Climate change, sustainability and zero emissions: what the SFHA is doing

As part of the lead up to Scottish Housing Day on 15 September, SFHA Policy and Research Lead Cassandra Dove explores the theme of climate change, sustainability and zero emmissions and the work that SFHA is doing with partner organisations in the Scottish social housing sector. 

Earlier this week, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the first report of its Climate Change 2021 series, focussing the physical science basis of climate change. It discusses the role of human activities on global warming, highlighting the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to halt, and potentially reverse, the rise in global temperatures. With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) due to take place in Glasgow later this year, world leaders will soon be gathering to reflect on the action needed to tackle the climate emergency and work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.  

Scotland has set particularly ambitious climate change targets and we know there is a need for accelerated action if these targets are to be met. While all sectors and areas of society will have to play their part, our homes will require significant improvements in energy efficiency alongside increased deployment of zero or low emissions heating systems. It is therefore welcome that this year’s Scottish Housing Day, which takes place on 15th September, will focus on housing and the climate emergency.  

For the social housing sector, the Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce (ZEST) was convened earlier this year to consider what is required to maximise the sector’s contribution to tackling climate change. Key challenges lie in not only implementing effective technical solutions and funding the improvements needed in both existing and new homes, but also in ensuring that everyone is brought along in the journey as part of a just transition. The costs of addressing the climate emergency cannot borne by those least able to afford it and the shift to decarbonised forms of heat must be aligned with Scotland’s ambition to eradicate fuel poverty. SFHA has co-chaired this taskforce and the group will be presenting its final report to government ministers later this month. 

In the lead up to COP26, SFHA will be providing members with various opportunities to engage in conversations about climate change, and more importantly take action to reduce their environmental impact and support tenants in the net zero transition. This includes the launch of a new strategic partnership with Changeworks and Warmworks in addition to a new quarterly Energy Forum. SFHA will also be hosting a virtual Energy Conference on the 21st September which will be designed around addressing some of the key challenges of the energy transition, showcasing practical solutions and highlighting good practice across the sector. 

SFHA is also developing a new programme of Climate Emergency Training for Social Housing which is being delivered in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful. This will be accredited training which explore the key the role of the housing sector in achieving Scotland’s emission reduction aims, and the low carbon behaviours and actions required to achieve these ambitions. A taster session will be taking place next month to coincide with Scottish Housing Day.  

We are also working with members to update the existing Sustainability Reporting Standard (SRS) for Social Housing to ensure it is fit for the Scottish context. The SRS aims to unify the way in which registered providers present environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their business, therefore making this information more accessible to investors. 

The Healthier Homes initiative, which is part of the Tec in Housing programme, will also involve working with landlords and customers to explore the role that digital technology can play in proactive service delivery and preventative approaches to customer health and wellbeing as it relates to energy efficiency and heat in homes.  

With COP26 fast approaching, we have an opportunity to engage a wider audience in climate change action and showcase the good work already taking place in Scotland. Social landlords and their tenants have already been leading the way through the installation of zero emission heating systems and various community level projects, including those funded through the Social Housing Net Zero Heat Fund (which re-opened for applications this week) and Climate Challenge Fund. As part of this year’s Scottish Housing Day, there is also an open call for examples of good practice which will be showcased as part of the event so please share any climate change action projects you would like to feature.  

Becoming a truly ‘Net Zero Nation’ will require major shifts in our thinking and everyday behaviours alongside collaborative working and significant investment. We welcome the opportunity to be part of this year’s Scottish Housing Day and look forward to discussing the role of housing in addressing the climate emergency in a fair and just way.  

This article originally appeared on the SFHA website.