Govt failing net zero housing test: Climate Change Committee

The annual 619-page study released to parliament today reviews the UK’s commitment to a 68% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels, before hitting net zero by 2050.

But chair of the committee Lord Deben writes in the report: “In targets, the UK is indeed a world leader. However, this progress report reveals that, despite important achievements in renewable energy and electric vehicles, the government is failing in much of its implementation.”

He adds: “Sharply rising fuel costs should have given added impetus to improving energy efficiency, yet the necessary programmes are not in place. We are still building new homes that do not meet minimum standards of efficiency and will require significant retrofitting.

“Not only are we waiting for the promised Future Homes Standard [which includes higher energy efficiency requirements] but t. is as yet no sign of the changes in the planning system necessary to reflect Britain’s legal obligations for climate mitigation.”

The UK’s housing stock accounts for around 14% of the country’s emissions, the country’s second-largest source of emissions after surface transport, which accounted for 23% of emissions last year.

The committee says at least 600,000 heat pumps should be installed in homes and other buildings each year by 2028, and up to 1.9 million by 2035. However, despite a 47% increase in 2021, annual heat pump installations “were still at just” 55,000.

The report says: “While HM Treasury has promised a consultation on reforming gas and electricity pricing, this has not yet been published. A clear policy decision must be made before next winter. This should allow for a ratio of gas to electricity prices that incentivises heat pumps, ensuring they will be cheaper to run than gas boilers.”

The review points out that government schemes supported energy efficiency upgrades in more than 150,000 homes in 2021, a 12% increase from 2020.

But adds: “The number of homes receiving energy efficiency upgrades needs to increase to 500,000 homes per year by 2025, and one million per year by 2030.”

The study says: “Energy efficiency, particularly in owner-occupied buildings, is still a significant policy gap. These represent the majority of homes across the UK.

“However, the only policy proposal to cover this is a voluntary target for mortgage lenders to encourage borrowers to improve the energy efficiency of properties. This proposal has limited oversight and no enforcement mechanisms.”

Ecology Building Society chief executive Gareth Griffiths says: “The Committee’s latest report is a damning indictment on the gap between the rhetoric of ambitious net zero targets and the reality of the lack of delivery.

“The report highlights how insulating our leaky homes would help reduce energy bills and boost energy security as well as reducing CO2.

“We urgently need a national retrofit strategy to kickstart the retrofit revolution and make warm homes affordable for all as well as reaching the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

“We’d like to see the government deliver, at pace, on a wide-ranging package to support green building including: grants; stamp duty reform to incentivise the creation of energy-efficient homes; tightening building regulations; building the retrofit supply chain and driving the market for green finance.“

The government says: “The UK is forging ahead of most other countries with around 40% of our power now coming from cleaner and cheaper renewables.”

“This is backed up by £6bn of funding to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient, planting up to 30,000 hectares of new trees a year and more electric cars than ever before on our roads – decarbonising our cars and vans faster than any other developed country.”