Committee of MPs says focus on new-build homes has led to lack of action on energy efficiency of existing housing stock

The government is not doing enough to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, a committee of MPs has warned.

The focus on reducing the environmental impact of new-build housing has meant a neglect of the UK's existing 25 million homes, says a report by the communities and local government committee.

Existing stock housing

The government has pledged that by 2016 all new homes built in England will be zero-carbon. But existing homes emit nearly twice as much carbon as new ones, said the report, and more imaginative measures are needed to reduce their environmental impact. Improved insulation and draught exclusion will not be enough.

Since housing causes over a quarter of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, said the report, the government's target of a 60% reduction in total emissions by 2050 cannot be met without tackling the environmental impact of existing housing stock - most of which will be still standing by mid-century.

Among other measures, the Existing Housing and Climate Change report proposes the nationwide introduction of smart meters to help people monitor their energy use and stamp duty rebates for those who improve the energy-efficiency of their homes within a year of moving in.

It recommends close consultation with local authorities on rolling out home efficiency improvement measures and also suggests that a code similar to the Code for Sustainable Homes should be introduced for existing homes.

The report says: “The bulk of our housing, however old and leaky it may be, is capable of the kind of improvement that will deliver the necessary reduction in carbon emissions without destroying the visual character and appearance that makes it uniquely ours.

“The trick will be to find imaginative solutions as new markets and skills develop to bring new ideas and technologies to homes in which the 'low-hanging fruit' of draught exclusion and insulation has already been plucked.”

The committee welcomed the government's new Green Homes Service, a one-stop shop to help householders cut fuel bills and emissions, but said the biggest challenge in improving energy efficiency was how to engage the millions of individual householders.