Green Recovery

  • 13 Jul at 9:52 am#6829

    The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee has launched an open Call for Views on green recovery, focusing on identifying the principles, opportunities, key actions for change, immediate priorities, leadership and governance needed to underpin an effective green recovery, as well as the potential barriers to implementation.


    In April 2019 the First Minister declared a climate emergency. Since then, the Scottish Government has set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2045, and the Just Transition Commission has made interim recommendations for “growing an inclusive, net-zero economy”. Following the adoption of the net-zero target, and testing interim targets of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040, the First Minister undertook to update the Climate Change Plan (CCP).

    The Scottish Government will now be re-considering its plans for the updated CCP as part of a green recovery from COVID-19 and has requested advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on this. The CCC has since set out its view on the principles that should underpin a net-zero recovery and highlighted some priorities for action. The recast plan will set out a credible pathway, as part of a green recovery, to meeting Scotland’s world-leading climate targets over the period to 2032.’

    Call for Views

    The ECCLR Committee is welcome views on the following questions–

    • Do the principles of sustainable development (as set out in the annexe), and those for a resilient recovery, as proposed by the UK Committee on Climate Change, provide a comprehensive framework for guiding an effective green recovery in Scotland?
    • What are the key barriers to delivering a green recovery (within your sector and / or community)?
    • What key policies, actions and immediate priorities are needed to deliver a green recovery (within your sector and / or community)?
    • How should the 2021/22 Budget support a green and sustainable recovery and avoid locking in carbon; and what funding is needed in the ECCLR portfolio to deliver a green and sustainable recovery?

    Full details on the call for views can be found here. The call closes on Friday 7 August 2020.

    BEFS will be making a submission and would welcome your input. Please provide views on the main issues for consideration, in a comment box below, by Friday 31 July 2020.

    BEFS Draft Response

    Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) is an umbrella body for organisations working in the built environment in Scotland. Drawing on extensive expertise in a membership-led forum, BEFS informs, debates and advocates on the strategic issues, opportunities and challenges facing Scotland’s historic and contemporary built environment. BEFS is a member of the Climate Heritage Network steering group.

    This response focuses on the Committee questions relating to key barriers and policies/actions/priorities relevant to the built environment in relation to an effective green recovery.

    However, without support the sector will not be able to play its key part as:

    • central to a potentially expanding skilled workforce, maintaining and appropriately adapting our environment for the long term economic and environmental benefits to people and place.
    • a growing employment market – where repairing, reusing and adapting our built environment is central to a green recovery.
    • an important link in the materials supply chain – supporting a wide range of related industries. (Country-wide retrofit policies could also reduce the costs of such interventions, making them more appealing to a wider range of property owners.)
    • a factor for putting more existing homes into use, as empty homes are brought back into use.
    • a key resource, essential to Scotland’s tourism offer (when the situation allows) – further energising local economies and securing future employment across a wide range of industries and employers.
    • a focal point of regenerative strategies (particularly in relation to High Street decline, and Town Centre Regeneration) enabling a sense of place – whilst providing skilled employment, places designed to promote wellbeing, and adaptive buildings suited to new futures.

    Our existing built and historic environment is an agent of green recovery – but it is also central to our sense of place and our sense of nation. Our built and historic environment deserves to be protected, cared for and enhanced as it has sheltered us economically and socially before, we need to invest in its ability to do so for the future.

    In the face of uncertainty – leadership is key to future focused ideas being able to become manifest. Leadership, in this instance, will involve cooperation, coordination, and collective action. Government, Public, Private and Third sectors in collaboration as active agents of change, pushing existing policy agendas further and faster than has been enabled previously.

    BEFS has previously issued responses detailing role the existing built environment can play in a sustainable circular economy.

    The embodied energy present, and the potential for positive interventions is huge. Adapting, repurposing, and reusing our current building stock presents an enormous opportunity to provide skilled employment,  carbon solutions, and more homes. Solutions which provide benefits to economy, people and place.

    The recent Circular Economy consultation started by mentioning that, In 2016, we launched ‘Making Things Last’, which laid the foundations for action and set out a bold vision for building a circular society in Scotland.  Our existing built environment is the foundation for action and can play a pivotal part within this circular economy, a key part of Scotland’s sustainable, economic recovery.

