Climate change is a serious threat to lives, from the very real risk of water shortages and food production becoming difficult, to heat waves, violent storms and downpours that will grow in intensity and threaten lives and livelihoods.

Animal species are also at risk due to this period of rapid climate change, as they’re more likely to become extinct because of the significant change in their environments.

It’s our actions now that will inevitably decide the fate of the planet. With some of the damage already done and irreversible, the UK government has set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We all have a responsibility to play our part and the housing sector has been tasked with making some significant changes which will play a vital role in tackling climate change. The government wants the social housing sector to lead the way in the transition to zero emission buildings.

Scottish Housing Day on the 15th of September, has put the climate emergency under the spotlight, with the sector being encouraged to think about how to overcome the challenges of becoming net zero carbon, share advice and to think about how to begin making these changes. This is also reiterated in the 2021 United Nations climate change conference – COP26 in Glasgow this November, where countries, companies and society will come together to set out how to combat climate change.

What the government requires from social landlords

Scottish social landlords have all been set the target of ensuring all their stock has a minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of B where possible by 2032. By 2045, over two million homes will need to transition from fossil fuel-based systems to low and zero-emissions systems such as heat pumps, heat networks and other technologies.

According to Gov.Wales, in Wales alone, housing is responsible for 27% of all energy consumed and 15% of all demand-side greenhouse gas emissions. To combat this, from 2022, social homes in Wales will need to have green heating systems to meet energy-efficiency requirements.

In England, it’s expected that from 2025, new homes will have to be much more energy efficient and cannot be connected to the grid.

What are the challenges in becoming net zero carbon?

Despite the best intentions, landlords are faced with a range of challenges when trying to achieve net zero carbon for their buildings. Scottish Landlords are having to tackle climate change while continuing to provide more homes to support the government’s ambition to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

It is recognised by the Scottish Government and social landlords that any increased running costs of decarbonised heating should not exacerbate fuel poverty or result in greater child or rent poverty.

What can landlords do to begin making a change?

Funding initiatives are being created to help social landlords on the path to net zero carbon. Throughout the UK, funding is already being achieved and there are some funding options you can tap into:

  • Scotland

In Scotland there’s a £20m Social Housing Net Zero Heat Fund that can be accessed which is designed to speed up the rollout of energy efficient and low carbon heat provision across social housing projects in Scotland.

  • Wales

In Wales, the Optimised Retrofit scheme is a £20m government-funded initiative aimed at boosting the energy efficiency of around 1,300 social homes. Through the scheme, 28 Welsh social landlords have received funding to retrofit homes and test the way that heat, and energy are produced, stored, and supplied. Between them the landlords manage around half of Wales’ 226,000 social homes.

  • Northern Ireland

On behalf of the Housing Executive, The Department for Communities, was successful in securing €22.951 million funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to create a programme of works to improve the energy efficiency of almost 1,900 Housing Executive properties in Belfast. This will give tenants warmer homes, reduce heating bills, and create better living conditions.

  • England

In England, it’s just been announced that a £270m Green Heat Network Fund is available as part of a bid to heat more homes from green sources. The £270m fund is the successor to the government’s Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) and will launch its full scheme in April 2022.

Utilise the Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce report (ZEST)

This Zest report outlines how the Scottish social housing sector can achieve net zero emission housing whilst ensuring support for tenants in reducing their energy bills and achieving carbon savings. You can use the report’s recommendations to help you get started on becoming more sustainable.

Seek out events

Housemark’s Disruption and Innovation in Housing in the Devolved Nations conference takes place over 2 days on 2 and 16 November with a key theme of day two all about – green innovation – improving the sustainability of your business. Our event – designed specifically for the devolved nations, will delve into the topic of sustainability and the solutions that can help your business become more sustainable. You’ll get the chance to listen to key speakers and thought leaders and leave with tangible takeaways that you can use within your business.

It’s our personal and collective responsibility to help combat climate change and the social housing sector can lead the way in making a difference. It’s time to start really considering how as a sector that does social good, we can pave the way in creating more sustainable homes that help people create foundations not footprints.