You wait months, even years, for a strategy on the climate crisis and then – like electric buses – several arrive at once.
Tuesday 19 October saw the launch of our guide to decarbonising housing association homes, and our research with Savills on the costs of decarbonisation for our sector. Together, they set out the trajectory to net zero for our sector and the opportunity we have to improve quality, comfort and affordability for residents. But they also show the scale of the challenge ahead and the challenges we will need to overcome – alongside residents, the government and industry – to decarbonise our homes.
Coincidentally the government chose the same day ahead of COP26 to launch their long-awaited Heat and buildings strategy, alongside the economy-wide Net Zero Strategy. Running to over 200 pages, the Heat and buildings strategy is considerably longer than our modest 30-page guide, but reassuringly, they cover much of the same ground:
The Heat and buildings strategy also touched on many of the same barriers as our guide – and reassuringly, it set out plans to address many of them. These included:
While it marks a big step forward, there’s still more we need to see from the government, not least on funding. For our sector, £800m over three years is a great start but the big spending comes further down the line and Savills estimates there’s a £36bn gap to make up between now and 2050. The government are betting on falling prices and improving technology to bridge much of this but even then there will be a significant shortfall.
Meanwhile there are several references to ‘hard to decarbonise’ homes but no real strategy for addressing them. We agree with the government that it’s probably too early to make irreversible decisions given the uncertainties ahead, but we do think a clearer strategy is necessary, and we are planning work on this over the next few months.
More broadly, the Net Zero Strategy makes clear the government’s headline approach to net zero, which is also reflected in the Heat and buildings strategy – a reliance on market mechanisms and technological innovation to bring down costs, long term regulatory standards to drive private sector behavior, and public sector investment to stimulate markets and support people on the lowest incomes. As the independent Climate Change Committee said in their positive response to the strategy, 'The success of this transition will depend on the government’s ability to implement and sustain the market-based approach they have opted for – and manage any associated risks. This includes being prepared to step in with alternative approaches should the market under-deliver.'
The NHF and our members will work closely with the government to deliver, track progress and propose alternative approaches where needed. The journey to 2050 will be a long one, but last month the route to getting there became much clearer. Hopefully, these examples of best practice will help members to see what this journey looks like in practice.