PBM editor Paul Davies used the Viewpoint column in the magazine’s September edition to discuss the ‘investment gap’ when it comes to meeting the UK’s climate change obligations.
For all the headlines grabbed by Boris Johnson’s new job and the not entirely unrelated ongoing farrago that is Brexit, the issue of climate change has remained remarkably high on the news agenda. In recent months, we’ve witnessed the contrasting forms of protest enacted by both Extinction Rebellion and many hundreds of thousands (possibly millions…) of Greta Thunberg-inspired schoolchildren across the globe.
Earlier in the summer, of course, torrential rain at home caused severe damage to the concrete spillway of the 300-million-gallon Toddbrook Reservoir, triggering fears that the dam wall could collapse and swamp the town of Whaley Bridge. Whilst many issues contributed to the near-failure, the increasing regularity of severe weather caused by climate change will only serve to place further pressure on our water management infrastructure.
And even though scepticism still persists in some quarters about the veracity of the issue itself, the UK has outwardly presented itself as being in the vanguard of climate crisis action. In June, a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was enshrined into law, making the nation the first major economy to do so. The country is also set to host the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) — a ‘critical global summit’ said to be the most significant since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015.
Unfortunately, a report in July from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee rather deflated the balloon. The document argued that improving the energy efficiency of buildings will be vital to meeting climate change obligations and would be “by far the cheapest way of cutting our emissions” — yet progress has stalled in many ways.
The report cites a substantial “investment gap” and urges the allocation of more central funding for energy efficiency measures, noting that: “public investment has shrunk, and the rate of installations has gone backwards — with insulation measures installed in houses under Government schemes now around 95% lower than in 2012.”
Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP said: “Despite a consensus on what needs to be done, Ministers have continued to sit on their hands and failed to deliver the policies needed to boost energy efficiency. The Government needs to commit to investing in schemes to ensure all buildings are brought up to the highest energy efficiency standards (but it) has failed to close loopholes in regulations that allow builders to develop to outdated standards and also enabled them to sell homes that do not meet the standards advertised.”
No-one is arguing for a return to the farce of an ill-conceived initiative like the Green Deal, but more support — crucially, as part of a comprehensive strategy — is undoubtedly required. Notwithstanding the efforts from many manufacturers to improve the energy performance of their products and processes, progress will not be made if corners continue to be cut and the playing field is not level for all concerned.
And for the more cynical amongst you, the issue is not just about saving the planet but also saving — and making — money. Innovation leads to efficiencies, better business practices and more sales as any project will include far more than just the elements covered by green schemes or subsidies.
With the charity National Energy Action arguing that 1.2m homes need to be renovated each year until 2035 for the Government to just keep pace with its own targets, that’s an awful lot of business waiting to be unlocked.
Public investment has shrunk, and the rate of installations has gone backwards — with insulation measures installed in houses under Government schemes now around 95% lower than in 2012.