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UK Climate Advisors: New Homes must be Retrofitted

Climate advisers for the UK government have warned that homes built in the UK now and over the next few years will have to under expensive energy-saving retrofits within the next two decades.

The Committee on Climate Change issued the warning as it started its five-year review to parliament, laying out a new ‘carbon budget’ that would require the UK to cut its emissions by 57% by 2032.

The budget would require significant new investment in renewable energy technology as well as carbon capture and storage plants. Home energy efficiency improvements would also be necessary, such as solar panels, heat pumps, and other sources of renewable energy.

The chancellor, Mr. George Osborne, recently revealed plans for 400,000 new homes, but if they are not constructed to meet certain standards of energy efficiency and insulation, they could cause the country to exceed its carbon budgets.

Lord Deben, who heads the Committee on Climate Change said that there is a real danger that homes being built now will have to be retrofitted, which would cost a lot. The better option would be to build them to low-carbon standards now.

The government has abandoned construction standards that would have made new homes zero-carbon from 2016 onward, without revealing whether new standards were in the making. Ministers also gave up on a much-heralded insulation program, also without having an alternative in place. More recently, the chancellor cut funding for ECO, another energy-efficiency scheme.

The committee’s report indicated that by the 2030s, approximately one in seven UK homes will require low-carbon energy heating, and insulation would have to be installed in nearly all homes.

Because the committee is a statutory government adviser under the Climate Change Act, ministers will be advised to accept its targets. Refusal could result in a legal review. Although no decision will probably be made until June 2016, the targets will probably be controversial in some quarters.

When the fourth carbon budget was published in the last parliament, the Prime Minister ruled that it would be accepted, but Mr Osborne called for a review of the targets’ attainability. This fourth budget has since been integrated into government policy.

The report from the committee arrives in advance of a Paris climate change conference, where government and state leaders will meet to form a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

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The fifth carbon budget heralds the halfway point from the first carbon budget era (2008 to 2012) up to 2050. According to the committee, the UK’s contribution was in accordance with international climate initiatives.

The UK’s carbon emission are presently more than one-third less than they were in 1990, and the committee believes that if current policies achieve their intended effect, emissions will be down by 43 to 43% in 2020. The fourth carbon budget (2023 to 2027) requires emissions to go down by 52%. Under the fifth budget, emissions reductions must go down 3% per year from 2014 to 2030, and then rising to 4% annually from 2030 to 2050.

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