After the Committee on Climate Change on Thursday announced a plan to cut carbon emissions by 57% by the year 2032 it has emerged that in order to meet these standards, many newly built homes will have to be retrofitted with costly improvements.
The target was announced in what is being called the fifth Carbon Budget and will require significant changes to our practices and investment patterns if they are to be met. Meeting the target would require 1/7 of all UK homes to be fitted with good insulation and to use low-carbon energy sources, with a caveat of cost-effectiveness across the board.
The government are not obliged to accept the terms of the budget, but they are strongly advised to do so, as Cameron did the fourth budget last year (although after it was accepted, Osborne did commission a review of the viability of the targets before it became part of official policy). Pressure to accept the terms is accentuated by the fact that if refusal could lead to legal troubles, since the CCC acts as the government’s advisor on the terms of the Climate Change Act.
If the targets are to be met we must, as a nation, cut our emissions by 3% a year until 2030 and then from then until 2050, by a further 4% each year.
This would require the country to be powered “largely” with low-carbon energy sources – something that the recent all-round cuts of subsidies to solar plants and wind farms will make a little more difficult. We’d also need the majority of new road vehicles to be either fully electric or, at the least, hybrid powered.
If the fifth budget is accepted, as the appropriate changes enacted, then it would, according to Lord Deben who chairs the CCC, count as “the next important step” towards a greener future.
“The UK has been at the forefront of global action on climate change” he said. “As a nation we have begun the transition towards a low-carbon economy” and this is something that needs to continue.
Earlier this year, the government scrapped plans to require all newly built homes to be constructed carbon neutrally, before these new standards were made public by the CCC. Plans for energy-efficient insulation to be made standard were also scrapped. And to make things worse, the day before the CCC announced their targets, George Osborne scrapped yet another scheme, the Energy Company Obligation, on the grounds that “going green should not cost the Earth.”
Now, with Osborne’s recently announced plans to build 400,000 new homes starting in 2020, the government has found itself in a bit of hot water with regards to how to also meet the new carbon targets without a drastic volte-face on its carbon neutral homebuilding policy.
Unless the new homes are built carbon-neutrally, or at least more in keeping with the now-scrapped energy-efficient building plans, then they will all need costly revisions once constructed if we are to meet the CCC’s target.
Lord Deben, said that “we are in danger of building houses that have to be retrofitted, which would be very expensive. We could build them now to low-carbon standards instead.”
Beyond the need to adjust homebuilding policy in order to meet the targets of the fifth carbon budget, Nick Molho of the Aldersgate group has said that promoting low-carbon industries is essential if we want to secure significant investment as a nation.
He said: “companies investing in low-carbon infrastructure, many of which are international and have a choice as to which countries they want to invest in, are already looking at projects that will be developed in the next decade. Continued confidence in the UK’s low-carbonambitions is essential to attracting this investment.”