Decarbonising our heating systems

Leeds TUC’s Environmental sub-committee held a webinar recently on ‘Alternative ways to decarbonise our heating systems’ – the video includes a lot of useful information and some sharp critique of the idea that’ blue hydrogen’ could be a way forward.

Thanks to Les Levidov for the link

Energy efficient housing

The announcement by Paul Wheelhouse that the Scottish government will work on new regulations to ensure that new homes use renewable or low carbon energy sources for heating is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  However, the timescale for action is disappointingly unambitious; the new measures are not planned to be implemented until 2024.  Setting a much shorter deadline would send a message to private sector builders and local authorities that ‘climate emergency’ is exactly what it says. In housing, as elsewhere, action needs to be take place on the shortest time lines possible.

Let’s up the pressure for a mass public programme of retrofitting existing houses to be energy efficient.  This is a necessary step and in addition the climate jobs and the improvements in living conditions that it would generate would have a massive impact on people’s attitude to the climate emergency and what needs to be done.  It would be just transition in practice.

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Passive House, Image CC BY SA 3.0

Urban change in a time of climate crisis

Housing is a central issue in the transition to a long term sustainable economy.  As a group Scot.E3 has produced resources on Fuel Poverty and we are currently working on more resources that look at how passive houses and a mass campaign of home insulation could contribute to a just transition while at the same time as improving the quality off people’s lives.  We’re pleased to publish a post by Save Leith Walk activist Ian Hood on the work that the campaign has done to think about the future of hosing in their area.

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Early in 2018, it became clear that developers wanted to demolish a long parade of shops in Leith Walk and replace it with a student accommodation.  A popular local campaign emerged to challenge this and in January 2019 Edinburgh Council agreed that the building should not be demolished and that the proposed development was unacceptable.  Planning Permission was refused.

But the campaign has always been about more than just opposing the wishes of developers.  To be successful in the long run we need to promote an alternative vision, one that reflects the needs of the local community and can take it forward.

Over the last year campaign members have spoken to thousands of local workers and residents about what is important to them. We have directly canvassed the opinions of hundreds of local people about their preferences for new development in the Leith Walk area.   This was followed up by a local community planning workshop that looked at the needs and wishes of people who lived in the area.

And at the heart of the emerging view was the sense that any new development had to be both sustainable and promote strong environmental values.

We did not create a single business plan or an architectural map for developers.  We identified the three different elements that can contribute to the vision.  Sketch maps that illustrate each of these were drawn up.   The need for more social housing dominated in all of the visions and also important were business space, community support and green space.

Running through the core of the vision is the idea that ecological and environmental issues are not add ons at the end of a planning process but integral to any design.

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Community Housing (see image above) faces up to the long term problem of housing provision in Leith and provides a range of solutions to housing need.  Building diverse housing that allows people to live and play together strengthens our communities in fundamental ways.

  • Opening up to the Leith Walk community by creating new access through the centre of the building.
  • A covered walkway could be created at the rear of the building bringing the housing units into connection with the sandstone building.
  • Up to Eleven housing blocks in different sizes and shapes could be built in the land behind offering a range of housing opportunities including
    • Open Market homes,
    • intergenerational housing,
    • flexible and adaptable homes,
    • co-housing models
  • Designed to the Passive Housing standards making environmentally friendly homes.
  • Living walls could blend the development into the surrounding space
  • There could be a shared guest house and other community space reducing the need for spare rooms and encouraging sharing.
  • Affordable student housing owned by the community.

Community Cohesion is about strengthening community links and helping people to focus on the challenges that affect them and develop new skills to tackle them.   It can create a new vision of community where people from different racial, class, gender, age and religious backgrounds are partners in their own futures.

  • A refreshed building, made Green Energy resilient.
  • New opportunities to existing businesses and new small, low cost starter units.
  • Blocks of colony style eco homes consisting of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom flats to allow for real flexibility over time.Social housing block providing accessible housing for older people and disabled people.
  • A Community Event Centre that could offer classes and social opportunities.
  • Opportunities for beehives, public artworks, fruit trees, bench seating. And an open air market.

