The penalty for delayed action is too great – we must just do it

When it comes to reducing emissions, we can all agree that progression is required. It is the only way that we will meet our climate targets in time. A great deal of action is needed so we can move forward, grow our green markets and drastically change the face of the UK across all sectors. Our transport, infrastructure, buildings and heating systems must be decarbonised and we don’t have time to sit and wait around. That’s been going on long enough.

With all the right commitments at the ready but with no clear trajectory, it’s hard not to see the flaws in the Government’s decarbonisation plan. The net-zero target has set the bar, backed up by the Green Finance Strategy’s promise to fund the low-carbon agenda but this is all superseded by the fact that we’ve already fallen behind in progress to tackle and prepare for climate change. Our plans are insufficiently ambitious, and we need to pick up speed. This is emphasised by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in their Progress Report, published earlier this month.

A sobering read, the progress report points out that we are not on track to meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets and the already significant policy gap has widened even further this year. The general optimism brought on by the legislation of the net-zero target has seemingly had its day, with the report bringing home how much work will need to be done to achieve it. We are not even on track to meet the previous 80% target laid out by the Climate Change Act of 2008, let alone the net-zero scenario that stretches beyond it.

In the ten years since the Climate Change Act was passed, far too little has been done to strengthen policy beyond the power sector and despite 40% of emissions coming from buildings in the UK, policy to make our homes more efficient has long been absent or overlooked. We can’t sit around for another decade waiting for these things to happen.

Heat pumps are an established low-carbon solution and we must make sure they are established as a mass market solution here in the UK just as we have seen abroad. The report produced by Currie & Brown and AECOM for the Committee on Climate Change’s ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’ report, found that by ‘using cost-effective low-carbon heat (via an ASHP), the regulated operational carbon emissions over 60 years of a home built in 2020 are more than 90% lower than an otherwise equivalent gas-heated home’. It’s a no brainer.

They also concluded that photovoltaics and fabric efficiency measures are no substitute for low carbon heat. Whilst both support the decarbonization agenda, we can’t ignore the issue of heat supply. Contrary to what people may say, low carbon heat is cost-effective and need not increase running costs for consumers. At NIBE, we promote a holistic approach to installing low carbon heat. Installing thermal efficiency measures at the same time as any heating system reduces running costs and makes low carbon heat more cost-effective.

To reiterate the recommendations within the CCC Progress report, we require a fully-fledged strategy in 2020 for decarbonised heat, addressing the whole building stock in line with net-zero. Subsidies for heat pumps and other capital-intensive technologies need to be rebalanced and we must see framework put in place to educate and grow our installer base to the required level. Mirroring what was outlined in the ‘Fit for the future’ report published by the CCC in February, we must transition to low-carbon heat starting with our new-build properties, rolling out to homes off the gas grid and non-residential buildings and beyond as time goes on. Low-carbon heat supply is a priority for delivering long term carbon savings and this must be realised. It’s one thing committing to net-zero, but it will be another thing achieving it. Big promises require big investment and now is the time to act.

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