Britain won’t reach net zero unless local councils help retrofit homes, MPs warn

Boris Johnson will host world leaders at Cop26 next week  (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson will host world leaders at Cop26 next week (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson’s government will struggle to reach its net zero target unless local councils get involved in making homes more energy efficient, MPs have warned.

Ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK ministers have set out proposals to encourage green home improvements as part of a wider plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

But MPs on the housing committee said the government’s strategy lacks proper funding for local authorities to help make Britain’s homes more energy efficient.

Labour MP Clive Betts, the chair of the housing select committee, said councils must be given support to help deliver change. “The government must learn the lessons of past failed nationally delivered ‘green’ schemes,” he said.

Mr Betts added: “To meet the scale of the challenge and enable local councils to make long-term decisions on behalf of their communities, the government should also come forward with a long-term funding plan for local authority climate action.”

The government’s plan to hand out £5,000 grants to help residents replace their gas boilers with green heat pumps over the next three years has been branded “inadequate” by environmentalists.

Only 90,000 of the UK’s 22 million gas-heated households will benefit from the £450m commitment, according to Friends of the Earth. Greenpeace also warned it “stopped short of what is required”.

The report published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Friday also claimed the government’s strategy lacked ambition.

The MPs said there was a risk a large number of existing gas boilers will simply be replaced with new gas boilers unless families were given a greater incentive to make changes.

“Moving to lower or zero emissions from new homes is important,” said Mr Betts. “But to reach net zero, it’s crucial that insulation is improved in existing homes and that householders are offered viable choices and incentives to replace their gas boilers and decarbonise their heating.”

The MPs report also urged the government to set funding plans to decarbonise heating beyond 2025, and bring in a new target of moving to zero carbon homes by 2030.

The Local Government Association (LGA), the body representing local authorities across England, said council bosses would have to be “at the core” of the country’s efforts to hit the net zero target.

“It is absolutely crucial that councils are at the forefront of the national response to climate change,” said councillor Darren Rodwell, the LGA’s environment spokesperson. “We need the government to work in partnership with local authorities to … help to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.”

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