New policies are urgently required to boost the energy efficiency of new and existing homes if the UK is to reach its long-term climate targets, the research claims.

Released today (2 September), the report calls for the soon-to-be-released Clean Growth Plan to include a strategy that triples the speed at which existing homes are retrofitted, to ensure that four million homes are improved by 2025.

“This report brings home the huge challenge we face if we are to meet our climate obligations,” WWF head of energy and climate change Gareth Redmond-King said. “This winter too many people will be living in cold homes that leak and waste energy. This is piling hundreds of pounds onto people’s fuel bills, as well as damaging their health, and is ruining out planet.

“The Clean Growth Plan must prioritise giving support to people to make sure their homes use as little energy as possible; otherwise, our homes really will cost the earth”.

‘Undermined confidence’

The Clean Growth Plan, due for release later this month, will outline how the UK aims to reach its legally-binding target to limit annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032. Households are responsible for an estimated 20% of the UK’s total climate emissions, and unless addressed, the UK is likely to fall short of its climate change targets by as much as 30% by 2025, according to WWF.

The environmental group insists that the Clean Growth Plan should seek to improve household energy efficiency through a target to bring all homes to energy performance certificate (EPC) rating C or above by 2035. It should also ensure that all new homes are ultra-low emission from 2020, and fix the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for private rented homes by October.

The group calls for new incentives to encourage householders to make improvements to their homes. This chimes with a survey commissioned by WWF which found that 72% of people would insulate their homes if a Government subsidy was available.

Insulating UK homes to the recommended standard by 2025 would not only save the equivalent emissions of taking 1.7 million cars off roads, but would wipe more than half a billion pounds from domestic energy bills each year, according to WWF.

UK-Green Building Council policy and campaign director John Alker said that a robust plan could help deliver warmer, cheaper low-carbon buildings, and at the same time boost business productivity.

“Decarbonising the building stock is crucial to tackling climate change but the current lack of policy certainty is undermining business confidence and investment,” he said. “The upcoming Clean Growth Plan is an opportunity for the Government to set out a clear and ambitious vision for transitioning to a low carbon economy over the next fifteen years.

“Achieving the UK’s carbon targets will mean retrofitting more than one home every minute and building high quality new homes which produce as much energy as they use. With the right long-term policy framework these objectives can drive innovation in the construction industry and offer huge opportunities for new markets and jobs in energy efficiency.”

A separate report from the Green Alliance last week concluded that the reintroduction of a zero-carbon homes standard by 2020 should be prioritised in the Clean Growth Plan.

George Ogleby

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