YOU’D hardly believe this week that all parties in the Scottish Parliament had signed up to getting Scotland to net zero by 2045.

Net zero means that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we take out add up to zero.

That target demands changes in how we live, what we prioritise and how we reuse our resources. It requires a fundamental shift in technology, our economy and our society. It calls for truly transformational change.

As the legislation to establish these net zero targets was making its way through the Scottish Parliament a few years ago, I distinctly recall the Tories pressing the SNP to go harder, faster and further.

It turns out that agreeing targets and haranguing the Scottish Government is easier for the Tories than actually implementing the consequences of the legislation they were so quick to champion.

That’s because the road to net zero is jolly hard; it will cost us in time, disruption and, yes, money.

Our net zero aspirations were always going to be incredibly ambitious. Between 1990 and 2018 Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 50%.

In other words, we have captured a lot of the low-hanging fruit, if such a thing existed, when it comes to reducing our emissions. The next phase will be the most challenging.

The year 2045 seems luxuriously far away right now. But to focus our minds now, the Scottish Government has a commitment to track our emissions reductions every year. In fact, there is a statutory plan which is updated every five years.

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It includes commitments like planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland each year, restoring at least 250,000 hectares of peatland and investing in zero emissions buses. So far, so good. After all, who could argue with any of that? It all sounds relatively inoffensive.

But the commitments continue. The Scottish Government has also committed to phasing out new petrol and diesel cars and vans, decarbonising homes with alternative forms of energy and demanding higher standards from businesses when it comes to reusing and recycling.

All of these commitments, which are the absolute basics for meeting net zero, have huge implications for all of us – and they are very expensive. Not just for government, not just for businesses, but for me and you.

For government, the upfront costs for getting to net zero are huge. The Institute for Government suggests that only £10 billion of public and private funds were spent in the UK on low-carbon initiatives in 2020, which is in sharp contrast to analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which suggests it needs to rise to £50bn per year across the UK.

That is pretty much the entirety of the Scottish Government’s annual budget. The cumulative cost is of course much higher as the CCC suggests that about £50bn would need to be spent every year until 2050.

Of course, there are likely to be savings, from cheaper transport and more efficient energy use. But that comes after the initial cost. A report in July 2021 by the Office for Budget Responsibility, suggested that the net cost for the UK (after savings are taken into account) would be £321bn.

I couldn’t find a conclusive, overall figure for Scotland but it will be of a similar magnitude. Right now, to put that in context, Scotland spends about £19bn on health and social care and about £13bn on local services, through local government. There is no spare cash down the back of the sofa, much as I searched, so it is obvious that the public purse cannot afford this alone.

The path to net zero requires huge sums of private funding. We are at a crossroads right now in terms of how we generate such funding. If our economy continues to languish and we fail to incentivise the green economy, it will be hard-pressed workers who have to pay for new boilers and new cars. That seems dreadfully unfair to me.

If we are all in it together, then surely we need to take a team approach to the transition and it shouldn’t be dependent on your ability to pay. The danger is that, in the transition, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

There is an alternative route. Additional funding can be raised in a growing, thriving economy. In fact, it is the only way we will generate the levels of funding to truly make the transition to net zero.

The most obvious way to do this is through fair taxation. If you incentivise sustainable growth, businesses will grow and recruit more workers, wages will rise and costs will fall and more people will choose to live and work in Scotland.

The conversation about tax has become a nonsensical merry-go-round in this country. There are some who think that raising taxes exponentially or complicating the system further will somehow get us out of the hole of difficult public finances. Nothing could be further from the truth, as proven by history and most expert analyses.

I don’t advocate unfairly low rates of taxation either. We have a moral duty to support progressive forms of taxation, whereby the rich pay more and the poorer pay less.

But I do know that raising taxes exponentially high stymies economic growth, shrinks the number of taxpayers and altogether results in less public finance. It’s short-termist when we need long-term vision. It might fill a few potholes next year but it fails to recognise we need to build entirely new roads to net zero.

The path to net zero might be expensive but it is not impossible. It’s difficult but not insurmountable. If we’re not willing to identify and grow the resources to invest in the transition, we might as well wave goodbye to our targets.

So, raising adequate funding to transition to net zero needs an intelligent approach to the economy.

By maximising the opportunities for our economy to grow and prosper, we will see more private funding invested and more public funding available to meet our net zero targets. This is the time for Scotland to truly become the net zero capital of the world, led by Aberdeen and the North East, which has all the talent, infrastructure and expertise required.

This is the time to support all of Scottish industry to rise to the challenge of net zero, of investing in new supply chains, jobs and ways of working. This is the time for supporting our economy to grow and raise the standard of living across the country. This is the time to support fair wages and help families get through the cost of living crisis.

It is not the time to hit our industries with higher burdens, or to shut down new economic opportunities, or to jeopardise business growth by legislating for ever-increasing bureaucracy and complexity. That will only undermine our efforts.

The opportunity for Scotland is immense. Of course, every government has a duty to support its citizens to prosper, but our commitment is also to our children’s children also. If we prosper, we can raise the private and public resources necessary to reinvest in the transition to net zero and meet our targets.