Zero Carbon Cumbria - Carbon reduction action across the county.

Buildings emissions reduction pathway


Executive summary

Emissions from energy use in buildings accounts for around 14% of the 11.1MtCO2e of Cumbria’s priority emissions.

Tackling these emissions will therefore play a huge role in reducing Cumbria’s overall carbon footprint. It would also result in many additional benefits. Read on for our approach to tackling these emissions.

A vision for buildings in Cumbria

In 2037, buildings in Cumbria, both residential and non-residential, will be designed to be warm, comfortable, and low or net zero carbon structures. These buildings will have a significantly lower contribution to climate change, achieve high energy efficiency and use renewable energy sources. This low carbon approach spans the entire life cycle of buildings – encompassing construction, use, maintenance, and potential re-use or demolition.

These buildings will play a role in local energy systems, ensuring supply is secure, resilient and can accommodate increasing demand, thus further supporting Cumbria’s pathway to net zero. Cumbria’s buildings will be fit for purpose, enhance people’s relationships with the environment, safeguard local nature and maximise social and economic benefits for all.

Why buildings?

Buildings contribute significantly to carbon emissions due to high energy consumption for electricity and heating which are traditionally sourced from burning fossil fuels. Additionally, the materials and processes used in constructing and maintaining buildings also have a substantial carbon impact.  

The impact of buildings accounts for 14% of Cumbria’s total priority carbon emissions.  

Cumbria faces particular challenges that contribute to the scale of the emissions from buildings, from their location, to the diverse building type and age, and also the limited experience of delivering low carbon options from many organisations in the building industry. The combination of these factors has resulted in a high proportion of low efficiency buildings  and a reliance on fossil-fuelled heating systems. 

According to the latest EPC rating figures, there are around 65% of properties in Cumbria (of those with an EPC rating) that have a rating below a C grade.  

The collective impact on emissions from buildings emphasises the need for an integrated approach to address energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and transition to sustainable construction practices.

Buildings are integral to the fabric of communities, from the way they are designed to the way they are used, influencing quality of life, social interactions and connection to nature. Therefore, recognising the value of the various benefits that improving buildings can bring for individuals, communities, businesses, and the environment is key to achieving the vision.

Additional benefits

The scale of the challenge

In order to meet the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership’s (ZCCP) ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2037, the ‘Summary of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Cumbria’ report estimates that emissions from existing buildings and future new builds needs to be reduced by 96% by 2037.

How will we achieve the vision?

To achieve the goal of a reduction of emissions by 96%, the national milestones within the Sixth Carbon Budget for buildings have been accelerated to align with the 2037 target.  For Cumbria this means an annual reduction in emissions associated with buildings of around 12% between now and 2030, and increased to 20% per year through to 2037. 

‘The Summary of Greenhouse Gases for Cumbria’ report gives some indicative 2030 milestones against these targets:

Milestone2030 2037 
Home retrofit upgrades (% of the homes needing upgrading) 95% 100% 
Shift to heat pumps  75% 96% 
New homes with heat pumps 79% 99% 

However, the decarbonisation pathway above does not yet reflect all buildings, local capacity to deliver, regional strategies or data, or additional opportunities to reduce emissions. To ensure the action plan supports a bottom-up approach and to enable more effective delivery of the emission reduction measures, further work has been undertaken and more will be required, to be able to measure the impact of improvements against the trajectory. This includes improving the information available and understanding of local non-residential buildings.

The Buildings Emissions Reduction Pathway (ERP) is a set of strategic priorities and proposed actions that has been co-produced by a buildings sector group comprising organisations that have an active role in designing, constructing and operating buildings in Cumbria. The group has analysed a range of data and research, taken a deep dive into current and future local and national policy, identified stakeholders and explored examples of best practice and national guidance in order to identify the strategic actions that would contribute most to significant emission reduction in the sector, whilst also delivering benefits for people and places.   

The strategic priorities align with the leading sustainable guidance which focuses on both the upgrading of existing buildings and the design and construction of new buildings towards a net zero standard.

The strategic priorities are summarised below.  

Strategic priorities

Strategic priority 1.

Improve the energy efficiency of existing Cumbrian building stock so that space heating and hot water demand is reduced to agreed energy use intensity targets.

Auditing buildings

Strategic priority 2.

Replace fossil fuel heating and electricity generation with low carbon technologies.

Heat pump

Strategic priority 3.

Improve environmental standards regarding the construction of new buildings.

Low carbon building methods

Strategic priority 4.

Finance, evaluation and communication.

Low carbon transport

For the full list of emissions reduction and enabling actions which are proposed to deliver each strategic priority, see the Buildings Emissions Reduction Action Plan. 

The emissions reduction action plan also identifies some of the key challenges, considerations and potential collaborators for each action. 

Who needs to be involved

Engagement and collaboration with residents, businesses, local authorities and other organisations in the county will be crucial to the successful delivery of the recommended actions. A range of organisations have been identified that are rooted in place and connected to their communities and which could progress the brokering of partnerships, refine the solutions, and be key strategic delivery partners.  

The ZCC Partnership will continue to develop, review and update the pathway and actions to ensure it reflects learning from new research, delivery of actions and any strategic changes including policy, legislation and technology.

Key documents

The Emissions Reduction Pathway sets out the strategic direction to reduce carbon emissions. It includes a carbon baseline, a vision and objectives for a net zero Cumbria, priority areas for reducing emissions and how we should tackle decarbonisation.

The Emissions Reduction Action Plan sets out detailed proposed actions for emissions reduction in each sector.  Actions are built around priority areas for decarbonisation, identifying potential targets and key stakeholders for delivery.

We welcome your feedback!

Your feedback is critical to the development of the plans. It will help inform the Cumbria-wide decarbonisation plan, due to be published at the end of the year. If you would like progress updates, please indicate that you would like us to contact you at the bottom of the form.

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