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Scotland's consumers 'in the dark' over what Net Zero means for them

Consumers are supportive of the goal of net zero emissions by 2045, but are ‘in the dark’ over the challenges it will pose in their own lives, a new briefing from Citizens Advice Scotland 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.  Meanwhile, 59 per cent thought making homes more energy efficient should be prioritised in the Scottish Government’s climate response.

However, understanding of the impact of the measures required to meet net zero were low, with:

  • 65 per cent having no identifiable energy efficiency measures or renewable technologies installed in their home
  • Only 17 per cent believe that reducing water usage should be a priority, despite the fact that water heating accounts for 5 per cent  of all UK carbon emissions - the same amount as the aviation industry. 
  • 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).

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 Markets spokesperson 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.

“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.”



You can read the full briefing here.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 5th April 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+).