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Time to pay attention to housing

Original article from H&V News May edition

COVID-19 has resulted in many of us now staying in our homes for longer periods of time. It’s also caused delays to the important UN COP26 conference which was due to be held in Glasgow this November. The virus will understandably dominate our news headlines and thoughts for many days to come, but how can we ensure that we don’t lose all the momentum gained on climate change over past decades in the next few months?

The focus of Government right now is limiting the spread and impacts of COVID-19 and rightly so. But that doesn’t mean that all other policy areas have stopped in their tracks. It’s been enlightening to see and hear of so many innovative ways that those working on policy are carrying on, making sure that the UK is able to meet the challenges of net-zero in a way that supports clean growth.

For example in April, we digitally published our Achieving Net-Zero: Regulating the Decarbonisation of Heat paper, which suggests how the Government might be able to achieve its target of phasing out fossil fuel heating off the gas grid in the 2020s through using a minimum standard of heat delivered. The proposal, originally put out for consultation in January, would secure certainty for investment into low-carbon heating and set the stable trajectory that industry is crying out for.

There’s also work ongoing in the energy efficiency sector. We’re told that the long-awaited plan for able to pay households should be published within a ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ later this year, with civil servants eagerly working away on the detail of the strategy from their homes right now. In this, we’re hopeful that a ‘wrap then heat’ approach will be taken to decarbonising buildings to ensure they are fully futureproofed for an energy-efficient, low-carbon future.

Warm, affordable and healthy homes become more and more crucial as we grow more used to working from our houses during this health crisis. The spare room with a leaky window and damp ceiling has now become your 9 to 5 office – it’s no longer just somewhere to store the decorations and mother-in-law at Christmas. Perhaps through spending more time in our homes we’ll realise how important they are to our health and begin to recognise the valuable role that energy efficiency plays not just in terms of energy savings, but in your comfort and wellbeing too.

That’s why we’re supporting Lord Don Foster’s campaign to ensure that all homes reach EPC band C by 2035 in England. The Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill aims to secure legislation for the Government’s existing ‘aspiration’ for all homes to be EPC band C by 2035 wherever ‘practical, cost-effective and affordable’ and will hold the Government to account for its progress in this area.

Setting out a specific and certain roadmap for homes, which will allow investment in the banks, boardrooms and at the dinner tables of households in the UK is crucial if we are to meet net-zero by 2050. We believe that legislation is required to achieve this.

Coronavirus hasn’t just taught us how precious our health is: it has shown us how important our homes are. Too many are not at the EPC levels needed for net-zero nor futureproofed to get there, and low-carbon heating as standard is a distant dream. Whilst we are at home during COVID-19, working as normally as we can, it’s crucial that our living and workspaces are as healthy as they possibly can be. The SEA aims to work with Government, industry and consumers to make this a reality.

Friday, May 1st, 2020