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Improve insulation in UK, WWF report tells government

The UK needs to take much firmer action to meet the emissions targets set out in the Paris climate accord and help ensure global temperature rises are kept below two per cent, a report has said.

In its report titled Getting the house in order - Priorities for homes in the Clean Growth Plan, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the current rate at which homes are being insulated and made more energy-efficient in Britain is too slow, and has actually slowed down in recent years. 

The WWF said that at current rates, Britain will not achieve a target of making all homes emissions free until over a century from now, which it said was too late to ensure climate targets were met. 

Concern has focused on homes because these account for 20 per cent of UK emissions, which is ten times as much as air travel, an area that has received plenty of attention through measures like carbon offsetting schemes available when people book plane tickets.

The WWF has argued that much of the problem lies with construction, warning that unless stricter laws are put in place on emissions standards, new builds will cause a rise in carbon emissions from homes by 2030, instead of a ten per cent fall. 

Homeowners themselves are not as aware as they should be of the benefits of insulation, the report stated, pointing to the fact that Britons spend around £7.5 billion a year on home improvements, but most of this goes on projects such as new kitchens or bathrooms, rather than insulation. Most have not even carried out "basic" measures such as adding rolls of insulation.

The report argued that this warrants stronger government action. Noting that the Green Deal was a failure, it called for better incentives to encourage people to insulate their homes. The document said what is needed is a concerted Clean Growth Plan that will help insulate four million homes between now and 2025. 

Among the other measures advocated are the setting of a new energy performance certificate (EPC) target, with every home having to have an EPC of C or better by 2035, the removal of loopholes that help landlords get away with renting out cold homes, tighter standards on the construction of homes with potentially high carbon emissions, and a doubling of funding for home energy efficiency schemes aimed at alleviating fuel poverty in England. The WWF said the last of these measures should be partly funded from government infrastructure budgets, instead of simply being added on top of energy bills. 

The study calculated that the benefits of extra insulation and other energy-efficiency measures would be very large, amounting to a collective cut of half a billion pounds from energy bills across Britain. This would equate to £25 a year per household, or £165 in homes where new insulation was installed having previously been absent. 

If the report is heeded by the government, it could transform the outlook for the UK in terms of meeting energy-efficiency targets and cut carbon emissions in line with the Paris targets. Indeed, it may be that the accord will ensure that the future direction of policy ensures more is done to insulate homes in any case.

Last week, energy firm E.On offered free insulation to households around the UK, even those that are not its customers. How much capacity the firm has to meet all the possible demand it could receive waits to be seen, but if other providers follow suit, this could go a long way towards meeting the shortfall in insulation in Britain's homes, even before any extra government action is taken.