    The Circular Economy consultation mentioned UN:SDG 12 – but BEFS would wish UN:SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities to also be considered within the concept of the circular economy.  Wider issues related to the built environment and sustainability and the UN:SDG 11 are discussed in a paper by BEFS within the UWS-Oxfam report.

    Whilst BEFS would promote maintenance, retention and reuse primarily there are also mechanisms which help to promote circularity of building materials. Material Passport schemes are being considered in various countries and the arguments for sustainability and circularity could suggest this is a path worthy of exploration – from suppliers, through procurement to building managers and those designing and building adaptations.

    The mechanisms above can also be tied into a local economy agenda. North Ayrshire council have published a Community Wealth Building strategy (based on the Preston Model). BEFS would support further exploration and implementation of such models.

    Recommendations previously made by the Built Heritage Investment Group, and approved, during the last meeting of the Strategic Historic Environment Forum (SHEF), Chaired by Fiona Hyslop, MSP – Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture, included:

    1) Changes to taxation structures for traditional buildings

    The Scottish Government to consider using existing powers, or where appropriate to lobby for change in relation to:

    Incentivisation for use and reuse of traditional buildings through income tax powers. A previous example being the HMRC, Business Premises Renovation Allowance (2007-2017).

    Enabling, through conservation and continued use, the full potential of Scotland’s built heritage asset by removing unequal application of taxation and VAT on restoration, maintenance and conservation works, whether through graduated relief or other fiscal incentives.


    2) New Policies and Standards for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation for the built heritage including development of appropriate measures for carbon, embodied energy and energy efficiency emergency:

    The climate emergency demands careful stewardship of our precious resources.

    The Scottish Government to consider introducing policy to incentivise a culture change, driving maintenance, retention, reuse and repurposing of existing heritage assets rather than the current default to ignore, replace or dispose of them.

    Recognise and develop a measure for the embodied energy in our existing built environment when considering development and repurposing options.

    Recognise the unique challenges and limitations of the current assessment for energy efficiency improvements to traditionally constructed properties; energy efficiency is rarely assessed in ways which reflect the true benefits of these construction techniques. Review how built heritage assets are assessed and develop more appropriate assessment EPC tools for traditionally constructed properties.

    BEFS would reiterate that not only valuing the embodied energy in our buildings, and assessing full-lifecycle considerations, but that considering policies to support a circular economy which incentivise a culture change: driving maintenance, retention, reuse and repurposing of our existing built environment – will be key to meeting Scotland’s ambitions for: a green recovery, promoting a circular economy recovery, meeting established climate targets, and positively intersecting with societal responsibilities.

    BEFS ,as the Secretariat for the Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance, responded in detail to the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland call for Evidence & Contributions. One of the key findings of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland was to recommend that the,

    Scottish Government should require all public sector infrastructure asset owners to develop asset management strategies containing a presumption in favour of enhancing, re-purposing, or maintaining existing infrastructure over developing options for new infrastructure.

    This step-change could be applied beyond publicly owned assets to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets accepted by Scottish Government; from a green recovery perspective the skilled work provided through these measures would also be positive for national and local economic recoveries.

    Further rapid developments supporting the ongoing work and recommendations of the Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance (which included suggestions for: mandatory Owners Associations, Building Reserve Funds and Building Surveys) would further enable skilled employment within the build heritage sector – and better maintained, warmer homes – benefiting people and climate targets.

    In BEFS response to Housing to 2040 Consultation it was noted that aspects such as ‘latency’ for the skilled workforce were mentioned, but there was a lack of expressed urgency as to how many of the constraints could be turned around within a 20 year timeframe. The current COVID19 emergency exacerbates the seriousness of reconsidering these timescales.

    Fully considering the  labour market with the education system –will be essential to producing skilled workers within the relevant sectors. Many of the issues mentioned are noted within the Skills Investment Plan for the Historic Environment , a framework with solutions exists within the document. Resource in this area could pay dividends across the retrofit, regenerative and maintenance agendas – supporting a green recovery, fueling economic regeneration, and providing grater long-term benefits.

    More broadly, developments and changes supporting a green recovery and social justice across urban and rural environments, can be underpinned by community involvement and the already strong Scottish Government community empowerment agenda, which has brought in a variety of new rights and responsibilities.

