Lord Stunell: The switch to low-emission homes is long overdue
By introducing new planning standards, we would ensure that all houses are built with climate change in mind and will oblige housebuilders to update old stock, says Lord Stunell.
Brexit would be a disaster for our country. But there’s something that, in my opinion, is even more serious. Climate Change will hit every country, not just ours. It will make the whole world much less safe and much poorer.
It has started already. There are millions worldwide facing fire, drought, crop failure and flooding. People have lost their homes, people with nothing left to lose, searching desperately for security. It’s already fuelling conflicts and makes even sailing on a leaky rubber boat across the Mediterranean a risk worth taking for some. We must take urgent – and difficult – action to slow it down. Despite Brexit, as well as Brexit.
So, on the latest ‘Biggest Brexit Day Ever’, my Question in the House of Lords is simply asking what the Government plans to do to meet the UK’s legal obligations to cut our emission of greenhouse gases. The UK has not just signed international agreements, but the targets were enshrined in UK law. The Tories have effectively banned on-shore wind, slashed subsidies for solar power and are pursuing an ideologically driven policy on fracking. It is not surprising that they are way off track in reaching our targets.
Therefore, I want to know what action does the Government plan to take, and when?
The solutions are there for all to see, it’s simple really. The homes we live in use more energy than our cars and are some of the worst in Europe for energy efficiency. It is long overdue to switch to low-emission homes in the same fashion that we have moved towards low-emission cars. We know exactly how to do it. By introducing new planning standards, we would ensure that all houses are built with climate change in mind and will oblige housebuilders to update old stock.
If the Tories had continued with Liberal Democrat plans agreed during the Coalition, every new home would now be ‘Zero Carbon’. Sadly, but not surprisingly, it was one of the first things the Conservatives cut after the 2015 election. They also scrapped the ‘Green Deal’, which was designed to bring existing homes up to a level that would cut everyone’s fuel bill in half. This would have saved more energy than a nuclear power station generates – two birds, one stone.
It is true tackling the huge energy wastage in our homes is only one part of the solution. But as it’s one of the most effective there is every good reason that the Conservatives must stop dragging their feet. I want to hear the Minister make strong guarantees to upgrade our homes.
The Conservative Government must answer whether the UK is going to stick to its principles and fight to stop Global Warming, or whether they will go quiet shelter behind the bad guys as they go full speed ahead on wrecking the planet. We certainly cannot delay that decision for another couple of years if we have any serious intention to play our part as the World’s sixth largest economy in tackling Climate Change successfully. We should start at home. Literally, with our homes. And we should work enthusiastically with those international partners who share our commitment to deliver across the globe.
However, my question will be a waste. This issue will be ignored today. And tomorrow. And the next day. For as long as Brexit dominates the political agenda, the most serious problems facing our society are ignored. The true tragedy of Brexit is the real issues of the day: climate change, the housing crisis, funding for our public services, are all being shelved in its place. And who can honestly say, looking at the mess that is in front of us, that it was all worth it?
Lord Stunell is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.