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UK’s low carbon buildings sector calls on UK Government to publish climate action plan

28 March 2017

30 construction, heat and energy efficiency organisations, including Arup and The ADE, today call on the UK Government to publish a strong ’Clean Growth Plan’ with bold new polices to reduce emissions from homes and offices. 

  • The letter is coordinated by WWF and adds to growing pressure for the Government to publish its plan to reduce carbon emissions
  • Ideas put forward could create 100,000 new jobs in the construction and service industries, reduce fuel poverty and the burden on the NHS from health problems made worse by poorly insulated homes

The UK’s leading organisations active in the energy efficiency, construction and heat markets have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP today, urging the UK Government to use its forthcoming plan to reduce carbon emissions[1], now confirmed to be called the ‘Clean Growth Plan’[2], to address the significant gap in policy to tackle emissions from buildings.

With over 40% of UK energy used to heat buildings[3], organisations including B&Q owner Kingfisher and Arup are calling for action on buildings, one of the weakest areas of Government policy to tackle climate change. Whilst emissions from electricity generation fell 36% between 2012 and 2015[4] driven by lower coal use and increased renewables, emissions from buildings have remained flat over the same period[5], following significant cuts to Government schemes to insulate homes[6], the demise of the Green Deal and the scrapping of the Zero Carbon Homes standard for new buildings.

Following Earth Hour 2017, where millions of people came together across the UK and worldwide to demand action on climate change, the organisations call for new policies to encourage householders to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes, one of the cheapest ways to reduce emissions. They also call for greater action on the transition to low carbon heat by helping investment in district heat networks and faster installation of electric heat pumps in homes off the gas grid.

They urge the Government to use the upcoming plan to reduce emissions to provide clarity for businesses and consumers and to seize the economic and social benefits on offer. For example, a national programme to bring all of the UK’s cold and leaky homes to an energy performance rating of ‘C’ or above would generate 100,000 new jobs in the construction and service industries[7], the training and skills for which could be coordinated through the Government’s new Industrial Strategy. Such a programme would boost economic productivity, help permanently eradicate fuel poverty, and reduce the costs to the NHS that arise as result of cold homes[8]. The organisations have specifically called for:

  • A long-term target for all homes to have an energy performance rating of C or above by 2035
  • The introduction of minimum standards on efficiency for existing homes, enforced at the point of sale, and backed up by grants and zero interest loans.
  • All new buildings to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by 2020, as specified under the EU Energy Performance in Buildings Directive.
  • A clear strategy and policy to accelerate the roll out of low carbon heat, particularly electric heat pumps, in buildings off the gas grid to 2020 and beyond.
  • Support the growth of district heat networks by building on the Heat Network Investment Project through the 2020s and providing a long-term investment framework to facilitate lower cost capital.
  • A local authority-led approach to heat decarbonisation, to ensure a long-term plan for all buildings that coordinates action on energy efficiency and low carbon heat.

The 30 organisations, which include some of the UK’s biggest construction firms and the leading trade bodies in the low-carbon heat sector, have offered their support and expertise to the UK Government in delivering the emissions cuts that the UK needs to achieve to meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act. The Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s independent advisors on climate change, have warned that the without more effort, the UK risks over-shooting its climate targets by 23% in 2025, and have called for ‘stronger low-carbon policies in the Emissions Reduction Plan’[9].

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Energy and Climate Change at WWF said:

“The UK has a world-leading Climate Change Act, but the UK Government isn’t delivering the robust and ambitious plan for reducing emissions that we need. Climate change is not waiting; it is already having an impact today - from extreme weather events, to loss of wildlife and an increasingly unstable world. The low carbon economy represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses, so it’s no wonder that they’re desperately looking for longer term clarity that will enable them to invest in the technologies that we know can help to tackle climate change. The UK Government must heed their call and build these measures into their Clean Growth Plan; doing so will be good for the environment and good for the British economy.”

Graham Cash, Chief Executive, BAM Construct UK commented:

“Government policy is important to drive UK plc towards a lower carbon future. We need clear signals and a strong commitment to get everyone moving in the same direction. The bottom line is that a low carbon economy is good for business. Acting now will create opportunities for us, our clients and the communities in which we work”.

Chris Jofeh, Director of Global Buildings Retrofit at Arup stated:

“Decarbonising our buildings, done properly, will stimulate the economy, increase employment, reduce energy bills, enhance the UK’s energy security, and help the UK to honour its climate commitments. This is an opportunity for all of us to shape a better world for future generations.”

- ends –

This was picked up in the Independent, click here for their coverage. 

Notes to the editor

1) The letter can be found pasted below or online here:

2) The full list of signatories include: A&M Energy Solutions, Aran Services, Arup, Association for Decentralised Energy, Association for the Conservation of Energy, BAM Construct UK, BEAMA, British Energy Efficiency Federation, British Energy Efficiency Federation, British Rigid Urethane Foam Manufacturers’ Association (BRUFMA), Ececo, Engineered Panels in Construction (EPIC), Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, Happy Energy, Heat Pump Association, Instagroup, Kingfisher, Kingspan Insulation, Knauf Insulation, Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association (MIMA), MP Rendering ltd, ROCKWOOL, SE2, SIG, Star Renewable Energy, Sunamp, Sussex Energy Group (University of Sussex), Sustainable Energy Association, UK District Energy Association and UK Green Building Council.

3) The UK Government’s plan to reduce emissions was scheduled to be published at the end of 2016, but has been delayed with no publication date set. This delay has been been commented on by the FSB[10] and the CBI[11].

4) WWF’s report “Closing the Carbon Gap” highlights the urgent need for a Clean Growth Plan.

5) WWF believes that the UK Government needs to set the UK on a path for a low-carbon future in order to meet our 2050 emissions reduction target – legally binding under the Climate Change Act. This will save future generations from facing the costly burden of climate change and provide a safer, more prosperous future for us all.  The government must start now by setting out the detailed policy measures needed for the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets for 2030. A failure to achieve our carbon reduction targets will result in the need for steeper and more costly emissions reductions as we near 2050, passing on greater costs to future generations. These costs will come alongside the impacts of climate change including extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity and an increasingly unstable world. Early action provides huge opportunities for the UK economy, growth and jobs – including in sectors like renewables and smart technologies, where the UK leads the world.  According to the government’s independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, the UK is not currently on track to meet our targets even in the 2020s. While the UK has made progress this is mainly down to carbon reductions in the power sector.  In other areas – particularly heating and transport – emissions reductions are not on track to meet the reductions needed. WWF is calling for:

  1. Stronger policies to reduce carbon emissions from heating buildings, including a comprehensive programme to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock and bring all homes to EPC ‘C’ by 2030
  2. A commitment to put the UK on track to a largely carbon-free power system by 2030, with a clear long-term investment plan for renewable energy sources. 
  3. Direction for low carbon transport, including new policies for a transition to low-emissions vehicles, alongside a framework for controlling aviation emissions.

6) WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @wwf_uk.

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