Community Enterprise addresses the challenge of how to create employment opportunities in Leith that meet the demands of the global market.  It recognises that businesses are stronger when cooperation and mutual support are part of a shared value basis.  Working together to create jobs, new business and entrepreneurial opportunities can transform our community.

  • The building would be refreshed, upgrading it with an accessible green roof and additional business pods.
  • The existing shops and business would be revitalised to offer opportunities to existing businesses as well as offering small, low cost starter units.
  • Design attention to wellbeing and support for locals. A community bakery could be integral part of the building to allow people to come together, to bake bread together and to share bread together.
  • A social enterprise and community space to train and share business skills including incubator units for creative, media, IT and other businesses.
  • A block of open market starter, eco homes with space for new businesses
  • Additional green space with open meadows planted with wildflowers, recreational natural green space, community orchard, accessible allotments, beehives and vegetable gardens.

Our vision seeks to build on the strength of the existing community and to create new ways of bringing people together.  They can enhance the area, preserve its diversity and inclusivity, and contribute towards Leith having a bright future in the 21stcentury.

The Stead’s Place site is too small to contain all of these solutions but we will work with other sites and local stakeholders over the next few months to develop our plans.

Urban development today in the light of a real Climate Crisis needs to work with people’s needs and not be imposed by profit seekers.   Single sites cannot be allowed to simply focus on one issue, retail, student accommodation, tourism but must integrate different part of the community’s need into a coherent vision.

We have started that work and welcome the support of others in continuing to develop this vision.

Ian Hood

Save Leith Walk

For More Information and contact us

Email:  Info@saveleithwalk.org

Web:www.saveleithwalk.org

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Fuel Poverty, Energy and the fight for Climate Jobs

Stage one of the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Bill was completed on 20th February 2019. In our view the bill is not ambitious enough. We risk missing an important opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, create new climate jobs and strike a blow for social justice. Ending Fuel Poverty could and should be part of the Just Transition to a zero carbon economy that we need. We will publish more on this in the coming weeks – contributions are welcome.

Here are Marlyn Tweedie’s thoughts on the subject.

On Feb 15th, school children, all over Europe, came out on strike in protest at the catastrophic future they face because of climate change.

We need to make big changes re. our energy sources if we are to slow down climate change.

What if we could use sustainable energy sources to reverse climate change damage and provide cheaper fuel? Wouldn’t this be a win- win solution?

Fuel Poverty In Scotland

Over 25% of households live in fuel poverty – defined as spending 10% or more of your income on fuel bills, or, if, after paying for fuel, your income is below the poverty line.

In rural Scotland, the extent of fuel poverty is higher. A 2016 report states that in accessible rural areas, there is 35% fuel poverty and in remote areas, the figure is 45%.

Regarding extreme fuel poverty, the comparable figures are 7% for Scotland, as a region; 12% in accessible rural areas and 28% in remote areas.

Low income, high energy costs and poorly insulated homes result in this appalling situation where families, young people, elderly, disabled and many working people cannot afford adequate warmth.

A situation, which, it is estimated, contributes to 5,500 deaths a year.

What Can Be Done?

Fuel poverty would be best approached as part of a radical change in energy policy.

Scotland has an abundance of renewable energies – in the form of wave, wind and tidal energy.

The costs are cheaper. Current gas and oil costs are between 4p and 12p per kilowatt hour. Renewables are between 2p and 7p.

If, alongside a switch to renewables. A mass insulation campaign was implemented, carbon emissions could be cut by 95%.

The Campaign against Climate Change notes Three quarters of emissions from houses and flats are caused by heating air and water. To reduce this we need to insulate and draught- proof buildings and replace inefficient boilers. This can cut the amount of energy used by about 40% and delivers the double whammy of reducing energy costs and helping mitigate the scourge of fuel poverty.

It is estimated that a campaign to insulate all homes in Scotland would employ 20,000 construction workers for the next 20 years.

Further reading – the ScotE3 briefing on Fuel Poverty

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Image by climatejusticecollective CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cj_collective/6992454230

Fuel Poverty Briefing

The latest briefing looks at Fuel Poverty in Scotland, the Scottish Government’s Draft Fuel Poverty Bill and the importance of Climate Jobs.  Please share and download to print paper copies for distribution.

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Image shows page 1 of the briefing