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What could COP26 mean for buildings and heat?

The importance of decarbonising buildings shouldn’t be underestimated at the global climate change event, argues our Chief Executive Jade Lewis

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November, nations from across the world will gather to address climate change. With the conference being hosted in Glasgow, all eyes will be on the UK.

In the lead-up to COP26, members of the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) have been sharing their thoughts on the key challenges facing the built environment. These can be divided into a three-pronged approach: building standards and specifications, retrofits, and consumers. Each of these is explored below:

Building specifications

Buildings must be built to sufficiently high standards and specifications to achieve carbon-neutrality and to futureproof homes from the impact of climate change.

One of the SEA’s members, the Active Building Centre, has highlighted the challenges of eliminating ‘operational carbon’ that all buildings emit, as well as the new-build sector’s contribution to the ‘embodied carbon’ generated during the construction process. One such example is carbon from the manufacture of concrete. Action has been taken to try to address this through the development of the Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards, as well as the government’s commitment to halve energy use in all buildings by 2030. However, ambitions must be accelerated to drive further progress.

Retrofits

Most of the buildings that we will be using in 2050 exist today. However, parliament has calculated that there are 19 million properties in the UK in need of some form of energy efficiency upgrade. With the UK being home to some of the oldest housing stock in the world, a clear roadmap, incentives, and direction will do much for our journey towards achieving our target. Legally binding government commitments such as ‘all fuel poor homes to be EPC Band C by 2030’ go a long way to provide confidence to the sector and give us all a target to achieve and aspire to.

Consumers

While the industry and governments are faced daily with the challenges we must overcome, the consumer will be the final arbiter. Vaillant summarises this best by saying that how we take homeowners on the low carbon journey equally plays an important part in reaching this goal.

COP26 provides one of the best opportunities for raw change

Consumers will largely be shouldering the cost of change and are likely to be resistant. So, they need to have confidence and understanding of the heating technology they need, how it works, and what the benefits are.

Uniting the world

With the words ‘Uniting the world to tackle climate change’ emblazoned on the COP26 website, one cannot help being in awe of the breadth of this opportunity of which the UK sits at the forefront.
COP26 provides one of the best opportunities for raw change in the confines of our economic and political structure. We hope that the decisions made at the conference will safeguard our future and bring us closer to a world where living and working spaces are fit for future generations.

To hear more about what SEA members would like to see the government address at COP26 and what they are doing to progress towards zero carbon, see our COP26 blog series.

 

Monday, November 8th, 2021