding Epic, the Edinburgh Party of Independent Councillors.
And indeed an Epic struggle is now apparently taking place amongst their former colleagues in the Edinburgh administration who are scouring the rule book for ways to stop them taking committee places.
Hell hath no fury like Nationalists scorned, but it might also be because the big loser is the SNP’s arms-length allies in the Greens who will go from two committee seats to one.