Edinburgh unveils plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2030

Councillors say retrofitting old energy-inefficient buildings in Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns will be a key challenge.

Edinburgh unveils plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 iStock

Retrofitting old energy-inefficient buildings in Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns will be a key challenge in the city’s bid to reach net-zero emissions by 2030, say councillors.

Edinburgh Council has laid out draft plans to drastically cut greenhouse emissions and achieve its ambitious target within the decade, harnessing momentum from the Cop26 United Nations climate change summit in November.

Its draft strategy includes new electric car charging hubs for “public service vehicles”, gathering the city’s most influential chief executives to “develop a pipeline of net-zero projects” and creating a “heat and energy masterplan”.

Officials also want to experiment with different approaches to “retrofit in challenging mixed-tenure and heritage settings, including Edinburgh’s World Heritage site”, starting this year.

The council says improving the energy efficiency of the city’s buildings will help reduce emissions and energy demand as well as operational and maintenance costs.

The medieval Old Town and the planned Georgian New Town in Edinburgh are listed as Unesco world heritage sites, which describes them as “providing a clarity of urban structure unrivalled in Europe”.

Council leader, Adam McVey, said this year the “world’s eyes will be on Scotland” and he wants to “ensure this leaves a legacy of action to address the climate emergency”.

He said: “This strategy will help our businesses, public sector and organisations and residents across our communities reduce or remove their carbon footprint.

“Importantly, it also lays out how we will come together as a city to collaborate on action at the scale and pace we need to get to net zero by 2030.

“This includes our strategic partnership with SP Energy Networks which will ensure investment in the city’s grid has maximum benefit for our infrastructure plans and for businesses and residents alike.”

He cautioned that the city’s electricity grid is currently far short of being capable of handling a mass switchover to electric cars by private citizens, for example.

The draft strategy advocates for “creating EV charging hubs for public service vehicles, making them available to residents, where possible, at key times and in key locations”.

Council deputy leader, Cammy Day, added that research indicated the city could achieve 60% of its journey to net zero with “actions that pay for themselves within seven to 12 years”.

He said: “While we don’t have all the answers today, we will be relentless as a city in our pursuit of a better greener net-zero future for this city and its people.”

Edinburgh’s 2030 climate strategy needs to be approved by the Policy and Sustainability Committee next week.

If sanctioned, a 12-week public consultation will begin on Monday June 14.

Other proposals include:

– Delivering an ambitious new net-zero development at Granton Waterfront and about 200-hectares of new and enhanced coastal park in North West Edinburgh.

– Delivering an Edinburgh Homes Demonstrator, using new materials and on-site building techniques to deliver net-zero, energy efficient buildings.

– Exploring the potential for Nature Climate Bonds and a Green Innovation Challenge finance scheme to support investment in the city’s natural environment and business transition.

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