Reducing Our Emissions 1: Housing and greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland

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Currently there are 2.58 million dwellings in Scotland, most of which are occupied, with 3% being empty and 1% second homes. The Residential sector covers all of Scotland’s housing, older and new, including owner occupied, private and socially rented housing, located across the country.

In 2015, the latest year data is available, emissions from the Residential sector were 12.7% of the total emissions in Scotland, increasing by 3.0 per cent since 2014. The main driver for this increase was the combustion of fuel for heating, reflecting cooler mean temperatures in 2015 compared to 2014. The overall trend since 1990 shows a decrease of emissions, which is good news, but we can do better.

Climate Change Plan

In fact we need to do better: The Climate Change plan will be published later in February and it will explain how Scottish Government intends to meet the emission reduction targets until 2032. The draft Plan, which was published last year, provides the strategic framework for our transition to a low carbon Scotland and includes policies and proposals to reduce emissions from housing as well as other sectors of the Scottish economy (the other sectors are: electricity generation, transport, services, industry, forestry, peatlands, waste, and agriculture). The policy outcomes for the Residential sector as identified in the draft Plan are:

  1. Improvements to the fabric of Scotland’s domestic buildings result in a 6% reduction in their heat demand by 2032; and
  2. By 2032 80% of domestic buildings’ heat is supplied using low carbon heat technologies.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets

While these targets may appear challenging, it would be helpful to note that the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) has an interim target for reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020, and a 2050 target of 80% compared to a 1990 baseline for most gases. And this is not the full picture: The Scottish Government intends to introduce a new Climate Change Bill with even more ambitious targets: increasing the 2050 target to 90% emissions reduction, and making provisions for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target to be set when the evidence becomes available.

What does that mean for housing in Scotland?

Housing will have to make a significant contribution to Scotland’s commitments to reduce our energy consumption and our greenhouse gas emissions and the key factors to achieve it will be improved design and energy efficiency.

Our Materials Library is a good place to start when researching low-carbon and energy efficient building materials and methods.

Image: Scotland’s Housing Expo by Dynam




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