This post was originally published in August 2021, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
As net zero becomes the hot topic of the moment in the housing industry, many of our partners and clients have been asking us how it'll impact the industry and our relationships. So, we've put together this quick guide explaining everything someone in housing could ever need to know about net zero.
Net Zero Climate Emergency
Net zero is a widely known term. It became prevalent in July 2019, when the UK became the first major economy to set a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
There's no doubt that the climate is changing. The average temperature on Earth today is 1°C higher than in the pre-industrial era, and we already see the consequences: floods, heatwaves, loss of polar ice, and rising sea levels. If the recent trends continue, the prediction is that the temperature will increase by 3 to 5°C by 2100.
Scientists and governments agree that this climate change has been triggered by a higher level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is why net zero has been brought to life.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero refers to a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and removed from the atmosphere.
Once the amount of carbon emissions produced is cancelled out by the amount removed, the country will have achieved net zero emissions. This balance is crucial because it's the best way to reduce global warming and tackle climate change.
Net Zero in the UK
The UK is responsible for less than 1% of global emissions and was the first country to set a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The government committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to at least 100% below 1990 levels.
Many steps had already been already taken to meet those requirements. In 2020 greenhouse gas emissions were 51% lower than 1990 levels, so we're halfway to meeting the zero-emissions target by 2050.
This year, the government started a few inspiring projects which aim to help reach net zero emissions:
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced his decarbonisation plan, the world's first 'greenprint' to decarbonise all models of domestic transport by 2050, which aims to make cleaner air, healthier communities and tens of thousands of new jobs. Read more about the first 'greepnprint'.
- The UK's first net zero power station, a 300-megawatt complex, is planned to be built on Teesside. Read more about the power station.
In April 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new carbon target: the UK would cut its carbon emissions by 78% compared with 1990 levels by 2035.
Net Zero Housing
Heating is the cause of around 40% of the energy consumption in the UK and 20% of emissions. British homes generate over 60% of heat demand. Since 1990, emissions have been decreased by 17% thanks to efficient boilers and better insulation. But still, over 80% of UK homes are heated with natural gas.
Despite the slow progress in developing a low carbon heat policy, many options are already available, e.g., electric heating, primarily via heat pumps, adapting the existing gas grid for low carbon gas emissions like hydrogen.
As we're working in housing in the UK, one of our primary goals is to decrease emissions in our projects. To this end, we're implementing different solutions, like improving the insulation in Offerton Estate. The insulation there was almost non-existent, and the timber cladding was at the end of its lifespan. Our works involved stripping the front and rear properties back to the original 75 mm timber structure and improving it, so we could build more layers of insulation and timber into the framework, not only improving the thermal efficiency of the properties but also the sound efficiency. We used Rockwool insulation in the original timber frame.
In completing this action, we were extremely proud knowing that we were contributing to Stockport's wider net zero goals. We also installed specially insulated roofs and an energy-saving heating system, allowing tenants to reduce wasted energy and save money on heating bills.
Do you know, that you can decrease your carbon footprint by following those simple rules in everyday life? Together we can achieve more!
On the 19th of October, the government published a new Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, where they established the next steps of achieving net zero by 2050.
Key policies for Heat and Buildings are:
- An ambition that no new boilers will be sold by 2035
- £450 million three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme: households will be offered grants of up to £5,000 for low-carbon heating systems
- A new £60 million Heat Pump Ready programme that will provide funding for pioneering heat pump technologies
- Delivering cheap electricity by a rebalancing of policy costs from electricity bills to gas bills this decade
- Further funding for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme and Home Upgrade Grants
- Launching a Hydrogen Village trial to inform a decision on the role of hydrogen in the heating system by 2026
Read more about the governments further net zero plan.