Last month, it was reported that the Prime Minister was drawing up a £1bn plan to insulate hundreds of thousands more homes across the UK to help shield people from the rising cost of living.
The current political instability threatens to derail what appeared to be a growing recognition of the important role of retrofit to address both the cost of living and climate crises.
In both the short-term and the long-term, what happens next is unclear. Regardless of how the Conservative Party goes about repairing its fortunes, if it is serious about delivering for the country it cannot lose sight of the most pressing issues facing the country now.
By this point, we are well aware of the extent to which party politics can overshadow the greatest issues of the day but building consensus around how the country tackles climate change must transcend partisanship and electioneering.
This effort has begun in earnest, and we cannot afford to stop it in its tracks.
The former Chancellor Rishi Sunak was right to focus on immediate financial aid for households when he announced a windfall tax on energy companies in May, but we also need to see any future administration focus on a long-term, effective solution that will better protect the British public and businesses from any future energy shocks and put net zero buildings at the heart of a government-led strategy to tackle climate change.
Political pressure on the Government extends beyond just questions over the Prime Minister’s suitability for office.
Recently, the Environmental Audit Committee published a report entitled ‘Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction’.
The Committee Chair, Philip Dunne MP, used the publication of the report to urge the Government “to publish a retrofit strategy and upskilling programme that can ensure the UK economy will have the green jobs necessary to deliver a low-carbon built environment”1.
Alongside advice have been stark warnings from political stakeholders to act faster, with the Climate Change Committee last week cautioning that the Government was failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets over the next 30 years.
With Net Zero Week coming to an end on Friday, there’s never been a better opportunity to amplify the voices of those who – like us – have been making the case for retrofit to be placed at the heart of the Government’s net zero drive.
Why we need a national retrofit plan now
The UK has one of the oldest and least energy efficient housing stocks in Europe, estimated to contribute approximately a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions and unnecessarily inflating demand for natural gas.
To this end, addressing our inefficient homes will be crucial in reducing our carbon footprint and supporting our continued drive to net zero over the next 30 years.
Accelerating the roll out of retrofit measures like insulation is a cost-effective solution that could address spiralling bills and significantly improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock – yet we’re still waiting for the Government to formalise any of its trailed plans on this front.
What’s more, the need to accelerate the roll out and investment into insulation extends beyond housing.
With nearly a fifth of all gas being consumed by the non-domestic sector, a lack of any retrofit strategy will result in higher costs for our businesses and public infrastructure – including schools and hospitals.
This will ultimately be felt by households, who will have to bear the brunt of higher prices.
The West finds itself in a precarious situation with the war in Ukraine limiting energy supply, but the UK Government’s recent Energy Security Strategy focuses too much on how we generate energy.
It’s imperative that we also consider how we reduce the demand for energy among households and businesses.
Insulation represents a simple and efficient way of lessening our energy usage, translating into year-on-year savings for consumers and industry.
While it’s right that we take time to design successful, sustainable interventions – the failure of the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme stands out as one particular reason why – we have reason to be cautiously optimistic.
It shouldn’t have taken this long to understand the need to act, and to act quickly, however, the fallout of the Ukraine-Russia crisis is a stark reminder to accelerate our approach to tackling the climate crisis – particularly with regards to the built environment.
The Government has signalled its intention to act; now is the time to deliver on its promises