OPINION: The news that Victoria may cave to housing industry pressure to further delay the implementation of 7 star NatHERS relating to energy efficiency in housing and that New South Wales might also cave is bad news for humanity.
The Fifth Estate was alive with angry comment on the likely delays to implementing 7 stars NatHERS in the National Construction Code V2. Personally, I wasn’t remotely surprised or even angry – barely, even disappointed – just same old, same old!
I am now dulled to Australia’s serial failure on anything and everything to do with the existential threat of the climate emergency. What I need for my sanity is to see a real, significant and sustained success to make me believe that we are not psychopaths and actually have the will to change for a survivable future for our kids and grandkids.
The mounting evidence of the climate collapsing around our ears still hasn’t shaken us out of our complacency – never mind our kids, perhaps it won’t even be survivable for us.
7 stars NatHERS was never a real and significant change – it was trivial and a cowardly cave in to vested interests and Luddite Housing Industry Association and Master Builders Australia lobbying, with our spineless governments and institutions – brilliant at wringing their hands and making excuses, but totally incapable of showing any determined leadership for a survivable future.
7 stars hasn’t even been sustained for the year needed between agreement (ha!) to implementation [Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have delayed for three years], so we look set to be stuck with 6 stars for many more years (already 13). So, from my perspective, almost nothing is lost.
But every failure can also be an opportunity. So, here’s my provocative question: are the people expressing their anger this time around ready to actually do something about it, or are they just grandstanding again, to look good for a news cycle and then go back to sleep?
If the angry are serious this time, then let’s turn the tables on the HIA and MBA and say – OK we’re taking 7 stars off the table now and we’re going back to what we wanted originally – we’re now demanding Net Zero emissions NOW.
So, what would be the consequences of making such a demand?
- We would accelerate emissions reductions from all houses four times faster than 7 stars would have achieved (56 per cent by 2050)
- We would ensure that almost all new house roofs had solar PV installed from new – contributing significantly to our renewable energy targets
- We would make all new houses significantly more affordable from day 1 when the new owner picks up the keys – their energy cost savings over a net zero house would be up to eight times greater than the additional mortgage payments for the solar panels on the roofs (five times in NSW climate zones; though these ratios may be changed as the result of mortgage rate and energy cost rises since September 2022)
- Homebuilders would be forced to build solar onto new properties from new (start clutching those pearls homebuilders), but in very little time, homebuilders will realise that this is a fantastic opportunity for value add (oversizing of solar arrays in readiness for the electric vehicle, vehicle charging points, home batteries, electrifying and avoiding the need for gas connections, premium appliances etcetera). Homebuilders will quickly reach agreements with (or employ) solar installers to bring build costs down – it’s obviously much cheaper to install solar from new than retrofit for net zero
How might we go about it?
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Well, we could reboot the net zero for national Construction Code V2 campaign. We should expect all those expressing their anger to very publicly join this campaign and to bring their networks and organisations with them.
We can demand that the 100 organisations that spruiked 7 stars as some sort of glorious achievement instead of an embarrassing cave to vested interests to now stand up for real change with all the benefits listed above. We can agitate with state and federal governments for this to happen fast since the NCC update process has collapsed ignominiously. We can hold them to account.
If you’re angry and up for this challenge, please email me at email@example.com – if I get enough replies I’ll organise a meeting. I will be looking for a high profile, charismatic leader who is well connected and committed to this process to lead it, because my failure to gain traction first time around proves that this is not me and I really don’t mind! Succeeding matters not my ego.