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Urgent upskilling needed to meet 2050 net zero target

On May 2 the Committee on Climate Change released its report, Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. Mark Wilkins, head of training and external affairs for Vaillant, says that while many of the recommendations put forward should be actioned, special emphasis must be given to upskilling the UK workforce to meet the 2050 target.

Mark Wilkins.

The CCC’s recently published report is both wide-reaching and ambitious, examining decarbonisation from a range of sources with recognition of the different opportunities available to devolved administrations.

The report recommends that the UK vigorously pursues its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, revising the current target of 80 per cent reduction in relation to 1990 levels.

Above all, the report emphasises the urgency of acting now in order to safeguard our future – a position which Vaillant strongly endorses. Outlining a number of well-substantiated and realistic proposals, the report fairly weighs the options in terms of achieving its recommended targets. 

However, whether you agree with the finer points of the report or not, one thing is certain: it is essential that we upskill the workforce now, across the supply chain, if we are to have any chance of hitting the net zero target.

At present, we have an immensely skilled workforce providing fossil fuel solutions. In order to deliver the solutions necessary to achieve the CCC’s 2050 goal, there is an urgent need for a framework, roadmap and dedicated funding to support the transition to low carbon solutions.

The CCC’s report focuses on using a mix of available technologies, rather than backing just one horse – a stance which Vaillant has also advocated in recent weeks. It also recognises that green gas and hydrogen boilers have a part to play, especially when linked with heat pumps in hybrid systems. 

Whatever this mix of technologies will eventually be, there will be a requirement for skilled individuals to design and implement the necessary infrastructure, and installers who are qualified to bring these solutions into UK homes. 

The importance of upskilling is again illustrated by the report’s position that energy efficiency and insulation should be considered the ‘first’ fuel. The recommended energy efficiency retrofit of 29 million existing homes would undoubtedly be a massive undertaking, and one which could only realistically be achieved with a greater base of skilled workers. 

In regard to this skills shortage, the report advises the introduction of a nationwide training programme for designers, specifiers and installers. This would be developed to close the knowledge gap around crucial areas such as heat pumps, energy and water efficiency, ventilation and thermal comfort, and property-level flood resilience.

Vaillant welcomes this recommendation, and believes that it should not only be considered by government, but implemented as soon as possible to support any wider plan for the reduction of carbon emissions.

Alongside this national training programme, the report states that a regulatory and support framework for low carbon heating is required to address the funding gap. Similarly, Vaillant would call for the implementation of policies to deliver the commitments announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement – A Future Homes Standard with low carbon heating in new build from 2025.

Vaillant supports the CCC’s call for clear, stable and well-designed policies to support carbon reduction, and agrees with the recommendations related to the decarbonisation of heating and the home environment.

The emphasis on upskilling is of particular note, as this is an element which can often be missed during such discussions, but which will play a pivotal role in carbon reduction.

9 May 2019

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