On 1 May 2019, the UK government declared a climate emergency. But three years later, it's clear that we’re not acting anywhere near quick enough to achieve a 1.5°C liveable planet, and the built environment remains a huge part of the problem.

The UK’s independent Climate Change Committee states that the UK needs to reduce total carbon emissions by 63%, based on 2019 levels, by 2035 to fulfil the Paris agreement. And our buildings account for a whopping 23% of that total.

And only a few weeks ago, the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee described the UK’s much-delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy as “not yet comprehensive or complete”.

What exactly is the problem?

The UK is hugely reliant on gas boilers to heat what is some of the leakiest housing stock in Europe. But rather than leading the rapid transition to green energy that we need, last year the UK installed over 1.7 million gas boilers, compared to 67,000 heat pumps.

Not only is that an extra 1.7 million households locked into fossil fuels, and who may face having to expensively retrofit their property in a few years’ time, that’s also 1.7 million households locked into rising prices and volatile energy markets.

What is the #EndGasNow campaign?

Convened by sustainability engineers Etude, over 25 organisations, including Bioregional, have committed to not work on any new housing or built environment projects that involve the installation of new or replacement fossil fuel heating systems.

The campaign launched earlier this week, with a webinar, featuring our CEO and co-founder, Sue Riddlestone OBE, along with fellow signatories: Cullinan Studio, JG Consulting and KLH Sustainability.

We work with leaders – none of our clients are asking if we should end gas now – they're just asking how we can do it

Sue Riddlestone OBE, Bioregional CEO and co-founder

Why now?

There’s simply no time to lose. We’re in a climate ecological emergency. As the IPCC declared earlier in April, the warnings are dire, but there is time – if we act right now – to secure a liveable future.

As Etude’s Chris Worboys explained during the launch, if the UK continues its current trajectory, it will have used up its entire carbon budget by 2028.

The Climate Change Committee recently set out that we need to end the use of fossil fuels in new buildings by 2030. Schemes will typically have a five-year time lag from design to delivery, so to meet our obligations we must phase out gas right now.

As the #EndGasNow campaign states: “Preventing the installation of new or replacement gas boilers cuts off the flow of money to the fossil fuel industry. This includes boiler manufacturers, gas extraction and refining, gas network operators, gas retailers, and gas installers. It creates a positive impact by redirecting cash flows toward the industries we need to build a net-zero future, such as heat pump manufacturers, renewable electricity generators, the electricity grid, electricity retailers, and heat pump installers.”

What will it mean for Bioregional?

This is a cause we believe in, and a stand we are prepared to take. As purpose-driven sustainability consultants, we are always led by science and are committed to calling out greenwash where we find it. This means we already only work on projects that seek to achieve net-zero carbon, and we always champion a zero-gas approach. To do otherwise would be anathema to our core principles. We may lose potential clients, but we hope to spur even more developers and asset owners to take action, and to raise awareness across the built environment sector that it is possible to do so.

Asked at the launch how our clients would react, Sue said: “We work with leaders – none are asking if we should end gas now – they're just asking how we can do it.”

What should be done instead?

The Netherlands has proved that there are other routes, committing to phase out gas in new buildings way back in 2018, and that by 2030, 1.5 million homes must have changed to a renewable heat source. By comparison, the UK is still only considering introducing legislation to phase out gas in new builds by 2025.

Coupled with transitioning to green energy sources, the UK desperately needs a deep retrofit programme to transform its leaky building stock. This could generate over 130,000 skilled green jobs over the next eight years.

Join us

If you’re a business owner looking to genuinely show climate leadership, then now’s your chance to join us. Pledge to #EndGasNow and be part of the solution.

Image credits: Natural gas rig: Pixabay, under Creative Commons, gas flame: Pruthvi Sagar, via Unsplash, home retrofit: Ashden, via Climate Visuals

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Ronan Leyden
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