Housing sector

Catherine Hall: The whole housing sector must face the climate emergency

Outlining CIH Scotland’s support for the Scottish Housing Day focus on the climate emergency, Catherine room argues that the sector must act to decarbonise housing across all tenures if it is to play a meaningful role in tackling the crisis.

The climate emergency represents the defining crisis of our time and yet it remains a race that we are dangerously losing. While global warming has spent many years in the background of political and public debate, the true scale of the climate crisis is rapidly beginning to be felt.

Climate change knows no borders, leaving every corner of the globe vulnerable to its destruction. No continent is immune to its impacts, and if we are to have any chance of survival, the world must undergo fundamental transformations in all aspects of society – including our housing – which is why CIH Scotland supports Scottish Housing Day focus on housing and the climate emergency.

The Scottish Government has announced a promising commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045, along with ambitious interim targets to cut emissions by 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040. As part of of this strategy, more than one million households will be equipped with low and zero carbon heating systems by 2030. This is where the housing sector has an indispensable role to play.

Currently, Scottish homes account for 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Without a radical decarbonization of our housing stock, meeting these national climate change goals will prove nearly impossible. However, this is not an easy task with a silver bullet, nor can it be paid lip service.

While the general path to housing decarbonisation in Scotland will broadly involve an iterative and additive approach, which will follow successive improvements between 2021 and 2050, this approach must be strongly influenced by land tenure. Significant levels of investment and cooperation will be required from individuals in all tenures, but this will inevitably require different approaches. It is therefore essential that the Scottish Government roadmap recognizes the importance of distinguishing between tenures, which are likely to require different levers to support change.

While the Scottish Government’s plan Heat strategy in buildings includes an “emission-free heat standard for all tenures”, there remains a critical need for further research into the potential impact and demand across different tenures. New research commissioned for Scottish Housing Day will seek to provide a more comprehensive and in-depth study that takes into account these different tenure patterns and associated challenges.

Generally speaking, tenants in the social and private rental sectors are more likely to have lower adaptive capacity to climate change than landlords, not only because of their actual living conditions, but also other contributing characteristics such as low adaptive capacity to climate change. income levels.

Social landlords have already invested large sums in improving existing housing in order to meet Energy Efficiency Standards for Social Housing (EESSH). This may be related to their inherent social and charitable purpose, which private owners generally do not possess. In this sense, social housing already outperforms other forms of tenure for which minimum energy efficiency targets have not yet been introduced.

We are dangerously close to running out of time to prevent an irreversible climate catastrophe. We are currently in the decisive decade to address the climate emergency, with a planetary tipping point looming on the horizon. While this is a painful realization, it is one we can no longer ignore. Decarbonizing our homes will be a crucial part of achieving our ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2045. However, it is essential that we design mechanisms that reflect different interests, motivations, challenges and abilities. to act on all modes of occupation if we want to witness a real currency.

You can learn more about housing and the climate emergency by visiting the Scottish Housing Day website. You can also join us for a free online event on September 15 where you’ll hear from special guest speakers and get a first look at new research commissioned for Scottish Housing Day.

  • Catherine Hall is Head of Policy and Practice at CIH Scotland and Legal Researcher in Climate Change Law