It will take us 100 years to go fully green says WWF

As the Government prepares to release its Clean Growth Plan to reduce carbon emissions, new data has revealed that we need to triple the rate at which we insulate our homes to meet our Paris Agreement commitments, with consumers saying they would insulate their homes if there was a Government subsidy.

In a report entitled ‘Getting the house in order – Priorities for homes in the Clean Growth Plan’, the WWF has warned that at the current rate, it will take over 100 years to make existing UK homes totally green to meet our international climate obligations.

Homes reportedly account for 20% of our total climate emission and the report, published on September 2, finds that without new policies that make new and existing homes more energy efficient and low carbon, these emissions could actually be 3% higher in 2030 – well below the 10% fall required by the Committee on Climate Change.

With the UK reportedly on track to fall short of its climate change targets by as much as 30% by 2025, the UK Government is expected to publish a plan in September outlining how it will reduce UK emissions to address this and meet our international obligations. This ‘Clean Growth Plan’ must triple the speed at which we’re insulating existing homes, to ensure that four million are improved by 2025. However, currently there is no support from Government for the majority of people to make this change. WWF’s poll found that 72% of people would insulate their homes if there was a Government subsidy available, showing that there is a public appetite to make this change.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF, said: “This report brings home the huge challenge we face if we are to meet our climate obligations. 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 ruining our planet.

“Last year was the hottest on record and with extreme weather and flooding costing lives and livelihoods from Bangladesh to Texas, we are all seeing the effects of climate change. It is real and it’s happening now. The UK Government needs to take seriously their international obligations. Stopping climate change should start at home – in fact, it should start in people’s homes. 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.”

The WWF says that 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 over half a billion pounds from domestic energy bills each year – equivalent to £25 per household and as much as £165 for the homes where improvements are made. As well as tackling emissions, it would make homes warmer, healthier and double the rate at which fuel-poor households are lifted out of poverty. This is especially important as WWF’s polling shows that 46% of people often have to turn off heating due to the cost of energy.

In the report, the WWF is calling on the UK Government to deliver a robust and urgently needed Clean Growth Plan which delivers the following:

  • Set a long-term target to improve the energy efficiency of all homes.
  • Fix loop-holes that will allow landlords to continue to rent out the coldest properties.
  • Tighten standards to prevent the continued construction of high-carbon new homes.
  • Provide new incentives to encourage householders to make improvements to their homes.
  • Fund future fuel poverty schemes from capital budgets and double annual funding in England to enable the fuel poverty eradication target to be met.

John Alker, policy and campaign director of the UK-Green Building Council, added: “Decarbonising the building stock is crucial to tackling climate change, but the current lack of policy certainty is undermining business confidence and investment. 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 15 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. Low carbon buildings will be warmer, healthier and cheaper to run, helping to drive productivity for businesses and transform the lives of residents.”