A new report from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University has outlined the strategy to transform the UK’s built environment. It will enable the UK Government to achieve its legal obligations on climate change by reducing C02 emissions from buildings to zero by 2050 in an equitable way.
The report, Achieving Zero, covers all energy use in all buildings including both homes and businesses. The report’s strategy will create healthier, more comfortable buildings to live and work in, lift millions of people out of fuel poverty, and improve the UK’s energy security which will be considerably cheaper than providing a new energy supply.
As the report’s eminent author Dr Brenda Boardman makes clear, a strong legislative framework on energy demand reduction and a range of supportive policies will result in all UK buildings heading for zero carbon emissions by 2050. This will cut the cost of annual energy bills for all and be of particular importance to the millions of householders who live in fuel poverty.
Dr Boardman said: “Achieving Zero shows how government policy can enable us all to save energy with a strong, clear strategy to deliver high standards of energy efficient homes, buildings and products. The change in perspective is substantial, as in future the value of our homes and offices will be linked to their energy efficiency. Reducing our demand for energy becomes an investment for every property owner.”
Achieving Zero describes a triple-win situation through jobs, improvements to infrastructure, and energy security. “There are multiple opportunities to create new jobs, all over the country, through enhancing the value of our built environment. We already spend £35bn a year on improving and maintaining our buildings. We need to refocus 40% of this into energy-efficiency and spend less on expensive kitchens and conservatories.”
Among the key recommendations and implications of Achieving Zero is the need for the Coalition Government to introduce progressively more challenging, legally-binding standards of energy efficiency for properties, based on Energy Performance Certificates. This will require action by the owners, private and public, of 26 million homes and two million businesses;
In addition, the government must work strategically and quickly with local government to create Low Carbon Zones that target action on the worst homes, especially those occupied by the fuel poor. There is a legal obligation to eradicate fuel poverty (where reasonably practicable) by 2016 under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, but meanwhile numbers are rising.
Achieving Zero concludes that the proposals are necessary, although maybe not sufficient, to ensure the government meets its own legal obligations to reduce damaging carbon emissions and eradicate fuel poverty.