SCOTS consumers back plans for net zero emissions by 2045, but are ‘in the dark’ over the challenges it will pose in their own lives despite high profile campaigns, new research has found.
Just 65 per cent had no identifiable energy efficiency measures or renewable technologies installed in their home, a Citizens Advice Scotland study has revealed.
Research for the charity from YouGov found that 68 per cent of Scottish adults supported moves towards net zero by 2045, with 41 per cent believing that reducing the impact of climate change should become more of a priority for the Scottish Government moving beyond Covid. And 59 per cent thought making homes more energy efficient should be prioritised in the Scottish Government’s climate response.
But only 17 per cent believe that reducing water usage should be a priority, despite the fact that water heating accounts for five per cent of all UK carbon emissions – the same amount as the aviation industry.
And 90 per cent were not aware most homes and businesses would need to replace their gas heating systems with an alternative source of heating, like heat pumps, if Scotland were to reduce its reliance on ‘blue’ hydrogen to meet its climate change commitments Blue hydrogen is created from fossil fuel sources, where the carbon emissions are captured and stored. Green hydrogen is made from non-fossil sources.
People across Scotland have been urged to help tackle the climate emergency ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.
A major TV, radio and digital campaign called Let’s do Net Zero has been launched to highlight the benefits a net-zero society would bring to the economy, health and the environment.
It also aims to raise awareness of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The Scottish government has set itself a legally-binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the date set for the UK as a whole.
But in June it emerged it had again missed its target for reducing emissions. Figures for 2019 show they fell 51.5% against the baseline, well short of the 55% target.
CAS respondents were asked what might concern them if they were considering installing a low carbon heating system.
Cost was the biggest concern, with 67 per cent concerned about high up-front costs and 55 per cent concerned about higher energy bills.
A majority of respondents said that non repayable grants would encourage them to play their part in net zero, with 55 per cent of people saying they would be encouraged to install low carbon heating if they were offered non-repayable grants that covered part of the cost, and 62 per cent saying it would encourage them to install energy efficiency measures in their home generally.
Council tax rebates in the years following installation were also seen as measures that could be seen as encouraging consumers to switch to low carbon heating systems.
CAS fair markest spokesman Kate Morrison said: “Later this year the eyes of the world will be on Scotland as Glasgow hosts COP 26, and this new briefing from Citizens Advice Scotland gives us a clear insight into how Scottish consumers view climate change.
“The good news is clear support for action towards net zero, and support for energy efficiency in people’s homes being made more of a priority.
“However, consumers are in the dark over the impact of net zero on their own lives, particularly when it comes to heating their homes.
“Most people did not realise use of natural gas would have to be phased out or reduced massively, and would not pick low carbon heating systems as a measure they should take to reduce their carbon footprint.
“This really matters because changing to low carbon heating will be essential if Scotland is to meet our emissions targets.”
The Scottish government has a five-year £62m energy transition fund which has already provided £6.5m for a global underwater hub as well as £4.65m to Aberdeen City Council to expand its hydrogen bus fleet.
Ms Morrison added: “When people did realise low carbon heating was important, concerns switched to costs – whether the upfront cost of installation or potentially higher energy bills.
“These concerns are totally understandable, but as we’ve seen in the recent Climate Change Committee reports, the reality is that not acting in time will result in consumers having to pay even more in the future.
“Policymakers need to understand what these findings mean for our journey to net zero, and have an honest conversation with the public of the role we have to play.
“While governments need to drive this change, it won’t happen without consumers understanding their role, and the impact it will have upon their lives.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are wholly committed to becoming a net-zero economy by 2045 at the latest but meeting Scotland’s world-leading climate targets will require a truly national endeavour. This will require all aspects of Scottish society to embrace significant changes in order for us to meet our ambitious targets.
“The journey to net-zero will transform every aspect of our lives: how we live, how we work, how we travel. It presents huge potential for us to seize the opportunities that becoming a net-zero society presents – growing our economy, improving our health and wellbeing whilst protecting and enhancing Scotland’s iconic natural environment.
“2021 is a vital year for climate action and COP26 in Glasgow puts Scotland centre stage. We’ll demonstrate the climate action Scotland is taking, the ways in which we put people and wellbeing at the heart of all we do, and how our Scottish values underpin our place in the world. The time for action is now. It is the people living on this planet, at this moment, who can secure the future of our climate for the next generations.”