shares his views on #Scottish Housing Day about the #Climate Emergency

Think Globally … Act Locally

Every action and decision we take in our daily lives has consequences, even mundane everyday action such as how long we leave lights on in an empty room and the temperature we set our heating to how much waste we create and how dispose of it or recycle.

Think “globally, act locally" urges us to consider the impact of our actions and lifestyles on the health of the entire planet and encourages to take action and make lifestyle changes in own communities and cities.  Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, communities have been coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them.

Efforts to transition to a greener and healthier lifestyle should not but sometimes can threaten our poorest communities most, so sustainability has to address issues of inequalities too.

We have arrived (belatedly) at a juncture in our recent history that demands we act and we act quickly.  All around us Climate Change is the language, and our daily news no longer shies away from the realities of what Climate Change means anywhere in the world.  On our own doorstep Storm Frank arrived on Hogmanay 2016  and flooded the town of Ballater when the river Dee burst its banks.  More recently the New York subways flooded, Miami flooded regularly, while at the same time other parts of the United States burn out of control.  1 in 100 year events have already become 1 in 10 year events.

We are in the midst of unmitigated climate change, and the responses to these changes has to be more changes to our lives.  Net Zero, Zero Carbon, Decarbonisation now strike fear into us as we grapple with how we can remove fossil fuels and still have something of the life we wish to. 

But all this is, is another industrial revolution.  We evolved from coal powered steam engines that powered the movement of people and production of heat and goods, to oil and gas.  The renewable revolution in Scotland in particular has gathered so much pace that we are almost able to provide all our electricity through renewable sources.

The question perhaps though is not about the ability to remove fossil fuels, but how best to keep costs down for the end user.  Gas is cheap and reliable way to heat properties with, electricity not necessarily. 

So, how can we deliver a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables? 

Part of doing this is setting targets and setting the direction of travel which the Scottish Government has done.  Industry knows it then has to collaborate with public bodies to provide the solutions.  The hesitation to move to electric cars demonstrates the difficulties we will have in moving to electric heating solutions.  Higher upfront costs. Higher running costs (for electric heating unless offset with solar panels). Uncertainty, lets stick with what we know (not an option).

Costs of goods, such as heat pumps, will come down due to the simple economic of supply and demand.  As demand increases, costs come down.  Remember buying the first VHS video recorders for around £600 at the time?  Within years they had halved in price, and now obsolete as we stream our media.  All the while the same arguments were presented. They’ll not catch on, I have my three channels anyway.  Oh they are too expensive only for the few (as electric cars are at present). Now though pretty much forgotten and we moved on as new solutions came along.  The same will happen with electric cars as volumes increase and by the time driverless cars are a matter of common place, we will have forgotten the discourse surrounding the electric car.

Our heating solution may not be that simple, but for many when gas heating came along it was seen to be unsafe and dangerous, and many waited for others to take it on and watched from the side-lines.  Some people still hold that view. Gas will become more expensive and then phased out to a greater extent, and we will move to electric forms of heating of which there are a great number of options.  But I return to my question of a just transition and how not to penalise the customer for a world with less fossil fuels?

As a social landlord, committed to tackling fuel poverty whist providing the most energy efficient homes we have invested significant sums (£3million) over the past 5 years on bringing tenants homes up to a better energy efficiency. So for now, the methodical approach we have taken (and would encourage all householders to do so too), is to make sure a home is as well insulated as it possibly can be, so as to reduce the need for heating. 

New properties must be built to the highest standard.  If we can reduce demand for heating through retrofit or build that is the best starting point to thinking global and acting local. 

Alongside this the conventional thinking is where possible you would put solar panels and battery storage in as well.  The batteries play an important part in storing and releasing electricity as and when the tenant wants and also assisting the grid at peak demand times.  Through flexible tariffs used with the battery, the cost of electricity could be reduced to acceptable levels where tenants would not be penalised for moving to electricity.

The challenges are technical but more than anything they will be cultural.  A huge change in societal behaviour will be required, and these times are upon us. 

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