Twenty years to save the planet

Twenty years to save the planet

Russell Smith, Director of RetrofitWorks, the growing, not-for-profit co-operative, established to improve the UK’s existing housing stock in an environmentally friendly way through Trustmark accredited repairs, maintenance and improvement works, gives us his view on the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

Earlier this month, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest Sixth Assessment Report which provides a more detailed regional assessment of climate change. It is the result of 5 years’ worth of work from 234 leading scientists across more than 60 countries. The results are frightening although not surprising and set the tone for the COP26 Climate Change Conference in the Autumn.

Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years into the future. A lot of work has been done by the IPCC to remove any last remnants of speculation that climate change is man-made. Given the pace of change reported, it is now clear widespread devastation and extreme weather are likely to become inevitable within the next two decades thanks to human behaviour causing rising temperatures and irregularity in weather patterns.

So, we have 20 years. We can do something about it but we need to act immediately, and whilst the UK has, relatively speaking, been bold in its setting of a net-zero carbon 2050 target, this is now 9 years too late. The retrofitting of the national housing stock is the most critical climate problem to solve, contributing 20 % of the nation’s carbon emissions; it is the biggest engineering challenge the UK has ever faced and without a plan we simply will not beat climate change.

There is no Planet B for us to use, this is our only one and we need to take care of it.

RetrofitWorks came about as a not-for-profit provider of services, with the aim to tackle some critical impasses at the heart of the building industry, whereupon all key stakeholders are waiting for everyone else to make the first move. We have had some notable successes in building local brands. RetrofitWorks MD Russell Smith worked with the Construction Leadership Council to create a National Retrofit Strategy that modelled the work required to retrofit the nations homes with a target date of 2040, anticipating the acceleration of need:

Why take the gamble?

All quarters of the building industry are keen to make progress; they want to invest, are willing to roll their sleeves up, but they need leadership from central Government because only it can unlock some of the tough barriers. The hotly anticipated and now hugely delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy is said to hold those keys but it is held up presumably to weigh up the political angles. We’re beyond this now. The only angle now is whether the government and those in opposition are willing to gamble with the lives of every person on Earth, and every day we delay, increases the odds in disaster.

Why does this affect home improvement businesses?

All of above is fact. Legislation will be put in place to try to slow climate change and this in turn will impact the ways in which home improvement businesses operate, what skillsets they need, what materials they can and can’t use, quality management systems etc etc.

I urge businesses and individuals working in the building industry, including but not limited to installers/contractors, energy assessors, retrofit co-ordinators, architects, designers, project managers, refurbishment specialists to get ahead now, improve your understanding of buildings long term needs and how to explain and offer this to customers. RetrofitWorks’ membership can help with this, to transform your business and support you and bring customers that already want a low carbon home.

For more information or to find out how your business can benefit from joining the growing Retrofit movement, visit or call 0330 123 1334

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