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Inside Holyrood: COP26 should discuss land reform

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant. Picture Gary Anthony
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant. Picture Gary Anthony

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant on what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis.

COP26 has officially begun in Glasgow and I think we’re all excited to see world leaders, campaigners and businesses come together to stride towards tackling the current climate emergency.

We all have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and there has been progress over the past few years, albeit targets set by the Scottish Government have still not been met. Therefore, I was disappointed to hear from a constituent that he could no longer update his old oil-guzzling boiler for an efficient replacement with Warmer Homes Scotland. It appears public subsidies for oil and LPG boilers had ended because of the new SNP-Green deal.

This removal may look great for the environment. But an old, poorly insulated, off-grid home has very little choice on heating options. A move to only assist with heat pumps must come with assistance to insulate homes to the required standards. I imagine, given this change, my constituent is considering keeping the environmentally unfriendly oil boiler, which isn’t ideal.

Air Pumps are a good option but they do not heat draughty homes. Priority should be given to insulation because a well-insulated home will use less energy to heat – regardless of the source. There is some assistance for insulation – interest free government loans and some energy companies giving free insulation, but they are complex to access.

I’ve also had constituents contact me outlining issues with sourcing government-approved engineers to carry out these upgrades. It appears there is a lack of engineers who can carry out these upgrades, leading to lengthy delays. This makes the process a hassle and puts homeowners off.

Ideally, I would like to see a system where it’s easy and appealing to switch to more environmentally friendly heating and insulation options. Clearly the infrastructure needs to be improved locally. This is something I am continuing to work on.

Land Reform is another key area that I hope is discussed at COP26. The Land Reform Bill is expected to be introduced to Holyrood by 2023 but with the increase of ‘Green Lairds’ exploiting government initiatives to increase profits and enhance their reputation by appearing to be closer to carbon neutral, I feel that progress on the Bill needs to be sooner rather than later. I recently led a debate on this in parliament.

Both our governments and international leaders need to stride towards meeting the Paris Agreement of reducing global temperature to under 1.5°C. This is a difficult target especially as many countries continue to increase their CO2 emissions. It’s also important that the process is a just transition and no one is left behind.

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