As UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “We really are out of time. We must act now to prevent further irreversible damage. COP26, this November, must mark that turning point.”
The effects of climate change are constantly becoming more apparent, from global warming to wild fires, or the rapid degradation of biodiversity. Sometimes the crisis makes even starker intrusions on our daily lives, even here in the UK, through freak weather events leading to flash floods.
“We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970 and they are seven times more costly. Even the most developed countries have become vulnerable,” said the UN chief.
It could be easy to feel overwhelmed and think that, we, as individuals, can’t do much, even if we actually knew what to do. But the construction industry has an important role to play in this battle.
Heating accounts for about 37% of total UK carbon emissions. This breaks down as 17% of the UK’s carbon emissions coming from space heating (including a relatively small amount of cooling), 4% from heating water, 2% from cooking, and 14% from industrial processes.
Of those 17% of carbon emissions coming from the heating (and cooling) of buildings, about 13-14% can be attributed to domestic homes. This is mostly due to the fact that only about 5% of those homes currently use low-carbon heating systems.
Meanwhile, wholesale gas prices have surged by 250% in the past nine months, including a 70% rise since August alone.
Making our homes more efficient through better insulation is crucial, but it is only part of the answer.
Similarly, there is a looming water crisis in the UK, with parts of England predicted to face serious water shortages by 2050, unless there is a concerted effort to reduce consumption.
Our wasteful lifestyles, as they stand, are simply not sustainable, and the government’s response has not been very effective so far.
Thankfully manufacturers are already on the case; developing and releasing new technologies, such as hydrogen-ready boilers, or devices that make our heating systems smarter or help us reduce water usage.
Installers and plumbers stand on the frontline, here. You are the vital link between industry and customers. You can advise and guide your clients towards greener products, that will also save them money in the long run.
Not only does it make good environmental and business sense for all, it is what customers want from the trades.
You will find many examples of such technologies in this issue of HVP, hopefully arming you with the tools and knowledge to help make a difference.
It is our common duty and responsibility to try.
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