Paul Morrell, the Chief Construction Advisor, puts forward a very clear and non-emotional exposition of the challenges we face in decarbonising every aspect of our lives in the next 20 years. The challenge is even greater when you consider that the bulk of our existing housing stock – 26.5m homes – needs work.
Finding the answer to the question of who will do this work is the real challenge. The damage done by white van man to the homeowner has left a legacy of total mistrust and even the big utility contractors are not above homeowners’ suspicion.
New operators with trusted brands and brand values which homeowners can associate with seem to be the only way to overcome the scepticism. The fact is that the majority of the people who will do this work are unlikely to be working in the industry today – and that is a bitter pill for the construction industry to swallow.
I say this because a great chunk (30%) of construction professionals are due to retire in the next 10 years. The remaining 70% will face a big difference in the skills required to handle new technologies and the new way of working. How many of those left will be able to cope with that level of change?
If the challenge is to be tackled our politicians will have to overcome their natural tendency to avoid vote-losing policies and make the domestic decarbonising programme a legal requirement. To create a politically level playing field there will need to be cross-party consensus.
The decarbonising programme will converge with another priority area also requiring political consensus – care of the elderly and vulnerable.
It has been suggested that people should pay for their care out of a “death tax” or similar levy. Being faced with having to pay such a levy and to decarbonise your home at the same time will be a harsh blow to a generation who have paid through the nose in their working life to look after everyone else and seen their pension funds trashed.
I hope someone in power is making these connections, because if they are not, the silos will explode with the result that the carbon gains will not be achieved and people will end their lives in a wretched manner. Assets that were meant to make life more comfortable in old age will become so diminished as to be almost useless. Perhaps it is this generation that is meant to fall on its sword.