Sally Thomas: Social housing’s role in tackling climate change cannot be underestimated

SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas spoke at an official COP26 UN System Side Event yesterday to discuss how to decarbonise homes in an inclusive and affordable way. In her contribution to our #COP26SCN feature, she highlights how the housing sector is already working on this

Sally Thomas: Social housing’s role in tackling climate change cannot be underestimated

Sally Thomas

This week, one of the most anticipated global events commenced in Glasgow, as people came together to tackle the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.

Once the world’s global leaders and media have left Glasgow, it will be down to all of us to ensure that COP’s legacy results in real and lasting change – and, for our sector, this means delivering a fair and just transition to net zero for our tenants.

Representing our members at an official COP26 side event on November 4, I joined others, including Glasgow City Council and Housing Europe, to discuss how we will decarbonise homes in an inclusive and affordable way – and highlighted how our sector are already working on this.

Without a doubt, Scotland’s housing associations and co-operatives are already playing their part in the climate emergency. Hard work, vision, and a determination to deliver for tenants has resulted in their housing stock being the most energy efficient in Scotland. SFHA members are at the forefront of some of the most exciting and innovative ways of developing energy efficient housing that results in reduced emissions and is affordable to heat.
These are just some of the many ways that demonstrate how SFHA members across Scotland are leading the way. 

  • Eildon Housing’s Borders-based Green Pilot Project which will create 50 new green homes using innovating building methods
  • West of Scotland Housing Association’s Passivhaus development of 36 flats in Glasgow’s East-End
  • Hillcrest Home’s 119-apartment modular construction development in Dundee which is drastically reducing construction waste, development time and environmental impact
  • Grampian Housing Association’s retrofit programme with Aberdeen City Council, involving external and internal wall insulation upgrades, which has resulted in the properties becoming some of the most energy efficient stock in the county.

We can’t underestimate the challenge that lies ahead. Despite our progress, over a third of social housing tenants live in fuel poverty.

Meeting the Scottish Government’s net zero targets must not exacerbate this. Delivering net zero emissions homes should not leave any tenant with bills they can’t afford.

The aim of COP26 is to reach agreement on achieving net zero output by 2050, but, for our sector, we must reach this goal sooner. Working together, with government and other partners, building on our already significant achievements in energy efficiency, we can achieve this. For the sake of future generations, we must. There is no other option. In the words of Greta Thunberg: “There is no planet B.”

All the COP26SCN articles will be available to view here. New contributions are still welcome and feel free to join in the conversation on social media using #COP26SCN.

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