23 Sep 2021

Reflecting on Scottish Housing Day and the journey onwards to net-zero

Climate change has emerged as one of the most defining challenges of our time. The world is currently facing a decisive decade to overcome global warming, but it is a race that we can still ultimately win. For the first time, global public consciousness and political will appear focused on profound and intense action across various domains.

Nevertheless, this will require fundamental transformations across all aspects of our society – including the decarbonisation of our homes. This year, Scottish Housing Day provided a unique opportunity to bring together housing professionals from across the sector and spark vital conversations surrounding the climate emergency. The event saw a record-breaking number of 168 supporting organisations. It showcased several expert speakers to provide important insight into the key challenges we face, as a sector, towards becoming a net-zero society. In particular, special guest Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison explored the challenges and solutions to the climate emergency in the context of housing.

The Scottish Government has committed to an ambitious target to reach net-zero by 2045, including a series of interim targets. Meeting these targets will necessitate vast adjustments to our homes, which currently generate around 13% of Scotland’s carbon emissions. Ultimately, this will require the majority of homes across all tenures and old and new to switch to low or zero-carbon heating. Absent near-complete decarbonisation of our housing stock, we will not be in a position to meet our climate objectives.

Scottish Housing Day provided an important platform to ignite vital discussions on the role of housing in tackling climate emergency. As part of this, the partners, with the support of AICO, commissioned important research in the form of a public poll to help determine public awareness of and attitudes towards housing and the climate emergency. The poll consisted of 1,000 people across all different tenures in Scotland. Promisingly, this showed a high level of awareness concerning the Scottish Government’s targets, with 69 per cent of people indicating that they had heard of these net-zero plans. Less promisingly, and perhaps unsurprising, was far less certainty surrounding what this actually means in practice for individuals concerning their home.

Key findings of the research highlighted that the vast majority of people had heard of an EPC rating (81 per cent), only 18 per cent indicated that they knew what the current EPC of their own home was. Regarding whether energy efficiency comprised an important factor in choosing their current home, only 15 per cent of people agreed or strongly agreed, with 49 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Nevertheless, 39 per cent of individuals stated that they would like to move to a more energy-efficient home. In terms of costs, 82 per cent of respondents believe that the Scottish Government should cover at least some of these costs, and 34 per cent believe that they should cover all costs.

Overall, the research demonstrated an urgent need to engage and inform individuals of the introduction of new energy efficiency requirements, as well as how they will be expected to contribute and where the relevant information and support lies. Whilst a positive start, there remains much work throughout our housing sector to effectively challenge the climate crisis.

This task was urgent before, but now it is critical. COP26 will present a momentous opportunity to turn the tide and embark upon a new path that places sustainability and global cooperation at the heart of our journey onwards. We must choose now and must choose wisely. However, momentum continues to grow, and there are clear signs of hope for our environment, from technological advancements to social understanding. Perhaps the tide is already beginning to change.