If we don’t take action now, a zero-carbon energy system will remain a pipe dream for decades to come.
I was listening in on a focus group discussion the other day, run by a friend in the industry. When they got around to climate change the young people in the group gave this as their primary concern and were very clear that as a country, we were not doing enough.
This response didn't surprise me, but what did make me sit up was the response of the older people in the group. They said we had a duty to bequeath a clean planet to the next generation. My friend noticed this trend across several sessions and showed me data that older people had significantly changed their position on climate change action.
While concern about climate change had risen across all age ranges, the increase was lower amongst middle-aged men. They cited concerns about the impact on jobs and some of the other lifestyle changes they would need to make.
That is why today's policy announcement on Labour's 'Warm Homes for All' is so important. It takes practical action on climate change, cutting carbon emissions by 10% by the year 2030. It also reduces energy bills, particularly for low-income households, by an average of £417 a year. In Scotland, it will create at least 18,500 direct and 16,600 indirect jobs – directly addressing the concerns of the focus group.
The buildings sector makes up nearly a quarter of Scotland’s emissions, and residential buildings made up the bulk of this at 73%. Fuel Poverty affects 613,000 homes in Scotland, and thousands die every winter due to the effects of living in a cold, damp home.
The Scottish Government has switched resources for fuel poverty off and then on again with a range of programmes. They will no doubt say that this is due to Tory austerity. What is now clear is that the election of a UK Labour Government will create the opportunity to put a transformative scale of investment into seriously tackling this issue.
I have campaigned on fuel poverty for many years, sat on working parties, written reports, and supported many worthwhile initiatives. I have heard UNISON members in social work, and health care describe their frustration at helping people, only to send them home to buildings that exacerbate their conditions. This new plan is on a scale that could eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland.
It is also only one part of a broader plan that Labour calls a 'Green Industrial Revolution'. I am not a great fan of political soundbites, but I have been impressed by the detailed work being put in by the Labour team working on this issue. The recently published 'Thirty by 2030' report shows how we can put the UK onto the path of zero-carbon energy and boost the economy at the same time. They describe a plan that could boost the UK economy by £800bn, creating 850,000 new jobs, increasing household incomes and avoiding 6,000 deaths per year through improved air quality. Not to mention the wider health benefits.