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‘Draughty and inefficient’ homes are worse for climate than cars

Social homes must take priority over cars in climate fight, said housing experts in a bid to convince the government to retrofit social homes

Homes are bigger polluters than cars, ministers have been warned in a plea to boost England’s climate change fight by retrofitting social homes. 

Homes produce 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year, the National Housing Federation (NHF) has calculated, equivalent to the output of 28 million cars – more than the 27 million currently on the country’s roads.

The figures show it is crucial to start making homes more efficient, said Kate Henderson, NHF chief executive. 

“For too long the impact of housing on climate change has been overlooked. While we’ve become more conscious of the vehicles we drive, the amount we recycle and what we eat, these shocking new figures must now force us to recognise the enormous role our draughty homes are having,” said Henderson.

“If we don’t start making serious progress on decarbonising and retrofitting our homes, we won’t achieve the government’s target of net-zero by 2050. It’s critical that we act now. 

“Independent and government experts have made it clear that without serious urgent action, we’re looking at a global climate catastrophe. It’s increasingly obvious the climate crisis has already arrived and industries, government and individuals must all do our part to prevent it getting worse. “

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The UK government announced earlier this week that councils and housing associations across England will be able to bid for a share of the government’s £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. The money for better insulation, windows and heating systems could both reduce emissions and save tenants money in energy bills.

The NHF findings come ahead of the key COP26 environmental conference, which is set to take place in November, and a summer that has seen communities across the globe hit with extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding seen around the world this year.

Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned immediate action is required to limit global warming as scientists found temperatures could rise by 1.5C in the next 20 years.

The NHF, which represents social landlords managing the homes of six million people, insists the Westminster government must commit £3.8bn to retrofitting homes at the next spending review.

The housing body said the funding would enable housing associations to improve energy efficiency in two million homes, allowing them to reach energy performance certificate (EPC) C rating by 2030. This would be the equivalent of taking 1.8m cars off the road indefinitely, NHF added.

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Roz Bulleid, deputy policy director at Green Alliance, said the funding would be more impactful than the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, which was scrapped in March.

“It’s easy to overlook the impact our draughty homes and inefficient heating systems are having on the climate but there are clear win-wins here,” said Bulleid.

“Targeted funding from government can help keep some of the poorest in society warmer, cutting medical costs and leaving them with more money in their pockets, while also building skilled jobs for the future and bringing down the cost of emerging technologies.”

The government pledged to give local authorities and housing associations £160m to improve the energy efficiency of socially rented homes with its first round of funding.

Initially the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is set to boost 38,000 of the UK’s worst energy-performing social housing properties with EPC ratings of D or below.

The money will pay for installation of insulation and more energy efficient doors, windows and heating systems that will help in the climate fight and could save tenants around £170 per year on energy bills, the government said.

Overall, £3.8bn will be spent on the scheme over the next 10 years to help the UK reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

“This announcement is a vital step forward in eradicating UK fuel poverty and improving the lives and homes of low-income households, all while creating new work for local plumbers, builders and tradespeople who will be building homes fit for our greener future.” said energy minister Lord Callanan.

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