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Joe Bradbury asks what we can do about the ticking clock of climate change and whether the government is right to scrap the Green Homes Grant

The Green Homes Grant closed to new applications on 31 March, after the government brought the scheme to an end a year earlier than originally intended). Housing Association Magazine Editor Joe Bradbury explores the issues.

The £1.5bn scheme (launched in September 2020) was designed to assist homeowners in making energy-efficient home improvements to improve building performance and lower their energy bills.

Initially launched with a budget of £2bn, of which £1.5bn was for homeowners and £500m was for local authorities, the grant was intended to run until 31st March 2022.

However, marred with delays, less than 5% of the budget had been spent by January this year, reaching just 10% of the 600,000 homes chancellor Rishi Sunak promised would be improved.

Regardless of your political stance, the clock is ticking on climate change

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Editor of Housing Association

Sending the wrong message

The scrapping of the deal sent ripples throughout the industry. Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, Brian Berry commented that the scrapping of the Green Homes Grant scheme “sends entirely the wrong message to consumers and builders and will harm the UK’s desire to be seen as a global leader in tackling climate change.”

Linked with a series of failed efforts, comparisons are now being made between the Green Homes Grant scheme and the Green Deal, a previous scheme launched by David Cameron’s government in 2012.

The Green Deal boldly aimed to improve the energy efficiency of 14 million homes, yet by the time the scheme was brought to an end in 2015, only 14,000 households had benefitted.

Gone…but not forgotten!

Although the premature scrapping of this deal appears as if the government are stepping away from environmental obligations, whether or not this is the case remains to be seen.

Apparently, what remains of the money set aside for the Green Homes Grant will be merged with the budget from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which will enable £562m which will supposedly be targeted at lower income households, with the new scheme having a target of helping to improve the energy efficiency of around 50,000 social homes...

…a far cry from the promise of helping improve efficiency for 14 million homes back in 2012 but certainly better than nothing; especially considering the housing stock in the United Kingdom is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe.

Almost 2.5 million families in the UK live in poor housing conditions and suffer from fuel poverty. This means they are unable to maintain a reasonable temperature in their homes due to low income.

Most of the housing in the UK dates back to before the 1990s when energy efficiency design was not regulated.

Who is set to benefit?

As afore mentioned, the merging of the two spent deals should free up £562m in government funding which could enable over 200 local authorities across England and Scotland to fund a nationwide upgrade of the UK’s least energy efficient and fuel-poor homes.

If left alone to run its course and pushed proactively, this money could help transform over 50,000 low-income households and social housing properties and support over 8,000 energy sector jobs annually, including local plumbers, builders and tradespeople.

According to the government website, the new scheme will include measures such as cavity wall, underfloor and loft insulation, and replacing gas boilers with low carbon alternatives like heat pumps where appropriate.

It will also include installing solar panels on many social housing, helping residents on low-incomes create their own green energy to power their homes.

The environmental concern

The average household in the UK emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 every year from heating their home.

Based on size of population, Britain is a world leader in greenhouse gas emissions, due to its historic use of coal. The UK is more responsible for global warming than any other country – if global carbon dioxide emissions are allocated using per capita calculations.

Based on this formula, the UK is rated the world’s top carbon polluter, followed closely by the USA, Canada, Russia and Germany. China, currently the world’s leading emitter, lies in 19th position.

Emissions from domestic properties currently account for around 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions and, as such, should be a priority area for the government.

Should the new funding be spent as intended then the new project stands to help cut over 70,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere annually- the equivalent of the total direct and indirect carbon footprint produced by around 9,000 UK households.

In summary

The environment is apolitical.

Regardless of your political stance, the clock is ticking on climate change.

The government, its opposition, British residents, businesses and housebuilders alike should come together on this issue in a bid to tackle it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The world could very well depend upon it.

Joe Bradbury is Digital Editor of HA magazine