Passivhaus refurb - the kind of ambition we need

Just came across this blog outlining how a person called Adam is in the process of converting their 1970s house into a Passivhaus – a standard that results in around 90% savings on energy compared to a normal house. A quick look through it shows that this is no easy task but it is a good example of the kind of action that we do need to be taking if we are serious about matching the rhetoric of keeping climate change below 2oC.

As recent scientific evidence shows, at the moment the action that we are taking is nowhere near sufficient to keep below a 2oC rise in temperature. In the UK, the level of action set out by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), if replicated by other countries, would still only give us a really small chance of keeping below it. Having done some work recently with the Tyndall Centre to explore emission reductions in the UK that would better match this target, the scale of the challenge is clear. What matters are cumulative emissions and the CCC budgets result in approximately 14000MTCO2 being emitted during the period 2010-2050. By comparison, the 2oC scenario has cumulative emissions of 7600MTCO2 in the same period. A key reason for this is that in the 2oC scenario the drop off in emissions is really rapid so that by 2030 they have been reduced by nearly 80% (including international aviation and shipping).

Now you could argue that this kind of emissions reduction is unrealistic but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and, if we are serious about climate change, it is certainly desirable. The passivhaus blog made me think of this because in our 2oC scenario we adopted a hugely ambitious reduction in heat demand for domestic properties of 80% (although similar to the Zero carbon Britain report). This compares with reductions in domestic heat demand of about 20% (at the top end) in the work that has informed the CCC. Yes, it is hugely ambitious but that is what we need – we won’t make the changes required through a bit of tinkering here and there. This passivhaus project is inspiring because it reflects this level of ambition and if Adam does reduce heat demand by 90% then it will sit well with the 2oC scenario too.

Good luck to him!

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