Here in the UK, about 14% of carbon emissions come directly from heating and hot water within our homes. This is where we can all make a difference, as individuals, with the choices we make over the coming years, regardless of what is or isn’t agreed at COP26.
Having worked in the housing and construction sector for most of my life, I think we need to tackle things head-on. Sure, we need to decarbonise those homes being built today, but more importantly we need to focus on those that already have been built, of which make up about 80% of the homes that will be around in 2050.
We need to develop practices and processes around retrofitting our homes so we can reduce the demand for energy. We need to redefine what type of housing product we design and deliver – both within a new build and existing context, whether that be private or social rented.
“We need to redefine what type of housing product we design and deliver – both within a new build and existing context, whether that be private or social rented”
But we need to ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon world is done in a way that is sustainable, not just for the environment, but for tenants and owners alike. And at the same time expand and reskill our workforce to install, commission and maintain homes to higher standards with competent technicians looking after them.
Climate change poses “the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced”. Dramatic but true – not my words, but those of David Attenborough.
But how we deal with it also presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity. An opportunity that wasn’t on offer to the previous generation who worked in the yards, but should be to our children.
That opportunity is about how we transition to new ways of working within a new system – a system that provides jobs that are sustainable, rewarding, higher skilled, better paid and more fulfilling to those employed in them.
We shouldn’t wait for COP26 in November before we start.
Duncan Smith, Chartered Institute of Housing member, working in asset management in Scotland