Now, in addition to helping tackle the climate crisis, a new report published today by Greenpeace UK highlights how improving the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing by properly insulating draughty homes and swapping all gas boilers for low carbon heating sources, such as heat pumps, will also deliver huge economic and social benefits.
Up to 138,600 new jobs could be created by this transformation and £9.8bn injected into the economy by 2030. In addition, the analysis found that the more the Government invests now in greening our homes, the more jobs it will create, the more money will flow back into the economy, and the faster we will cut emissions. It’s win win.
The report used macro-economic modelling to assess several scenarios for a government-led programme to roll out heat pumps and insulate homes.
Ahead of the Government’s Spending Review and the launch of its Heat and Buildings Strategy, this should be music to the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s ears.
How we heat our homes and its contribution to the climate crisis is little understood by a large chunk of the population, yet housing is directly responsible for around 14 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, mostly down to gas boiler heating systems in poorly insulated homes.
It will be impossible for the UK to meet its obligation of reducing emissions to zero by 2050 without a properly funded, ambitious programme to decarbonise our homes.
Despite this, progress by the UK Government to make our homes warmer, more energy efficient and introduce low carbon heating has been painfully slow. Last year, the Government introduced a Green Homes Grant programme to provide homeowners with grants of up to £10,000 to tackle part of this problem. It was scrapped just six months later.
It’s a similar story on rolling out clean heating. Recent data published by Greenpeace UK shows how the UK is last in Europe for sales of heat pumps per household, and second to last when it comes to installing them. We perform better in Eurovision than we do switching to clean heating, and that’s saying something.
This woeful track record at decarbonising our homes has left the UK with the draughtiest housing stock in Western Europe.
Yet the cause of this snail-paced action on housing is partly down to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and his reluctance to cough up the cash. He has blocked, scrapped, watered down or delayed green policies that are key to tackling climate change, including on insulating homes.
So, as we’ve outlined in our new report, by continuing to block spending on greening our homes, or even failing to deliver a sufficient amount of money, Rishi Sunak would be shooting himself in the foot economically. At the same time he’d be missing out on the wide range of social benefits including lower bills, reduced fuel poverty and better health and well-being.
Next month is the Government’s chance to step up, as Rishi Sunak will deliver his Spending Review, alongside the Autumn Budget, setting out how public money will be allocated over the next three years. And between now and then, it’s expected that the Government will launch its long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, which will set out the Government’s plans for decarbonising homes and buildings.
Both the strategy and the finances made available to carry it out must be seriously ambitious if we are to tackle emissions from housing, capitalise on the thousands of jobs that could be created and the economic boost it could provide.
We need to see a comprehensive package of grants, loans and tax incentives that would see the deployment of heat pumps rapidly ramped up this decade, covering the full cost for low-income households.
Rishi Sunak must commit to an extra £12bn of public investment for the rest of this Parliament to green our homes. Failure to deliver this level of investment, on top of existing commitments, will result in a missed opportunity economically, and result in the Government failing to deliver the green housing revolution that the UK desperately needs.
Megan Randles is a political campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
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