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Karen Fletcher looks at how we increase sustainable heating

Clearly, the future of heating in the UK is the last thing on the government’s agenda right now.

With a global pandemic upon us, everything that doesn’t concern healthcare and mitigating the impact of Coronavirus on our economy is taking a back seat and quite rightly.

But while the world deals with this global problem, it might be easy to forget that climate change is an issue that also affects the entire planet. And that is not going away without more work.

It has been interesting to see the falls in emissions brought about by national lockdowns, with images of clear air over much of Europe taken from space.

With most of us forced to remain at home, work remotely and meet via telephone or internet, we are all having a less negative impact on the planet.

So let’s embrace legislation, it’s boring but it works.

Karen Fletcher Karen Fletcher Head of Content for MBS

Remember the ozone?

There was a news story covered in the national press at the end of March 2020 that ‘the ozone layer is healing itself’.

To be honest, when I saw that, I thought it was going to be something about the result of grounded aircraft, or less carbon generated from powering big industry.

But it turns out, that the cause of this environmental turnaround is a lot less dramatic than national lockdowns.

Instead, the healing ozone layer is the result of the Montreal Protocol, signed and actioned back in 1987. It was an international treaty designed to phase out ozone-depleting substances, such as CFCs.

Of course, professionals in the building services sector are already aware of the phase down of F gases, and the impact this has had on products in the industry.

Slow but steady

The success of the Montreal Protocol has not been overnight, but it demonstrates the power of international action taken and carried out in a deliberate way.

Market transformation has been a key tool – raising the prices of CFCs on their way to phase-out and pushing the market to lower GWP options through market forces.

The slow-but-steady example set by the Protocol is important because it shows that legislation can create change; but it also shows that if we want to make a positive impact on carbon emissions, sooner is better than later.

Switching our heating

The UK government’s most recent Budget in March 2020 showed a continued commitment to decarbonising heating. There is a drive to switch over to electric heating (heat pumps) as well as some forms of biogas.

However, one area where the proposed grants and incentives fall short seems to be in dealing with older properties (domestic and commercial).

For many, this proved a significant oversight. For example Paul Rose, chief executive of OFTEC, said: “While the Budget contained a package of measures relating to low carbon heat, the lack of support for home energy efficiency such as insulation and double glazing is concerning. This is an urgent national infrastructure priority which should be placed ahead of further funding commitments for roads and rail.”

They won’t fix themselves

The risk is that the move to low carbon heating will be available to buildings more recently constructed. And that would leave a great deal of the UK still reliant on higher carbon fuels, which will inevitably become more expensive.

Whilst it’s always a bit disappointing to admit that we need legislation to drive change in the built environment, it is true.

And it has to be written with an understanding that older buildings won’t just fix themselves – and no heat pump manufacturer wants to see their equipment used in inappropriate buildings. If the heating doesn’t work, the blame will undoubtedly fall on them, not poor insulation.

So let’s embrace legislation.

It’s boring but it works.

Government needs to be encouraged to see that with the right rules in place and clear guidance, it really can make a long-term difference.

Karen Fletcher is Head of Content for MBS