When climate change first came to the surface some thirty years ago, it certainly didn’t receive the attention it gets today. In fact, those committed to tackling the impacts of human activity on the planet back then must have felt as though they were fighting a losing battle time and time again. Whilst we have by no means won just yet, the UK Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 is our greatest triumph to date. We’re not only putting an end to our contribution to global warming but we’re setting the standard for the rest of the world. That in itself is evidence of the progress we have made since climate change was an avoided and taboo subject just a few decades ago. Now that the promises have been made, we must all make sure that they are followed through.
Reaching net zero will by no means be an easy task. It will require commitment, strategy and collaboration from Government and industry, and we can’t just expect those things to happen overnight. What we can expect, however, is action from the Government. We can expect the low carbon technologies that are readily available to be taken advantage of and for their deployment to be encouraged at the earliest opportunity because we can’t reach net zero without them. Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, Chis Stark believes heat decarbonisation will be the greatest challenge ahead. This is exactly why low carbon solutions such as heat pumps should be utilised to their full potential.
Given that the Future Homes Standard will mandate the end of fossil fuel heating systems in all new homes from 2025, we are eagerly awaiting improved efficiency standards that will decrease heat demand substantially. Whilst we aren’t fully aware of what the standard will or will not impose but we can assume that no new homes will be connected to the gas grid. This will mean that rather than being fitted with fossil fueled gas boilers, they will benefit from low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps. Considering that the net zero commitment requires our share of low carbon heating to increase from 4.5% today to 80% by 2050, new homes alone won’t be enough. In fact, the Committee on Climate Change recommend that almost all heating replacements in existing homes are replaced with low carbon alternatives by 2035 at the latest.
All of these ambitions point us in the right direction. We must make our homes more sustainable and we don’t have time to second guess timings or hesitate. Our emissions reduction target has been amended from at least 80% to 100% and the Government is legally bound to reaching it. Questions are already being fired in the House of Commons with MPs asking how Minister Chris Skidmore intends to encourage businesses to adopt the changes required and we can only expect the interrogations to continue. Questions are important but they’re not as important as the answers.
The answers, we hope, will be that the Government will commit to growing the installer base for low carbon solutions so that the workforce is able to deploy heat pumps to perform as they should. It is all well and good committing to replacing gas boilers, but we need an installer base equipped to lead the low carbon transition. Huge changes are taking place and we must not forget that consumers, most of which have always relied on a gas boiler, are vastly unaware of the alternative heating options on the market. Installers who engage with homeowners every single day are best placed for encouraging the switch to solutions such as heat pumps, but they aren’t able to do that without the right training. Upskilling the workforce is the first step of many - and it’s a step that will take us further towards net zero.
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