UK’s energy targets won’t be met if Ministers fail to provide more detail on energy targets and time scale
The government’s Energy Bill entered its committee stage in the House of Commons last week. The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s flagship initiative, the Green Deal, is introduced in this bill. It has the potential to put in place an ambitious energy saving programme that could hold back domestic fuel bill increases, end fuel poverty, help reduce carbon emissions to meet carbon budgets, and maintain tens of thousands of new jobs. In its current form, however, the bill will not deliver on this.
At the Second Reading of the Bill Greg Barker, the climate minister, promised to bring to committee two amendments: one for an “energy efficiency aim” that would ensure his policy is grounded in the need to cut carbon emissions; the other a means of reporting. While the government has recognised the importance of providing greater clarity on its energy saving programme it needs to go much further. In WWF’s view the government’s amendments for committee (New Clauses 6 and 7) are insufficient, incoherent, and inconsistent with ministers’ aspirations.
The Government’s “energy efficiency aim” amendment seeks to ground elements of the energy saving programme in the 2050 target to cut emissions by 80%. A significant omission is that it does not link to individual carbon budget periods to ensure a clear trajectory based on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change for energy and carbon savings. To confuse matters, the government’s “reporting amendment” seeks to report on progress for each carbon budget period. To properly assess and report on progress for each carbon budget period there needs to be a clearly outlined aim for the energy saving programme covering each carbon budget period, as well as the overall 2050 target.
The government’s own impact assessment describes the overall goal of the Green Deal as “to improve the energy efficiency of existing building stock in the UK, including households and non-domestic properties”. The government’s amendments only provide an aim for half this goal – the housing stock. By not including non-domestic buildings in its aim the Government has given no clarity on what energy saving and carbon reductions must be achieved in this sector in each carbon budget period. Given that this sector contributes approximately 12% of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions this is a slight oversight.
Ministers have been vocal about their aspirations for the Green Deal. It is the “most ambitious energy-saving plan ever put forward” and the “biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War” that will “transform the country’s homes”. Yet the “energy-saving plan” is one thing missing from the bill. There is no clear outline of the energy savings necessary to meet legally binding carbon targets and there is no over-arching strategy – no holistic plan – for this programme.
Provisions in existing legislation and the carbon plan are not sufficient for what needs to be included in this energy-saving plan. The success of this programme rests on having a dedicated, credible, cross-departmental plan that sets out how the ambition will need to be met, the levers the government will pull, the policy interactions, and that is subject to review. This is vital and required to focus attention across government. Without a duty on the Secretary of State to produce this plan the credibility of the energy saving programme is significantly weakened as it does not have the necessary longevity to give confidence to business.
There are amendments tabled for the committee stage that will deliver on ministers’ aspirations – the Warm Homes Amendment. This amendment (tabled as New Clauses 8, 9, and 10) is supported by coalition of over 70 organisations, including FTSE100 businesses, major trade associations, international NGOs, small companies, and local community groups.
The Warm Homes Amendment links the new energy saving programme in the Energy Bill to the UK’s legally binding target of 80% cuts in carbon by 2050 and to the required cuts that must be achieved in each carbon budget. It also ensures the policy delivers on the need to tackle fuel poverty. This isn’t about introducing new targets - these are in place already through the Climate Change Act. The amendment also introduces the duty on the Secretary of State to produce a plan for the energy saving programme along with utilising existing annual reporting mechanisms for energy policy.
The amendment brings ambition, transparency, accountability and cohesion to the government’s policy on energy saving. Clarity on the scale, pace and timings of the programme - including the energy savings required if the UK’s carbon targets are to be met - is essential for establishing confidence in the programme, giving business certainty, and attracting sufficient large-scale investment.
To ensure the Green Deal is a success and meets ministers’ aspirations a clear level of ambition is necessary, as is a plan to realise this. WWF believes that the government should withdraw its amendments and support the Warm Homes Amendment instead. Business, communities, NGOs, and the many thousands of people who have emailed their MP about the amendment will support them.
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Darren Shirley is Sustainable Homes Campaign Manager for WWF-U