    Embracing opportunities for empowered decision making and engagement with and from communities and their environments will be central to successful, green, just, economically sustainable, transitions. Mechanisms for these processes can be enhanced through NPF4, and resourced Local Place Plans –  ensuring that people are well represented and involved with decisions about their places, and what they value about their environment is cared for, enhanced and protected.

    The key recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change included prioritising actions according to six principles for a resilient recovery:

    1. Use climate investments to support the economic recovery and jobs
    2. Lead a shift towards positive long-term behaviours
    3. Tackle the wider ‘resilience deficit’ on climate change
    4. Embed fairness as a core principle
    5. Ensure the recovery does not ‘lock-in’ greenhouse gas emissions or increased climate risk
    6. Strengthen incentives to reduce emissions when considering fiscal changes

    A programme of maintenance for our existing built environment, suitably adapting our built assets (across public and private ownership) supports all of the principles suggested. It supports skilled work and new jobs; it demonstrates an investment and mind-shift in using what we already have; it makes our places more resilient; all citizens could realise tangible benefits (whether in their home, workplace, public buildings, or as part of the employment and supply-chain); and the economic investment would be directly supporting reduced emissions (a wind and watertight home is far more energy efficient, even without retrofit adaptations).

    Maintaining what we have is also a particularly Scottish issue, as highlighted in a 2020 BRE report: the UK has the largest proportion of pre 1946 housing stock in the EU, 37.8% compared with the EU average of 22.3%, and Scotland is markedly higher, with 52.9% of housing being built pre 1946. This helps to demonstrate the scale of the climate, and social, good that could be effected by policies maintaining and appropriately retrofitting these homes, and our public buildings.

    BEFS response is only one of a number of responses to the Committee which will be made by the built and historic environment sector. For these responses to be most effective we hope that the Committee will consider not only the individual details presented, but the collective impact that can be made by the sector, supporting a just transition to a greener and more sustainable economy, benefitting Scotland’s people and places.

    BEFS responses to a number of Consultations in relation to the Built Environment can be found at:

    Further relevant thoughts in relation to the Scottish Housing Condition Survey can be found here:

    28 Jul at 10:52 am#6940
    Euan Leitch

    We should probably add that any investment in maintenance, specifically for pre-1919 dwellings, would directly address the SG National Performance Indicator for the historic environment

    3 Aug at 12:06 pm#6975
    Rachel Tennant

    Keen to see Investment in maintenance and retrofit of existing places to include GI
    Properly maintaining and retrofitting the nation’s assets is as important as investing in them in the first place.
    For existing green infrastructure like parks, management and maintenance is essential to maximise its many benefits. Investment in maintaining these assets has declined including the value of developer contributions towards open space. New financial frameworks are needed that recognise the importance of maintaining environmental assets, and gives local areas the flexibility to pool resources and raise finance against the ecosystem services they provide.
    After COVID-19, there is set to be a major shift in the way we use spaces like the high street. Reinventing these places as green, healthy and accessible spaces will be vital to ensuring their long-term sustainability. Re-inserting landscape back into the built environment can provide biodiversity and microclimatic benefits, improve health and wellbeing, increase community perception and solve flood management problems.
    The green recovery also provides a unique opportunity to exploit the unintended consequence of the lockdown which saw an increase in local active transport: drastically reducing traffic congestion, resulting in better air quality, improved urban environments, and reduced carbon emissions. Transport is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK.
    It is best to design walkability and bicycle use into spaces from the outset, but the opportunity of retrofit post-COVID would create labour-intensive, localised job creation. investment in cycle and walking infrastructure was found to have the highest employment multiplier of all transport investment post-COVID.

    3 Aug at 4:14 pm#6985

    Many thanks for your comments Rachel, it’s good to get feedback.
    I am including the points raised, and currently reducing the overall length of the response to abide by Committee recommendations for submissions.

    17 Aug at 9:14 am#7009

    BEFS response to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s call for views reiterates the place of the existing built environment as part of the sustainable circular economy, a resource containing significant embodied energy, but also requiring a policy of maintenance to provide these benefits in full. BEFS also emphasises that seeing leadership invest in policy implementation in a decisive manner is central to the success of any Green Recovery policies, and that a lack of local authority resource would be one of the greatest barriers to a Green Recovery taking place.

    Read the full submission here.

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