The environmental standards of homes must be improved to help the UK reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach its climate change targets, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned.
In a new report, the independent non-governmental public body warned that the UK will struggle to meet its legally-binding obligations unless emissions from buildings are almost fully eliminated.
The CCC’s report highlights numerous issues facing the UK’s 29 million homes, finding that emission reductions in homes have stalled and energy use at these homes actually increased between 2016 and 2017.
The CCC has said that UK homes are ill-prepared to handle the coming effects of climate change, adding that work on improvements has ‘barely begun’, and it has, therefore, urged the government to act without delay.
Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, 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.’
The CCC’s report says that the government must roll out more cost-effective upgrades to the UK’s homes at a faster pace as the country becomes more likely to face higher average temperatures, flooding and water scarcity due to climate change.
According to the report, around 4.5 million homes in the UK are prone to overheating even in cool summers, while 1.8 million people live in areas at significant risk of flooding. The UK also consumes more water on average than many other European countries.
The quango has criticised the UK’s delays in creating high-quality, low-carbon homes, highlighting issues such as the stalling of home insulation installations, poor and overly complex UK building standards and cash-strapped local authorities being under-resourced.
In the report, the CCC identified five priorities for government action, including better enforcement of building standards and reducing the UK’s skills gap in building and construction by introducing a national training programme.
Retro-fitting existing homes, building new homes to be low-carbon, energy and water efficient and better funding local authorities’ housing departments should also be priorities for the government, the body said.
‘Climate change will not wait while we consider our options,’ Baroness Brown added. ‘The nationwide shift we need to make UK homes climate-ready must start today.”
The CCC’s report follows previous warnings that the UK must urgently up its efforts around housing in order to meet its climate change targets.
A joint report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Nottingham Trent University last year found that the UK will be unable to meet its 2050 emissions reduction aim unless every home in the country is retro-fitted with low-carbon heating.