Environment

‘What is the government waiting for’? MPs call for ‘national war effort’ to reduce bills and emissions

They criticised the government for missing a "crucial window of opportunity" to improve energy efficiency.

smart meter in home during energy crisis

A smart meter in a UK home. | Energy prices continue to soar across the UK, pricing many out of heating their homes. (Credit: Arthur Lambillotte/Unsplash)

The Environment Audit Committee (EAC) is calling for a “national war effort” on energy saving and efficiency in the UK to reduce bills and emissions.

In a report released last week, which detailed recommendations for transitioning from fossil fuels and providing energy security in the future, the EAC said not enough was currently being done to “accelerate energy efficiency measures.”

“Bold action is needed now,” said Philip Dunne, the EAC chairman and Tory MP for Ludlow. “We must fix our leaky housing stock, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and wastes our constituents’ hard-earned cash: we must make homes warmer and retain heat for longer.”

In particular, the EAC argued for improving the energy efficiency rating of homes in England, enhancing the UK’s energy security, and reducing the high emissions from the country’s “leaky and draughty building stock”.

Energy efficiency ratings are used to measure how costly it will be to heat and light your property, as well as the carbon emissions from the energy used. It ranges from very efficient (band A) to inefficient (band G). 

According to the Office of National Statistics, homes in England and Wales have an average energy efficiency rating of band D, which means there is room for improvement. Band C and above, where the EAC expects all homes to reach, is considered to be the most efficient, both in terms of cost and emissions. 

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The report found the government missed a “crucial window of opportunity” last summer to improve the efficiency of homes to provide “permanent protection” from the impact of high oil and gas prices.

Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, agreed that poor insulation is “at the heart of the fuel poverty crisis”.

He said: “Rather than an afterthought, the drive to insulate and improve the energy efficiency of people’s homes should be a Government priority. Until the Government invests in helping us to stay warm in the long term through insulation and a secure renewable-led energy grid, we will be at the mercy of the markets and reliant on financial support from the state each winter.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has promised £6bn in funding from 2025 to insulate homes and upgrade boilers, as part of the government’s target to reduce energy demand by 15 per cent in the next seven years.

But, the EAC said, “those in fuel poverty now cannot afford three winters of delay. We believe it is a false economy to hold this money back at a time when households are struggling and the taxpayer is having to spend billions to subsidise energy bills.”

They said the money should be brought forward and spent now rather than in the future, and suggested some of the windfall tax on the profits earned by energy companies should be used for energy efficiency measures as well. 

“Look back at 2022 and the true cost of our fossil fuel dependence will stare you right in the face,” Greenpeace UK’s policy director Doug Parr said, pointing to extreme weather events such as flooding, heatwaves, and droughts. 

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The report notes that the UK relies on fossil fuels for 78 per cent of our energy, which is not only contributing to the climate crisis but also to high energy bills.

Campaigners have long been calling for an end to new oil and gas licences in the North Sea and to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels well before the 2050 target currently proposed by the government.

Parr added: “Ministers should listen to this cross-party group of MPs, stump up at least money for home insulation promised in the 2019 manifesto and kick off a nationwide efficiency programme across the country. This isn’t just a quick way to tackle our fossil fuel dependence – it will also lower energy bills and cut planet-heating emissions. What is the government waiting for?” 

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future. 

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