Mortgages can help achieve a zero-carbon world

In our latest blog, CEO, Kevin Gray, talks about how mortgages can help achieve a zero carbon world.

In the last few years, I have been growing ever more conscious of the impact that we humans are having on the planet, particularly the threat from irreversible climate change caused by the unchecked burning of fossil fuels.  In short, I am convinced that if we are to prevent catastrophic damage to mother Earth, we are all going to have to change our lives and become net zero emitters of carbon.   This is going to take some doing but it’s not impossible.

Local government has already set its sights on reducing emissions from transport, threatening pseudo emissions/congestion charges without suggesting how electric transportation will be promoted or how public transport will be boosted to replace private vehicles.  In my opinion, this ‘stick’ strategy threatens the livelihoods of those who can least afford to make quick changes.  I am quite sure that our children and grandchildren will find it almost inconceivable that we were able to drive our petrol and diesel burning cars into the centre of the Georgian City of Bath, both damaging the local physical environment and air quality, and contributing to the warming of the planet.  I am quite sure that with a bit of ‘carrot plus stick’, we will all be driving electric cars much sooner than the Government’s target date of 2040.  This will however depend on achieving advances in battery technology, reducing the costs of electric vehicles, introducing scrappage schemes, having greater access to charging points, making strides to produce cleaner electricity from renewables and significantly boosting public transport provision. 

One major area that we are going to have to tackle is emissions caused by the heating of our own homes.  I was listening to Moneybox on Radio 4 last Saturday and was interested in an article on how ground source heat pumps could help to reduce the carbon footprint of our homes and save householders money into the bargain.  The biggest savings would be for rural dwellers, like me, who currently rely on oil or LPG for heating their homes.  I am definitely going to follow up on this as government grants are available and significant savings in heating costs can be achieved.

The Society’s regulator has recently issued instructions to all societies and banks stating that they should start to examine the risks posed by a warming climate on their businesses.  As Chief Executive, this has spurred me on to consider specifically presenting a climate change strategy to our Board which would, for example, look at the growing risks from lending on property in coastal or low-lying areas that are becoming more susceptible to flooding.  We will also consider whether we can change our lending criteria to help home owners reduce their carbon footprint by making their homes more energy efficient.  This might include making mortgage advances to finance the building of eco-friendly homes and extensions, installing double or triple glazing, undertaking cavity wall insulation or the fitting of ground source heat pumps.

I am convinced that mortgage lenders are going to have to satisfy a rising demand from customers who will wish to use housing equity to finance investment in eco-friendly housing initiatives.  I am determined that Bath Building Society will be ready to do its bit.

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