Sarah Newton: We cannot reach net zero carbon without improving home energy efficiency
The government must publish a plan to meet domestic energy efficiency targets in order to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, writes Sarah Newton
Committing ourselves to net zero carbon by 2050 means delivering a core Conservative value and a key manifesto pledge: to leave the environment in better condition than we found it for future generations. It is not only the right thing to do but has the potential to unite the nation in a common purpose. People of all ages and businesses from right across the UK support government action.
As the crucible of the first industrial revolution, it is right to maintain our leadership and endeavour to be the first major economy to transition to the hi-tech and carbon free fourth industrial revolution. While growing our economy, the UK is already amongst the leading economies in reducing our carbon emissions.
This bold ambition requires a clear vision and carefully thought through plans to enable people, business and places to transition, and make the most of the opportunities that arise. In practical terms it means delivering the Clean Growth Strategy, part of the Industrial Strategy, which launched in 2017 and was updated in 2018.
While significant progress has been made, especially with consultations and evidence gathering, we now need to publish plans to give the clarity and certainty that businesses need to commit investment to deliver innovation and change to the goods and services that they provide. People want to know how they can make changes over time to play their part in this national endeavour.
My Ten Minute Rule Bill asks the government to publish a plan for meeting the domestic energy efficiency targets in the Clean Growth Strategy, make provision for the monitoring of performance against milestones in the plan, and establish an advisory body for the implementation of the plan. Home insulation may not capture the imagination as a standard bearer for the fourth industrial revolution in the way that electric cars and autonomous vehicles do, but it will make a huge contribution to our reduction in emissions from heating our homes.
As Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury, reported at a recent session of PMQs, enabling every home to be insulated to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C would save the equivalent of six Hinkley Point nuclear power stations. We will, of course, need this electricity to power our electric cars. Energy saving is just as important as generating carbon free and renewable energy.
There will be a huge impact on the quality of people’s lives too. Nearly half of my constituents live off the mains gas grid resulting in higher energy bills. Like the majority of people in the UK, they live in homes with low levels of insulation and energy efficiency measures. It has been estimated that reaching EPC band C would save low income families between £200 and £400 a year. Average wages in Cornwall, while rising, remain significantly below the England average too and so we have high levels of fuel poverty.
There are more benefits to living in an energy efficient home than keeping warm. Over the last nine years I have worked with Public Health Cornwall on an innovative partnership that has brought together businesses, Cornwall Council, healthcare and emergency service professionals and many voluntary sector organisations to help people out of fuel poverty. It has been funded by a mixture of public funding, Energy Company Obligation programmes, and voluntary donations. Over 20,000 people have been helped to live in warm homes. In addition, independent evaluation shows that the Winter Wellness Partnership has prevented more than 800 hospital admissions and helped 348 households remain in work or make progress towards work.
In Cornwall, over time we have shown that working with people on installing energy efficiency measures improves people’s health and wellbeing as well as the environment. Learning from this work, and much more across the country, we need to turbo charge our action on homes energy efficiency and I hope my Ten Minute Rule Bill will be the catalyst.
Sarah Newton is Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth. She will present her Ten Minute Rule Bill on Tuesday 18 June