The climate change crisis, caused mainly by emission of greenhouse gases and burning fossil fuels for energy use, is accelerating at a rapid rate and having catastrophic impacts on our weather, environment and the future of our planet.
At COP26 the UK Government re-committed itself to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, pledging to invest £90 billion by 2030 and create 440,000 well-paid jobs. From corporates to households, the private sector to the public, every part of society has its part to play in making this vital goal a reality – this is a widescale need across industrial, commercial, retail and residential industries alike, unprecedented in its scale and scope.
Public sector estates comprise 300,000 properties which contribute to 3% of all UK carbon emissions. Local authorities across the country therefore have been set targets to achieve net zero by improving the energy efficiency of their property and housing assets. Quality public services, innovatively designed and powered by technology and people, are critical to delivering safer, greener and healthier communities that support everyone – including society’s most vulnerable.
Here are five crucial steps local authorities can take to do their bit toward decarbonisation:
1. Assess the data you already have on your housing stock
Is it enough to establish a baseline to track progress against? Before you start work, assess the size and scope of what needs to be addressed and formulate a strategic outline. Once you know what you have to work with, the more likely you are to secure funding by being able to demonstrate that your ambitions are feasible and achievable. The more you know, the more flexible you can be in adopting various options to achieve decarbonisation targets – as well as demonstrate value for money.
2. Develop a strategy
Break down your housing or property stock by type – you may choose to categorise buildings according to age, type or use – whatever best works for you. Then assess which technical fabric changes would effect the most significant change – this can form the basis of your pilot programme which will inform your long-term business case for large-scale change. Start small, but be innovative – collaborate with local colleges and higher education institutes and see what they have in the eco-friendly pipeline.
3. Apply for funding
After assessing the work required, you’ll need to identify the best way to secure funding for your project, whether through government assistance, private-sector financing such as Climate Bonds or green, sustainably-linked private placement deals. You’ll need to make a “demonstrator bid” to be granted funding for your pilot programme and develop a business case justifying your needs, taking into account:
- strategic policy reviews
- market failure assessment
- financial implications of your proposed development.
We recommend adopting the HM Treasury Green Book business case process to make sure you’ve covered all aspects of the proposed strategy. Again, start small with an initial pilot programme to test and see what works for your properties. This knowledge is extremely valuable for informing future iterations and retrofit/new build development.
4. Implement your pilot programme and monitor it
A successfully delivered pilot programme provides a wealth of knowledge and strategies that can be applied to cover a wider scope of your property assets. Make sure you track any changes and continue to compare against the baseline you’ve set, identifying and investigating any anomalies. Continuous learning feeds into the cycle for maximum efficiency and best, lowest-carbon results. This will enable you to find out the most effective measures and expand these to apply across wider stock.
5. Behaviour and local skills
Remember: decarbonisation isn’t just about the latest high-tech energy saving equipment: it’s also about human behaviour. The key to achieving carbon neutrality is stimulating a change in people’s habits and behaviour towards carbon saving and net zero. Any measures you implement should be easy to understand and practical, modelled around human psychology and designed to maximise uptake. Any interventions should be catered around tenants to minimise disruption and maximise engagement.
Resource shortages across the public sector mean many councils lack the in-house capacity, skills or expertise to plan and implement the retrofitting of their estate and social housing as needed. Job creation in local communities is therefore an important part of the drive toward retrofitting for decarbonisation. Local skills should be assessed and training provided where needed. The scope for job creation is broad: a single refit can require a wide range of expertise in insulation; electrical, mechanical and engineering; heat pump and solar energy installation, etc.