Climate watchdog attacks collapse in work on buildings with energy leaks under Tories

An extraordinary collapse in work to tackle energy leakage from UK buildings over the past decade has been revealed as the crucial Cop27 climate summit continues.

Some 2.3 million measures were installed each year under government-backed programs when the Tories came to power – but that number has dropped to less than 100,000 in 2021.

The figures are revealed in a highly critical letter from the independent climate watchdog, which calls the government’s record “particularly poor”.

“Heating UK buildings contributed more than a fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2021,” wrote Lord Deben, chair of the climate change committee.

“Building emissions have stagnated over the past decade, largely due to underinvestment in energy efficiency.”

The letter, addressed to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, will be seen as an attempt to put tackling the climate crisis through better energy efficiency on the agenda for next week’s autumn statement.

“Unfortunately, it is too late to introduce new policies aimed at making widespread improvements to building fabric for this winter,” the committee said.

But he adds: “Government can lead by example by investing in energy efficiency in the public domain, demonstrating the efforts of national and local governments to reduce energy demand.”

The watchdog says it would cost ‘less than £1,100’ to give more than six in ten households ‘energy efficiency levels compatible with Net Zero’.

The criticism comes after Rishi Sunak was criticized for a ‘leadership vacuum’ on the climate crisis and a claim that the UK is ‘at the forefront’ of global efforts to avert disaster.

The Prime Minister initially refused to attend COP27 and the UK has been criticized for being among 165 countries that have failed to deliver on their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

UK plans to dramatically expand North Sea oil and gas production are in the firing line, with Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry warning against further licensing.

The government, under Liz Truss, has also resisted the sort of energy-saving campaign introduced by the EU, in response to soaring gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The committee is urging Mr Hunt to ‘make energy efficiency a central part of the government’s exit strategy from costly subsidies on energy bills’.

“With higher energy prices, investments in energy efficiency measures are recouped more quickly through savings on energy bills, even if inflation increases some construction costs,” the letter says. .

“The next two years should be a time of concerted efforts to improve attic and cavity wall insulation rates, draft insulation and the installation of modern tools to manage energy consumption. (such as smart thermostats, thermostatic radiator controls and smart meters).”

Marjorie N. McClure