29 Nov 2022

Housing sector needs help in net zero campaign

Following on from COP 27, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice manager Ashley Campbell calls for more support from the Scottish Government to make net-zero housing a reality.

It’s one year since world leaders gathered for COP26 and re-committed to the goal of limiting the post-industrial rise in global temperature to 1.5C. And, as COP 27 closed in Egypt last week, much of the rhetoric framed action on climate change as our last chance to save humanity.

So, is it too late to make a difference? And what role does housing play in addressing the climate emergency?

To stay on track for 1.5C, the United Nations states that emissions across the globe must meet net-zero by 2050. The Scottish Government has made a legal commitment to reach net-zero by 2045, and with our homes accounting for around 13 percent of emissions, housing is key to achieving this ambition.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) give an indication of how efficient our homes are, and how much progress needs to be made to meet net-zero. According to the Scottish House Condition Survey, the social sector has the best performing homes, followed by owner-occupied homes and lastly the private rented sector.

Indeed, the latest figures show around one million homes, across all tenures, are currently below the required EPC levels and will need to be improved to meet the net-zero target.

Encouragingly, minimum energy efficiency standards are already in place for the social sector and a minimum standard for private rented homes is expected to be introduced in 2025, although details on regulations for owner-occupiers are still to be finalised.

But regulation is only part of the solution, landlords and owners need information, advice and financial support, whether through low-cost loans or grants.  

We also know there are some great examples of how the housing sector is rising to the challenge of net-zero. But we need to see progress delivered equally across all parts of our housing system if we are to decarbonise our homes. Ultimately, we need to see three areas of focus from the Scottish Government to achieve this goal.

Clarity – developers, landlords and homeowners need clear information about what is expected from them. They need to know what measures need to be carried out, what support is available and be able to plan ahead to cover costs.

Funding – It is estimated it will cost over £33 billion to bring our homes and buildings up to standard. While the Scottish Government cannot be expected to foot the entire bill, financial support is needed to ensure that the costs are shared in a fair way.

Urgency – we need to act now. Evidence points to devastating consequences of inaction including loss of ecosystems, more extreme weather, crop failure and famine. The Scottish Government needs to keep the climate emergency on the agenda, raising public awareness and appetite for action.

Scotland can be a world leader on net-zero, we can meet our 2045 target and decarbonise our housing stock. But we need even stronger leadership from all politicians. The Scottish Government’s budget next month is the best chance to show our commitment to climate justice and to keep 1.5C alive.

*This blog was featured in the Herald on 18 November 2022.

Written by Ashley Campbell

Ashley is the policy and practice manager at CIH Scotland.