Patrick Harvie has rowed back on a pledge to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030 as he set out his draft strategy for cleaning up how buildings are heated by pushing a move to heat pumps.

But the Green zero carbon buildings minister has come under pressure to explain how the estimated bill of at least £33 billion to clean up Scotland’s building stock will be paid for.

Mr Harvie has launched a consultation on his draft heat in buildings legislation – with most of the timescales set out in his initial strategy in 2021, intact.

But the minister announced that off-gas homes, which were initially set to make changes from 2025, will now align with the majority of properties that are on gas mains supply.

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Under the plans, all homes will need to end their use of fossil fuel emission heating systems by 2045, when Scotland is due to become net zero in law.

But modernised energy efficiency standards, which could take the type of heating system into account, as well as insulation and fabric of the building, will need to be met from 2028.

The draft plans set out that privately rented homes will be required to meet a minimum energy efficiency standard no later than 2028, while owner- occupied homes will need to meet those same standards by the end of 2033.

Mr Harvie said that all homes and non-domestic buildings will be required to end their use of polluting heating by the end of 2045.

But in order to create a smooth trajectory towards 2045, the minister said that those purchasing a home or non-domestic property before 2045 would be required to end their use of polluting heating systems within a specific grace period following that purchase.

Under already-agreed planning rules, all newly built homes will be banned from installing a fossil fuel heating system from April 2024.

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Mr Harvie told MSPs that his strategy will “give the certainty and long-term time horizon that accelerates that growing trend”.

He added that the blueprint will give “households the information they need to plan” and “businesses the confidence to invest”, He announced a new target that by 2038, all public buildings will be required to have clean heating systems.

But he insisted that no requirement will be made of home-owners or businesses until at least 2028.

He said: “If by 2025, parliament approves the bill that I intend to bring forward, that will require detailed secondary legislation.

“That will take us into the next parliament before those regulations have an impact.”

Mr Harvie added: “This means that it might be 2028 at the earliest before the first home or building owners are required to act under the terms of those regulations, in order to ensure that we are just, fair and proportionate.”

Mr Harvie told Holyrood that the initial plan for on-gas and off-gas properties to move on different timescales has been scrapped to make it “fairer and clearer”.

In 2021, Mr Harvie set an ambitious vow to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030 – a key part of the Scottish Government’s legal obligation to cut 1990 levels of emissions by 75% in just seven years’ time.

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But Mr Harvie has now scrapped that ambition.

He said: “Our intention for clean heat to play the maximum possible role in our 2030 climate plans would have meant more than 1 million homes decarbonising by 2030.

“The single timeline that I have now set out from 2028 means that scale of change is not achievable by that date.”

Mr Harvie added: “More of the transition to clean heat shifts into the early 2030s instead.

“That approach allows us to gain the full benefit of the technological innovation that is already taking place.”

Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “It is concerning that political delays have seen key deadlines pushed back.

"Although this will give homeowners more time to prepare, it will make our climate targets harder to reach and means households will wait longer for lower energy bills.

“We cannot afford for timelines to slip any further and after consultation these proposals must be swiftly turned into a heat in buildings bill which all political parties should support to put Scotland on the path to cleaner heating and warmer healthier homes.”

Despite the watering down of his ambition, Mr Harvie stressed his plans remain “by far the most ambition path within the UK”.

He added: “The days of heating our homes and buildings with fossil fuels and polluting systems are numbered.”

The proposals have been welcomed by the Scottish Government’s statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said: “These are bold proposals to decarbonise Scotland's buildings over the next two decades.

The Herald: Climate Change Committee chief executive, Chris StarkClimate Change Committee chief executive, Chris Stark (Image: PA)

“They recognise the importance of a long-term plan for low-carbon heat, with a very welcome focus on upgrading properties at the point of sale.

“There is also greater clarity on the role low-carbon heat networks and tougher obligations on landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties. If adopted, these proposals could become a template for other parts of the UK.”

But concerns have been raised about the costs involved, with no clarity given by Mr Harvie over how the bulk of the £33 billion bill to decarbonise Scotland’s buildings will be paid – with an expectation it will largely come from the private sector.

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Scottish Labour net zero spokesperson, Sarah Boyack, said: “It’s been two years since the first draft heat in buildings strategy was published for consultation, but the government’s plans are still in chaos.

“Timescales are slipping, basic questions have not been answered, and we still have no idea how this £33 billion plan will actually be paid for.

“Energy bills are through the roof and fuel poverty is at appalling levels – we urgently need a real plan to make homes more energy efficient, but last year the SNP-Green government failed to spend £133 million of budgeted energy efficiency funding.

“Scots need warm homes – not warm words, and the SNP-Green government must show some leadership to deliver it.”