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Report outlines huge insulation challenge

The UK has taken some steps to improve the amount of insulation in homes, but the country is still well behind where it needs to be if it is to meet its carbon emissions targets by 2050.

A report delivered to Parliament by the Green Building Council (GBC) has noted that four out of every five homes that will be standing in 2050 already exist, so while new builds might be constructed to high standards and have insulation in them, this still leaves a vast amount of existing stock that needs to be refurbished.

Indeed, if Britain is to meet the target to cut its emissions from buildings by 80 per cent by 2050, this will require homes to be insulated adequately at a rate of 1.4 a minute between now and then.

While this seems a huge challenge, it is one the council has said should be given top priority. In her foreword to the report, GBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen reflected on the stated desire of prime minister Theresa may to make Britain "a country that works for everyone" and argued that several of the priorities that will help achieve this - creating jobs, helping those just about managing by cutting energy bills, reducing the burden on the NHS by cutting cold-related winter illnesses and building new homes - can all be tied in with a major quest to fit more insulation. She said that the GBC believes an improved built environment is "fundamental to addressing these challenges," adding: "Places that work for everyone can and will support the government’s policy priorities."  

Indeed, the report argued, insulating Britain's housing stock could create more jobs than any other infrastructure priority.

Of course, there have been many initiatives aimed at boosting the levels of insulation in Britain's homes. Many have been run by local councils, but with limited funds these have focused on those in social housing and greatest risk of fuel poverty, rather than dealing with Britain's housing stock across the board in the comprehensive way the report calls for.

The Green Deal was meant to be a more comprehensive solution, enabling householders to borrow to install energy-efficiency measures and then pay back gradually as they enjoyed the benefits from lower bills. Ultimately, however, this scheme saw a low level of take-up and was abandoned after being much-aligned.

Speaking to the BBC about the report and reflecting on the failure of the Green Deal, Ms Hirigoyen said: "Driving up demand for retro-fitting homes is essential for any policy to be a success - the Green Deal told us just offering financial incentives isn't necessarily the only solution. We need to make it all easy, attractive and affordable.

"The good thing is that the business community is really starting to recognise the opportunity."

Specific recommendations in the report include setting staged targets for refurbishments, bringing back the zero carbon standard, making energy efficiency an infrastructure priority, setting long term goals for improving home energy efficiency and making it a legal requirement for commercial firms to publish data on how much energy they use.