Emissions from UK homes could be cut by 80 per cent

Posted: 27 November 2007

Emissions from UK homes could be cut by 80 per cent by 2050, according to a new report by Dr Brenda Boardman at the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute.

The report assesses the Government's record and sets out, for the first time, a blueprint for delivering huge carbon cuts from UK homes while eradicating fuel poverty, creating jobs, cutting energy bills and increasing fuel security.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the housing sector have risen by more than five per cent since 1997 and account for 27 per cent of the UK's carbon footprint. Although the number of households living in fuel poverty initially fell under Labour, the figure has since increased to four million - double the number in 2002.

The report, called Home Truths, found that current Government policies will only deliver half the cuts in household carbon emissions they should have achieved by 2020. The Government has no policies for cutting emissions from homes in the longer term.

The report outlines a comprehensive policy framework at local, national and EU level, for cutting carbon emissions from new and existing homes. It shows how initial Government spending of £12.9 billion a year for approximately ten years can deliver 80 per cent cuts in carbon emissions, the elimination of fuel poverty and provide permanent energy savings from UK homes worth £12.3 billion a year.

The average household could see their energy bills cut by at least 66 per cent, equivalent to a £425 annual saving at today's prices.

Investing in low-carbon homes will also help avoid damage from climate change which the Stern Report estimates could cost the UK economy over £100 billion a year by 2050.

Key recommendations

  • Introduce a package of financial incentives. This will make it cheaper for householders to cut their energy use and produce their own green energy. This package will include grants, low interest loans, stamp duty rebates and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency measures to five per cent.

  • Reform of the energy market. A feed-in-tariff system is introduced which rewards households that fit low or zero carbon technology (LZC), such as solar panels, with a guaranteed premium price for any electricity they sell back to the grid. It is complemented by a renewable heat obligation, which requires a proportion of household heat to come from LZC sources, and a green gas tariff which encourages the use of waste gas as a fuel.

    The aim is to fit every home in the UK with at least one LZC by 2050. UK households would be net exporters of electricity, generating up to ten percent more then they require.

  • Eradicate Fuel Poverty. Low-carbon Zones will be created, initially in areas where there is a concentration of fuel poor households. Local authorities would implement a street by street programme of improvements aimed at upgrading the walls, windows and roofs of homes in each zone by, for example, insulating solid walls. The report estimates that this approach would eliminate fuel poverty at a cost of £3.3 billion a year for the next nine years - treating 444,000 houses a year at an average cost of £7,500 per house.

  • Introduce and enforce minimum standards for homes. All homes in the UK will be issued with an Energy Performance Certificate grading them from G (very inefficient) to A (very efficient and almost carbon zero). Minimum standards for energy performance will then be introduced and tightened over successive years. Anyone who buys or rents out a house or flat that does not meet the minimum standard will not be allowed to sell or re-let it until it has been upgraded. By 2050 three million homes, which are so cold they are officially a health hazard, will have been upgraded, and the rate of heat loss in the average house will be halved.

Win-win scenario

Dr Boardman said the report sets out a win-win scenario. "It shows that we can make huge cuts in emissions from UK housing and that we can do this in a way which wipes out fuel poverty and ensures everyone has a warm, comfortable, low-carbon home. The Government needs to drive this transformation. It needs to provide the political commitment and financial support to turn this report into reality."

Friends of the Earths Low-carbon Homes Campaigner, Ed Matthew said: "It is neither cheap nor easy for a householder to make their home low-carbon. This is the Government's fault and they must radically change their approach. The investment required is significant but but the economic costs of not tackling combat climate change would be catastrophic."

Simon Williams, Director of Corporate Affairs and Social Goals at The Co-operative Bank, said: "As a business we have reduced our own emissions by 90 per cent since 1997, so we welcome this report showing an 80 per cent cut in household emissions is achievable. However, in order to realise the vision of the homes of the future set out in the report, significant Government intervention is required urgently, starting with a robust Climate Change Bill. Its time for the UK to get its house in order."

Home Truths was commissioned by Friends of the Earth and The Co-operative Bank as part of The Big Ask Campaign

Related link:

Greenhouse gas emissions hit 'record levels'