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by Ólöf Jónsdóttir
02 November 2021
Associate Feature: Delivering buildings fit for the future

Associate Feature: Delivering buildings fit for the future

Time is ticking on climate change. In August, UN Secretary General António Guterres called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report “a code red for humanity”. And spurred by events from the IPCC report to the pleas of David Attenborough, images of melting glaciers and the self-reflection brought on by the global pandemic, public concern is at an all-time high.

Yet despite global leaders having hailed 2020 as the “Year of Climate Action”, as the Climate Summit in Glasgow gets underway, political commitments are colliding with reality. Greenhouse gas emissions actually increased in 2021.

As negotiators get down to business, one area in need of rapid decarbonisation is the built environment. In 2019 buildings accounted for around 28% of total global energy-related emissions, meaning we can’t reach a 1.5 degree scenario without using less energy to heat and cool our homes, offices, schools and shops. And though we know how to build and renovate to make buildings energy efficient – as a Guardian columnist recently said, “it’s ROCKWOOL insulation, not rocket science” – we’re simply not employing these solutions fast enough or at sufficient scale.

The issue is particularly pressing in countries like the UK, where a significant proportion of our homes are older and less thermally efficient. A whopping 80% of the UK’s existing housing stock is likely to still be in place in 2050, so for the Government to make significant progress towards climate change targets, it must address the efficiency of these buildings.

Around the world, governments are increasingly recognising the need to act along with the potential for green job creation that comes with upgrading our building stock. The EU, for example, aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, supported by funds from its COVID-19 recovery package – 37% of which have been set aside to fight climate change.

But as funding commitments increase, a common challenge has emerged – that of translating the money into action.

In particular, the near universal lack of long-term national frameworks to incentivise retrofitting, alongside a slow drip of piecemeal schemes, has left consumers feeling unsupported and industry lacking the surety needed to invest in skills and scale.

That’s why in the lead up to COP26, we’ve been working with international experts including policy-makers, industry leaders and financial institutions, to identify measures that will unlock the benefits of building renovation.

From making the construction sector a more attractive place to work, to boosting the resources of local authorities and creating a smoother customer journey, there are a series of practical steps that governments around the world must take into account to ensure that renovation funds deliver on their promise. Coordination between actors right across the policy and delivery chain is also key.

Crucially, homeowners are raring to go. Polling conducted for us by OnePoll in the UK, US and EU has shown remarkable and internationally consistent levels of consumer appetite for retrofitting homes, as well as significant support for ensuring all buildings are made efficient.
So as heads of state come together in Glasgow, we must capitalise on this appetite and ensure we don’t stop at setting ambitious goals. What counts is real-world results, for the climate but also for the millions of people who expect more than commitments from their leaders. There’s no better place to start than making our buildings fit for the future – after all, it’s not rocket science.

ROCKWOOL’s CEO Jens Birgersson will be speaking about how we kickstart the renovation revolution at The New York Times Climate Hub from 8.30-9.30am on 11th November.

This article was sponsored by ROCKWOOL.

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