UK homes jeopardising national climate targets, report warns

The UK will not hit its legally binding carbon reduction targets unless the Government acts now to address the "increasing uncomfortable and unsafe" national housing stock, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

UK homes jeopardising national climate targets, report warns

The report criticises the withdrawal of key low-carbon policy frameworks

The CCC’s ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’ report warns that the UK Climate Change Act target of reducing emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 will not be reached without the “near-complete elimination” of emissions from UK buildings.

The report claims that Government U-turns and suddenly policy changes have created a skills gap in housing design and construction, which has led to emissions from the UK’s 29 million homes to stall rather than shrink.

At the same time, the UK housing stock is unprepared for future climate impacts, the report notes. Around 4.5 million homes suffer from overheating, while 1.8 million are located in areas of significant flood risks. The report warns that water scarcity and increased temperatures could create unsafe and detrimental living conditions for UK citizens.

The CCC’s chair, Lord Deben, said: “Simply put, there is no way in which the UK can meet the legally binding climate change targets that Parliament has determined unless we take the measures outlined in this report.”

Energy use in homes increased in 2016 and accounts for 14% of total UK emissions. However, the report claims that existing technology could deliver high-quality, low-carbon and climate-resilient homes, if new policies can plug the existing skills and knowledge gaps.

The report criticises the withdrawal of key low-carbon policy frameworks, notably the zero carbon homes scheme. The CCC claims that policies that boost uptake of low-carbon technologies could save households in new homes between £70 and £260 on annual energy bills.

On the home stretch

The report also recommends that energy efficiency measures, like insulation, should be a priority for the existing housing stock, while new homes should be built to be low-carbon, water-efficient and climate-resilient. By 2025, no new homes should be connected to the gas grid.

In fact, the report urges the UK Government to secure funding for low-carbon heating beyond 2021 and for local authorities to be given greater resources to plan and design new homes.

The Green Finance Taskforce’s recommendations to promote green mortgages were also welcomed by the CCC’s report.

The Government should also launch a nationwide training programme as part of the Industrial Strategy’s Construction Sector Deal, the report notes. The £420m deal provides a framework for the built environment sector to halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030.

The CCC’s Adaption Committee’s chair Baroness Brown added: “The Government now has an opportunity to act. There must be compliance with stated building designs and standards. We need housing with low-carbon sources of heating. And we must finally grasp the challenge of improving our poor levels of home energy efficiency.

“As the climate continues to change, our homes are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe. This will continue unless we take steps now to adapt them for higher temperatures, flooding and water scarcity. Our report shows that this work has barely begun.”

Matt Mace

Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Energy Efficiency Grants should be available to all households and not just those on benefits, even though low income households are likely to see the biggest impact on their energy expenditure it isn’t fair to penalise those who pay the taxes to exclude them from grants.

    Not every working household can afford the cost of improved loft insulation or a new condensing central heating boiler or other energy efficiency measures but unless you are claiming benefits most times you can not get help.

  2. Colin Megson says:

    The CCC, tarnished by revelations about its Chairman, Lord Deben, might be unaware of, but are more likely wilfully ignoring, burgeoning developments in advanced nuclear power reactors?

    They have never mentioned the unique BWRX-300 SMR, which is a reactor design that is so simple, and therefore cost-effective, it is unlikely to be bettered from an overnight cost perspective.

    In 15 years time the 300 MWe, BWRX-300 will be available at a cost of 462 million. It will have its EPZ at the boundary fence of its tiny site, meaning it can be located close to centres of population. It is rated at 900 MWt so can be configured for CHP operation and provide not only 24/7, low-carbon electricity, but also much of the heating and hot water to buildings which, of itself, accounts for 40% of all of the UK’s energy use.

    The UK uses 340 TWh per year. 150 of these BWRX-300 SMRs would supply 100% of the 24/7 electricity and much of the heat and hot water we use, for 60 years at a cost of 70 billion.

    For renewables to supply 340 TWh, desecrating our countryside is a big issue, so maybe solar would creep up to 10% and wind would probably split to 30% onshore and 60% offshore for the rest.

    Solar would cost 43 billion, onshore 48 billion, offshore 115 billion. Then, when the Sun don t shine and the wind don t blow, we d have to have 38 billion of CCGTs. Backed-up intermittent electricity for just 25/30 years tots up to 244 billion. So for 60 years that would be around 553 billion.

    We can choose to pay 70 billion for guaranteed 24/7, low-carbon electricity and much of the heat and hot water for buildings for 60 years.

    Or we can choose to pay 7.9X more in overnight cost and 100X more cost in terms of scenic desecration, resource waste, ecosystem destruction, species wipe out and waste mountains.

    The CCC is Hell-bent on advising the Government to go the way of the latter option and it will be us – the bill payers and tax payers – who shoulder the financial burden. Instead of spending our own money on our own lifestyle choices, we’ll be putting money into the pockets of people like Lord Deben.

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