A Green New Deal
A roadmap to a greener Scotland
The Common Home Plan is our vision of a Green New Deal for Scotland. By establishing seven main environmental threats and providing solutions which span across every industry (broken down below), we believe we have the capacity to go Beyond Net Zero.
The environmental threats we’ve identified are:
- Climate change
- Species extinction and biodiversity loss
- Pollution, including chemical and plastic
- Water shortages
- Overconsumption and resource drain
- Soil degradation
With a total cost of £170 billion* over 25 years, this remains the only fully costed Green New Deal for Scotland.
We need to change how we build and what we build with. Around 80% of Scotland’s building materials are imported. By switching to locally-sourced, wood-based products for all new builds and renovations (including fibreboard or cellulose insulation) we can reduce environmental harm and generate new, local supply chains which will stimulate the local economy.
For existing buildings, including Scotland’s 2.5 million existing homes, it is possible to retrofit almost all of them so they can reduce their energy demand by 70-90% with high-quality roof insulation, draught-proofing, correctly installed windows (with a view to phase out single glazing), and other energy-saving measures such as lightbulbs.
Establishing a National Housing Company to complete this work will cost around £15,000* per house, using a workforce of around 6,000 (including skilled tradespeople) to retrofit around 60,000 homes per year.
Scotland has the highest proportion of greenhouse gas-emitting heating in Europe at 95%. The current solutions such as Biogas, helium, and increased electricity usage all come with their own sets of problems for current infrastructure, so we propose a complete overhaul using a district heating system, connected to all homes. A hot water ring under every town and city, including rural areas, with every home equipped with an exchanger to turn this into usable energy, will be backed up by solar thermal energy.
Establishing a National Energy Company to complete this work will cost around £10,000* per house, using a workforce of about 5,000 (including skilled tradespeople) to fit around 60,000 per year.
Scotland already generates enough self-sustaining renewable energy. However, a lot is exported due to its ‘non-scheduled’ nature (we cannot switch wind on and off), and we end up importing in times of shortage. Efficient storage solutions for energy would take the form of using excess energy harvested from wind, solar, and marine solutions and using it to generate and store hydrogen, the cost of which to produce will go down as the technology develops.
These will be developed by a Scottish Energy Development Agency and ran by the National Energy Company, who will also bear the responsibility of transferring the workforce from oil and gas extraction into these new supply chains as we aim to completely stop their extraction within 25 years.
We’re already witnessing the decarbonisation of transport through electric and hydrogen powered vehicles. This would take the form of smaller cars and vans for the former, with larger vehicles, planes and ferries powered by the latter. However, investment should also be made in larger towns and cities to encourage pedestrianisation where possible, including increased number of local facilities to discourage further travel than necessary.
The increasing demand for charging facilities of both electric and hydrogen transport will require a £3 billion* infrastructure investment.
A National Transport Company should be established to reorganise public transport planning and oversee the rollout of electric and hydrogen-powered transport.
Promoting more efficient farming techniques such as crop rotation (alternating crops year on year to return nutrients to the soil) and ‘no dig’ (growing crops in the topsoil to prevent disturbance of root systems) among others are needed to prevent soil degradation and carbon emission, as well as reduce demand for pesticides.
The difficulty lies in our imports, as eating seasonally would leave our diets more limited than what we are now used to. However, setting environmental standards on imports would limit trading power. We believe the solution lies in investment in technologies to grow this produce ourselves. On the lesser amounts of food we would import after this, there should be imposed an externality tax to offset the environmental damage.
Finally, the standard environmental arguments around changing our diets do hold some weight. We should aim to eat higher quality meat less often and invest in food education for schools, promoting the health benefits of eating fresh, high-quality produce that showcases local specialties and diversity.
We should establish a National Resources Agency tasked with getting us to net zero. Promotion of the circular economy (over the linear which currently dominates, encouraging waste and replace for most goods), by expanding the externality tax to cover resources which cause harm such as deliveries from carbon-laden shipping methods or batteries powered by rare materials.
We also need to change our relationship to the materials and products around us. The hierarchy of reduce, reuse, repair, remanufacture, then recycle should encourage us to buy better, putting pressure on manufacturers to change their practices.
It should be the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure materials are not wasted. Encourage leasing of goods over purchase and constant upgrades, the onus would be on them to ensure products which can no longer be used are repurposed, upgraded, or recycled responsibly.
We need our land to serve three purposes under our Plan: to capture and store carbon, to support wildlife, and to produce our food and renewable materials for consumption. But the majority of our land is owned by a small number of landowners, and this would need to change.
Implementing Compulsory Sales/Purchase Orders to divide up our land more equally among those who will put it to better use. Introducing modest land taxes will encourage these sales.
We need to use this repurchased land to establish new woodland in Scotland. Historically, our ‘green deserts’ are a result of rapid deforestation for agriculture. We should be setting a target of 50% woodland coverage to produce enough timber and carbon capture simultaneously.
A National Land Agency should be established to carry out and manage this, including a workforce of 20,000 to replant our forests and manage their resource output. Upfront investment will be quickly made back through the sale of said resources to be put to use.
The amount of bureaucracy tied to international trade laws mean will make multilateral negotiations to reduce the environmental impact will be almost impossible. We should therefore make domestic investment into shorter supply chains and aim for near self-sufficiency: what we can produce and use here (such as food and building materials) should be, while advanced technologies like mobile phones and televisions continue to be imported.
The aforementioned externality taxes would work on imported goods in a similar vein to minimum unit pricing: the more harm goods cause (in this case, environmental harm through carbon-laden shipping), the more tax should be placed upon it. This would greatly discourage their use and orient us towards locally sourced goods.
We should also act now to get ahead of the game in exporting only goods which benefit the environment. Our earlier solutions to hydrogen conversion and storage from our renewable sources could make us a major player in the alternative fuel market.
There is a massive skills shortfall in this country, and with plans as extensive as these, an expansion of our higher education system will be necessary to meet demand.
Businesses and manufacturers will have to rethink their practices and output to become more environmentally friendly, and they may need assistance with this. Establishing a National Environmental Audit Agency will assist businesses in this transition, providing a free initial assessment of their practices and establishing a plan to improve.
Expanding education on nature, the environment and our impact starts in the classroom. An expansion of the curriculum to include learning on, for example, water and carbon cycles as well as the previously mentioned food education will raise awareness, ensuring that we actually learn from this crisis, and never get ourselves into this mess again generations down the line.
Finally, we need to reorient our own habits and behaviours. We need to rethink our relationship with material goods and social status, place more value on what we can do rather than what we own. We need to rebuild our communities through kindness, sharing, and communication.
The concepts of ‘lifestyle marketing’ and ‘brand ambassador’ will be left in the past as we move toward filling our lives with more sustainable goods and practices, abandoning the vain and superficial.
For more information, including a full breakdown of procedures, costs, and repayments, our Common Home Plan is available for free here. Or to find out more about our green policies at Common Weal, please visit our website. *All costs accurate as of research and publication, 2019-20. Prices vary due to inflation.
About the author
Nicola Biggerstaff is the Policy Co-ordinator at Common Weal Scotland.