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Our Common Home

We want to help people understand how the Common Home Plan works and why we made the decision we made. So we want to keep updating this page with answers to all of your questions. These are a couple of starters – if you've got a question you'd like to ask about the Common Home Plan, please email it to us at: questions@common.scot and we'll answer it below.

How does the Plan relate to carbon reduction targets?


The Plan is about action rather than targets. It absolutely takes at face value the urgency of the timescales, so it poses a simple question – Scotland needs to get to net-negative carbon, so how quickly can it get there? There is no point in setting targets that can't be met, especially if they have the effect of kicking the can further down the road. Tasks like insulating every house in Scotland require a large workforce and much of that workforce has to be trained before work can begin. Any solution to decarbonising heating is going to require a lot of technical planning. Transforming agriculture can't be done overnight. The Plan explains how fast it is possible to do things, in part to emphasise just how urgent it is that we begin. But this is in no way to disregard the kinds of deadlines set out by the IPCC – if the Common Home Plan is implemented Scotland may miss some of the target deadlines but not by much and it would go way beyond the minimum so would not just reduce but reverse our negative impact.


Is there no way to avoid the level of disruption?


Not really, or not if you want good outcomes. There has been a tendency for government to plan on the basis of 'least work' for the very reason that they often prioritise low cost and low disruption. And there are some options which are less disruptive than the ones in the Plan – but every alternative option has its own costs and problems. Let's take heating; we're proposing a District Heating System and that means an awful lot of digging-up of roads and pavements. It would be less disruptive if the solution was all-electric – but the number of wind turbines that would need to be installed would be enormous, heating bills would be at least three times as expensive and the electricity grid would become unstable, which means that power outages would always be much more likely. That is permanent disruption. This can all be mitigated with some of the heating load being taken by house-installed renewables (probably Air Source Heat Pumps), but that means drilling a large hole into every house in the country and attaching unattractive and unweildly boxes to the outside of the house and fitting some kind of heat storage in the house. So that's an enormous amount of disruption and the system which results is not very attractive (ASHPs don't really work in cold winter months). Every time an option analysis was done the goal was the best outcome, not the easiest installation. Where both were possible (low disruption for good outcomes) obviously that option was taken. But the aim of the Common Home Plan is not to 'just get through' but to prepare Scotland for centuries to come. That will involve disruption.


Why is the Plan only for Scotland?


Common Weal is a Scottish think tank and the original question was how Scotland can avert the environmental crises in Scotland. But there are at least two other reasons for the approach taken. First of all, there is a very good reason that Green New Deals will always have a very strong local aspect – which is because they're about realigning human lifestyles with the environment. A lot of our economy has become about trying to overcome environmental limits and extract and sell more and more, and that's why we're facing these problems. The alternative means working with natural cycles more and against them less, and since the environment is very much local (as well as global), we need to tailor what we do to the specific place it will be implemented. The report gives a number of examples of how solving the same problem would look different in Scotland compared to other places. This is in no way to neglect the rest of the world (quite the opposite, see 'global south' below) but to make sure we play our part. The second reason for the Scotland-focus is the urgency; Common Weal is sceptical about the potential for major change being achieved quickly through action at a UK level, and there is little sign anything like enough steps are being taken by way of multilateral negotiations. Put simply, we believe there is a much, much greater chance of the Common Home Plan being implemented at a Scotland level rather than a UK level. Others will disagree with this; the report recognises this and simply suggests that they should explain how they propose to achieve the same things in the same timescale.


Is this all at the expense of the Global South?


Definitely not. This question is being asked a lot of western nations as they begin to take the environmental crises more seriously – are you going to clean up your own act by dumping more of the harm caused by your lifestyles on poorer and less-developed countries, very often in the global south? For example, if you greatly reduce the amount of pesticides used in your own agricultural system (to let the insect populations recover) but continue to import food produced industrially in other countries by corporations who do use excessive amounts of pesticides, can we really take no responsibility for the collapse in that other country's insect populations? If we eat fruit which is draining the water table of the region in which it is produced, eventually leaving that region infertile and barely habitable, what is our responsibility? This is really to say are we going to take responsibility only for our production but not our consumption? The reason this question is regularly asked is because many conversations on this subject focus only on production (making our energy green, using fewer pesticides) and not on the impacts of our consumption. The Common Home Plan takes an entirely different approach – it makes absolutely clear that we me must take full responsibility for both our production and our consumption, and it sets out a range of measures which mean we are not harming others as we live our lives.


Isn't this all protectionist?


Yes – but all economic activity has some element of protectionism. Protectionism is a term used by free trade advocates to describe activities and policies which are designed to favour domestic produce over imported produce; they believe that to be fundamentally wrong. In reality everyone has varying degrees of tariff, quota and subsidy regimes to favour and protect their own economy – the European Union itself is one of the world's most protectionist trading blocks and the Single Market is only for those inside it. Free trade aims to make products cheaper and more available and that is why protectionism is treated with such hostility. But the aim of the Common Home Plan isn't to have the maximum volume of 'stuff' at the minimum price irrespective of the harm that does to the world; its to make sure that we continue to have access to the goods and services that make up modern life but that the production of those goods and services is sustainable and not killing the planet. Importing things we can make ourselves is inherently harmful. This is absolutely not about isolationism – international trade is essential and will always be an important part of the economy. But the interests of international trade can no longer come before the need to take the environmental crises seriously, so there needs to be greater balance. The unweildly phrase 'Green Import Substitution Industrialisation' means to build an economy of high-quality, environmentally sound manufacture with shorter supply chains to replace some of what we currently import. This can no longer be a debate we avoid. Because fundamentally, in the end, the reason free trade has been making goods cheaper is by dumping the real costs of their production on the environment and on poorer and developing countries. That can't continue.