Can UK Housing Meet Climate Change Challenges?

           Carbon and Climate

A new report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) provides an assessment of whether UK housing is equipped for climate change, both in terms of reducing emissions and ensuring that housing can cope with the impacts of climate change.

The research found that emission reductions from UK homes have stalled and that in fact energy use by the sector grew between 2016 and 2017. Space heating makes up 63% of domestic energy use, while hot water and appliances account for 17% and 13%, respectively. The UK Government is currently working towards low-carbon heat in every home by 2050. However, according to the CCC report, fewer than 500,000 homes currently have some form of low-carbon heating.

There is a need for UK homes to adapt to the effects of climate changes, such as higher temperatures and water scarcity. A number of actions are recommended that include the provision of government funding for projects such as low-carbon sources of heat, retrofitting existing homes, and building new homes to be climate-resilient. For example, new homes could be fitted with triple glazed windows and external shading as standard. Raised electricals and concrete floors would provide flood resilience.

The report finds that the UK’s climate targets will not be met without near complete decarbonisation of the housing stock, which at present accounts for 14% of the UK’s total emissions.  Through the Climate Change Act, the government has committed to reducing total emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Emissions were 43% below 1990 levels in 2017, meaning that interim targets will be outperformed out to 2022. However, the UK is not on track to meet the fourth carbon budget that sets a 51% reduction over the period of 2023 to 2027.

The reduction in carbon intensity of UK power generation has been the greatest contributor to emission reductions to date. The government must now focus on heat and transport.

The CCC report, which calls for increased climate action, comes in the same week that Jean-Claude Juncker declared the European Union would spend a quarter of the next EU budget on targeted climate action. The verbal commitment was made following student action in Brussels that criticised the EU’s current 2030 target of a 40% reduction in emissions for not going far enough to tackle climate change.

Nikki Wilson

Nikki joined Alfa Energy in September 2015 as a Carbon Management Consultant where she advises clients on legislation, compliance, and the implementation of carbon management schemes. She is a Practitioner member of IEMA, has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Decision Making, and has over 15 years’ experience in energy consultancy.