IT’S a week since the Tories were trounced in two out of three by-elections in previous strongholds.

But extraordinarily they managed to hold on to Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge by the skin of their teeth. The received wisdom is that they did so because of working class voters’ fury about Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan’s extension of the ULEZ scheme.

ULEZ is the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone which is to extend beyond central London to areas including Uxbridge by the end of August.

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It’s a policy designed to reduce air pollution by charging high polluting motor vehicles to drive on roads in the zone. Drivers whose cars don’t meet emissions standards are charged £12.50 per day. Those with diesel cars more than six years old are in trouble.

A separate LEZ or Low Emission Zone scheme has been in force in Greater London for several years. Glasgow introduced a similar scheme on June 1 this year meaning that vehicles entering the city centre must pay a penalty charge of £60 if they don’t meet the less-polluting emission standards.

The National: Glasgow's low emission zone

A similar scheme will come into force in Edinburgh city centre on June 1 next year. Those with diesel cars pre-dating 2015 will be caught unless they get a new car or get rid of their car altogether. I feel their pain as this includes me.

While these schemes are public health measures primarily aimed at tackling air pollution, they also address climate change by encouraging the uptake of low emission vehicles and less reliance on private car use.

It’s fair to say there’s a good deal of annoyance about the Scottish schemes as well as the London schemes. Across Scotland and the UK there are many workers who still rely on their cars to do their job. Think of white van man and woman and care workers to name just two groups.

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The price of new and second-hand cars which meet the new standards is eye watering even for someone on an MP’s salary so it is easy to see how many will struggle to afford to replace ageing diesel vehicles without state support.

There is a parallel with the drive to penalise owners of fossil fuel boilers and to encourage their replacement with climate friendly heating systems. According to Patrick Harvie for most people that will mean energy efficient heat pumps or electric heating.

His interview in The Herald last weekend suggesting penalising those with the wrong sort of heating by preventing them from selling their homes caused howls of outrage. Many people pointed to the very high cost of installing heat pumps and their impracticality for the tenement properties so common in urban Scotland.

The National: Patrick Harvie set out a plan on Friday to grow the green heating sector in Scotland

In response FM Humza Yousaf acknowledged that measures taken to tackle climate change must be introduced in a way that is cognisant of the pressures people are under from the cost of living crisis. He was absolutely right to do so.

The fires across Europe are a stark reminder of the need to take action to tackle climate change. We must not allow the Tories or climate deniers to weaponise what happened in Uxbridge in order to delay action. But that means the left must have answers to the very real question of who should bear the cost of expensive changes to meet climate change targets.

It is wrong for the burden to fall most heavily on those who can least afford it.

As Robin McAlpine argues in his blog we need collectivist solutions to the problem of climate change, not punitive individualistic ones.

So, what would this look like? Well, it is not rocket science.

Norway has led the way incentivising change with agreement from all major political parties that it should always be economically beneficial to choose zero and low emission cars over high emission cars. It has the most lucrative electric vehicle incentives in the world. There is legislation establishing charging rights for electric vehicle owners living in apartment buildings.

No other country has more heat pumps per capita with their use encouraged by government subsidies, high fossil fuel taxes and low electricity rates as well as restrictions on oil boilers.

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District heating systems also abound making use of surplus renewable energy from local sources such as biofuels, waste and industry heat waste.

My colleague Douglas Chapman MP who is doing good work in this area would argue that Norway’s successful green transition is the result of a pragmatic and joined-up approach to climate action, one which Scotland and the UK would do well to emulate in terms of bringing citizens on board as we switch to carbon free travel.

When it comes to tackling carbon emissions from our built environment, Douglas would argue for us to look to Denmark, where the Danes are regarded as global leaders in district heating systems, with co-operative and not for profit ownership models that benefit citizens and the climate one of the main factors in their success and take-up.

Government funding to encourage the use of heat pumps in Norway started back in the 1970s. The UK has a long way to go to catch up.

One way to do it is to make sure those who have made the most profit out of damaging our planet should pay to address that damage.

Yesterday as the fires around the Mediterranean continued to rage, oil and gas giants Shell and Centrica announced massive profits. Further such announcements are expected from more energy firms over the next few days.

The National: Wildfires have hit parts of Rhodes (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The Climate and Energy Policy Manager at WWF Scotland, Fabrice Leveque, hit the nail on the head when he said that the profits announced yesterday could easily have paid to insulate over a million homes in Scotland, cutting energy bills and carbon emissions.

These are windfall profits caused by rising demand following the end of Covid restrictions and the soaring energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They need to be taxed in a meaningful way and the revenues ploughed into subsidising and incentivising the move to decarbonised cars and heating. Doing that could also fund the development of the sort of collectivist approach Robin talks about, with co-ordinated working carried out at scale.

That way we could challenge vested interests while protecting individual citizens already struggling with a cost of living crisis from bearing the brunt of the cost of changing how we live. Collective action is also a more efficient way to approach this problem than leaving it to individual drivers or householders.

Tory windfall taxes rules contained significant loopholes which allowed energy companies to evade them via tax breaks for investment in new projects.

A firmer approach is needed.

We are all responsible for the actions that have provoked the climate crisis and therefore we must all take action to tackle it but those who have made the most profit out of causing the crisis should pay to subsidise what needs to be done.