Scottish Green minister Patrick Harvie's plan for 'climate-friendly' heating in homes will wreck property prices – John McLellan
Until a few weeks ago, our family car was a 2014 diesel Volkswagen Passat, which we intended to run into the ground because of its excellent fuel economy and its emissions performance was as good as claimed, even after all the hoo-ha about VW cheating the tests. But then came low-emission zones and, with one son starting at Strathclyde University, we faced the prospect of being unable to drive in both central Edinburgh and Glasgow, so we bit the bullet and traded it in. And with talk of diesel and petrol cars being banned altogether, we bit the artillery shell and went electric.
Not a flashy Tesla or Jaguar I-Pace, we are now the owners of a second-hand VW ID4, with no change out of £40,000 once the home charger cost is included. But owning it doesn’t mean driving it, because for the past month it’s been back at the dealers with an electronic fault which keeps a passenger door locked from the outside, enough to fail an MoT. For the brief time we had the thing, we quickly became aware, as have so many new electric car owners, that the advertised range bore little resemblance to reality, unless Glasgow has become 30 miles further away from Edinburgh, because unlike a normal vehicle, using the radio or windscreen wipers sooks up the juice too. As for air con, thankfully we’re not experiencing the current Mediterranean summer, or we’d have had to recharge at Harthill.
It may turn out to be an even bigger pig-in-a-poke, if last week’s claims about a room-temperature superconductor being perfected in South Korea are validated, which would revolutionise electric power. Maybe not now, but soon the technology will be transformed and render vehicles like ours worth nothing but scrap, but none of it matters to those behind low-emission zones, because we have just demonstrated their effectiveness: behaviour has been changed and a dirty old diesel has been replaced by a nice new(ish) electric number.
Except, of course, the old Passat is not off the road, just belching whatever fumes it produces somewhere else. It’s a microcosm of the drive to net zero because whatever the cost to the individual in the UK, without addressing problems elsewhere the result is people here spending more money for no impact on global warming. On every measure, be it carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide or methane, Britain has been in the vanguard of industrialised Western countries driving down emissions while China, India, Russia and Brazil carry on regardless. Only in the fevered minds of the eco-left could UK Government investment in energy security and North Sea carbon capture, announced yesterday, be seen as a bad thing. Even if we hit absolute zero tomorrow, the BBC’s grizzled climate editor Justin Rowlatt would still berate us for causing wildfires, floods and whatever other natural disaster tops the news agenda.
Maybe we can meet the Scottish Government’s aim of hitting net-zero carbon by 2045 – certainly not 2030 as demanded by Edinburgh Council’s poseurs ─ but as long as Chinese power stations keep the wildfires burning it gives extremists like Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie the perfect cover to pursue other agendas, aided and abetted by Humza Yousaf’s administration as the SNP tries to hold onto young voters on which the future of the independence movement relies, while alienating the middle ground they must control if their ultimate goal is ever to be realised.
Launching a consultation last week on reforming the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system, Mr Harvie’s plan, as minister for zero carbon buildings, is to impose new energy efficiency standards on all homes by 2033, which, by his own admission, is 2.5 million houses. He expects one million to switch to a “climate-friendly heating system” by 2030, and although what happens to the other 1.5 million isn’t clear, there are already plans to force homeowners to bring their properties up to EPC Band C by 2025, impossible for hundreds of thousands of pre-war homes without huge expense. Exemptions are promised but not specified, and it’s plainly obvious many people will face huge unforeseen bills or risk seeing their properties significantly devalued or even rendered unsellable.
As I live in a draughty Victorian house with a gas-fired combi boiler and horrendous winter fuel bills, I should declare an interest, but I doubt wrecking private property values would bother Mr Harvie, any more than the damage his interference with rents did to the build-to-rent market. Perhaps it’s a dual aim. Like changing the car, Mr Harvie will just shrug his shoulders and say I should be able to take the hit, over £30,000 for double glazing alone and at least £15,000 for a heat pump. Even then, that might not be enough, when a recent experiment in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park ran to over £1 million to bring a block of eight one-bedroom Victorian flats up to standard. Tough titty, John.
The SNP-Green government seems to believe there is a bottomless pit of private money it can tap to create the “wealthier, fairer country we all want to see”, with Mr Yousaf now talking about jacking up what is already the UK’s highest level of income tax to fund “mitigation” of the two-child benefit cap and other “anti-poverty” plans, plus proposals for massive increases of the top three council tax bands.
“We can’t insulate our way to zero-carbon buildings,” said Mr Harvie last week which, with the SNP’s enthusiasm for screwing taxpayers, reminded me of a former Dundee MP’s famous words. “To think you can make a man richer by putting on a tax is like a man thinking that he can stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle,” said Winston Churchill in 1904. In promising a “fairer, growing, and more just economy”, Mr Yousaf might strain at that bucket handle for all he’s worth, but Mr Harvie just adds to the weight, and drags us all down in the process.
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