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Experts point to ‘inexplicable’ gap in climate action

The government’s climate watchdog has warned of a ‘shocking gap’ in progress on the energy efficiency of buildings, echoing concerns from global experts that energy efficiency is undervalued.


The government’s climate watchdog has warned of a ‘shocking gap’ in progress on the energy efficiency of buildings, echoing concerns from global experts that energy efficiency is undervalued.

A new Progress Report by the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) – its first since the government launched its Net Zero Strategy in 2021 – has found that current programmes and policies are not enough to deliver on the UK’s climate goals.

The report looks at detailed progress indicators across the economy, and while it concludes that there are some “bright spots” of progress (particularly in the deployment of renewable electricity and the adoption of electric cars), there is “scant evidence” of improvement in most areas of the economy.

Gap in energy efficiency action

The sector subject to most criticism is buildings, which are responsible for 20 per cent of the UK’s emissions. The CCC warns of a “shocking gap in policy” for energy efficient homes in particular, but adds that crucial interventions are also missing for public and commercial buildings as well.

Retrofitting existing buildings with insulation, low carbon heating and other energy efficiency upgrades is one of the most effective ways of reducing emissions whilst simultaneously reducing the impact of high energy prices and strengthening energy security.

In fact, recent analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that energy efficiency improvements can play a huge role in reaching net zero.

Business leaders ‘failing’

Doubling the current rate of energy intensity improvement from 2 per cent to 4 per cent per year – mostly though readily-available technologies that pay for themselves like insulation, low carbon heating and more energy efficient equipment – would save the equivalent of China’s annual energy consumption by the end of the decade. This alone would deliver around a third of the total emissions reduction needed to put the world on course for net zero emissions by 2050.

“Energy efficiency is a critical solution to so many of the world’s most urgent challenges – it can simultaneously make our energy supplies more affordable, more secure and more sustainable. But inexplicably, government and business leaders are failing to sufficiently act on this,” said the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol.

“The oil shocks of the 1970s set in motion major advances in efficiency, and it is utterly essential that efficiency is at the heart of the response to today’s global energy crisis.”

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