Climate Week Scotland aims to raise awareness of climate change and highlight what society needs to do to reach net zero. Since its inception in 2016, we’re happy to see that progress has been made, year on year. It’s heartening to hear from businesses, schools, and communities about the great work that they’re doing to tackle the climate emergency.
However, Climate Week is also a time to reflect on how much we still need to do. This is especially true now the UK Government is rolling back on its net zero commitments. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s policies risk making an already difficult task close to impossible.
I’m proud to look back on the difference Changeworks has made over the last year. Our most recent impact report shows that in 2022-23, we supported more than 67,000 householders to take decarbonisation actions. We installed insulation and low-carbon heating in properties across Scotland. Over their lifetime, these measures will save 370,000 tonnes of carbon. Since 13% of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from our homes, this work is crucial for reaching net zero.
Much more to be done
Despite Changeworks’ impact, decarbonisation of Scotland’s homes needs to move faster. As it stands, Scotland is failing to meet its zero emissions targets. Currently, over 50% of Scottish homes have an Energy Performance rating of D or below. This poor energy efficiency means we burn more fossil fuels in an effort to maintain a reasonable indoor temperature. This is where the link between the climate crisis and fuel poverty crisis becomes obvious. Longer periods of carbon-intensive heating lead to higher, unaffordable energy bills. According to the latest figures from the Scottish Government, around 35% of Scottish households are in fuel poverty.
The extreme weather disasters over the summer are a stark reminder of the dangerous effects of a rapidly heating planet. The Scottish Government has rightly set ambitious climate targets to tackle the climate emergency: a 75% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030, and net zero by 2045. To meet that interim target, over one million Scottish homes need to convert from fossil fuel heating to low or zero emission systems by 2030. The vast majority of these systems will need to be heat pumps, and the current rate of change is not encouraging. The government’s latest data suggests around 3,000 heat pumps a year are installed in Scotland. To quote directly from the same report, getting from where we are to where we need to be requires “eye-watering acceleration”.
Beyond Climate Week Scotland, there’s no time to waste
Instead of supporting our mission, the UK Government is undermining it. By watering down the policies which support net zero, the task becomes so much harder. A weakened commitment to a low carbon society condemns more people to fuel poverty and risks a messier, unjust transition in the near future.
We all need to do more, and faster, to tackle the climate emergency and support people out of fuel poverty. At Changeworks, we are investing in our growth and expanding our services to maximise our ongoing impact. In the run up to 2030 and beyond, we will continue to scale up, working with even more organisations and reaching more householders to travel Scotland’s path to net zero.