This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

With parts of Europe on fire, Westminster’s two main political parties appear to be hellbent on distancing themselves from big, bold commitments to halt climate change.

Some within the Conservative Party are putting pressure on Rishi Sunak’s government to bin off some of the more unsavoury net zero policies if the party has any chance of salvaging the next general election.

The Herald on Sunday revealed that Patrick Harvie is set to revamp energy efficiency ratings before making properties meet EPC band C a requirement at trigger points such as a sale, from 2025.

This could mean householders with fossil fuel gas boilers could see their properties downgraded compared to homes with heat pumps or passive house technology installed.

This move is not that surprising given Scotland’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, target to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 75% in just seven years' time.

For context, emissions have been cut by around 50% in 30 years, with that same level of progress now needed again by 2030.

Scotland has committed to becoming net zero by 2045.

So if these targets are to remain on track, in Scotland and in the UK which has a 2050 net zero target, people are either going to have to pay more or change their behaviour.

This is true for any country around the world taking the climate crisis seriously.

Labour’s failure to win Boris Johnson’s former seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip last week is being blamed on the party’s London mayor Sadiq Kahn’s ultra low emission zones – by both the Tories and Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

Some backbench Conservatives see this as an opportunity to roll back some of the net zero ambition championed by Boris Johnson.

Blinded by the attention on his government hosting COP26 under his leadership, like a moth to a flame, Mr Johnson brought forward net zero commitments, even amid questionable policies around fossil fuels.

But many in the Tory ranks, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, sniff a chance for their party to remain in power and believe softening climate policies will do it.

It is unclear whether there is any evidence for this position, particularly when Europe is suffering from extreme heat waves right now.

Even if the ultra low emission zone policy has stunted Labour’s progress in a by-election last week, one of Labour’s biggest question marks with the public is not being too keen on stopping the planet from burning, quite the opposite.

The party has been accused of scaling back promised investment on net zero if Sir Keir forms the next government, and the UK Labour leader has questioned the ultra low emission zone policy – a strategy that is primarily a public health one, as well as tackling the climate crisis.

Sir Keir is already wrestling with a reputation for changing his mind at the drop of a hat.

Is it possible, then, that the Labour leader could soften his strategy to battle the climate emergency if he thinks it’s a vote winner? That seems to be driving his party’s policy choice of late, rather than chiming with Labour values.

Sir Keir is facing ludicrous criticism of support for Just Stop Oil, a group of climate protesters that the Labour leader has frequently spoken out against – again seen as a vote winner.

Last week, Tory Energy Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to the Labour leader after the protesters caused damage to a government building, incredibly threatening to bill Sir Keir for the repairs.

It turns out, according to Mr Shapps, because one of the Just Stop Oil funders, Dale Vince, also has given money to the Labour Party – it makes Labour the “political wing” of Just Stop Oil.

Crazy stuff, not forged in the real world – but some voters will take in the misleading claims of Mr Shapps.

And if Sir Keir continues to get a reputation for caring too much about the climate crisis and some parts of the electorate are concerned about the costs associated with it, it would not be surprising to see Labour softening their approach to net zero even further.

The Herald:

But where does this leave the SNP at the next general election?

Humza Yousaf’s party could easily use being hot on tackling the climate crisis as a vote-winner, particularly if Labour is seen to not take the emergency seriously enough.

The Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf has not had a problem with making big, bold commitments on the climate crisis.

Where there have been issues is a failure to match pledges with action and progress.

But could we see the SNP softening its stance on the climate emergency?

The deposit return scheme lies in tatters, with both the UK and Scottish governments to blame and the Scottish Government has halted the highly protected marine area proposals after an outcry from fishermen.

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That fishing ban proposal was agreed with the Scottish Greens as part of the Bute House agreement.

Some are insisting that the Scottish Greens are putting off voters putting their trust in the SNP.

This has been used as a convenient argument for disgruntled SNP backbenchers while their party is in disarray over its finances.

So being serious on tackling climate breakdown could be a big vote-winner for the SNP.

But Mr Yousaf has softened the stance of the party on winding down the North Sea oil and gas sector, compared to his predecessor.

If the Scottish Government, which is currently mulling over its strategy, comes out in favour of accelerating the inevitable decline of one of the country’s biggest employers, it could spell even more disaster at the ballot box for the SNP.

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