Greenhouse gases emitted from our domestic homes are increasing and the Government must act now to improve the quality of UK homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In a new report ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’the Committee on Climate Change says that the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets will not be met without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings.
The report finds that emissions reductions from the UK’s 29 million homes have stalled, while energy use in homes – which accounts for 14% of total UK emissions – increased between 2016 and 2017.
Efforts to adapt the UK’s housing stock to the impacts of the changing climate: for higher average temperatures, flooding and water scarcity, are also lagging far behind what is needed to keep us safe and comfortable, even as these climate change risks grow.
Around 4.5 million homes overheat, even in cool summers; 1.8 million people live in areas at significant risk of flooding; and average UK water consumption is higher than in many other European countries. Cost-effective measures to adapt the UK housing stock are not being rolled-out at anywhere near the required level, the report finds.
The technology and knowledge to create high quality, low-carbon and resilient homes exists, but current policies and standards are failing to drive either the scale or the pace of change needed.
Home insulation installations have stalled; key policies, like the ‘zero carbon homes’ scheme, have been weakened or withdrawn; policies to encourage property-level flood protection, water efficiency devices and window shading are weak or non-existent;
UK building standards are inadequate, overly complex and not enforced; and local authorities, faced with insufficient resources, are largely failing to address the need for low-emission, climate change resilient homes.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, said:
“This report confirms what we have long-suspected: UK homes are largely unprepared for climate change. The Government now has an opportunity to act. There must be compliance with stated building designs and standards. We need housing with low-carbon sources of heating. And we must finally grasp the challenge of improving our poor levels of home energy efficiency. As the climate continues to change, our homes are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe. This will continue unless we take steps now to adapt them for higher temperatures, flooding and water scarcity. Our report shows that this work has barely begun.
“Major improvements in how we design, build and use our homes are needed to meet these challenges. We have highlighted the need for appropriate sources of finance and funding – and a national training programme to ensure we have the building and construction skills required in the UK. Climate change will not wait while we consider our options – the nationwide shift we need to make UK homes climate-ready must start today.”