The government has set the wheels in motion for a general election this December and at the moment who will win is anyone’s guess. While the main political parties are all focusing heavily on Brexit, a new poll has revealed that many voters want to hear more about how they’ll tackle climate change.
The Independent reported that 63 per cent of people don’t believe politicians are discussing climate change enough, while 58 per cent stated that they don’t believe the government is doing enough to tackle the issue.
Among the top priorities cited by British voters for the government were planting more trees, making homes more energy efficient and ploughing greater levels of investment into renewable energy.
What’s more, many were also supportive of bringing forward the deadline of 2050 for cutting the country’s emissions to net zero.
While it’s interesting to see so many people engaging with the issue of climate change, and demanding more from governments, there are things we can all do on an individual level to help reduce our impact on the world around us.
The Energy Saving Trust recently pointed out that if every household in the UK took steps to introduce energy efficiency measures now, we could meet 11 per cent of the 2050 target. That just goes to show how small, individual actions can make a real difference, and how important they could be in tackling climate change overall.
According to the organisation, it’s essential to reduce our demand for energy to help mitigate climate change.
It cited a report from Cambridge Econometrics and Verco, which found that if we improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock, we could reduce the amount of natural gas we have to import as a nation by 26 per cent.
To do this, we need every home in the country to have an energy performance certificate (EPC) of at least C by 2035. Achieving this would be possible through measures such as installing insulation and more efficient heating systems in homes.
In addition to insulation, we should also consider the energy that can be lost through our pipework, or through draughts in our property.
Windows and doors are the obvious place to look when it comes to stopping draughts. If you live in a period property, you may well have sash windows. These look great, but they’re not always the best from an energy efficiency perspective.
It could therefore be worth looking into how you could boost your property’s performance when it comes to energy use simply by installing new sash windows in Buckinghamshire, or wherever you live.
Other steps to consider include installing thermostats on individual radiators, or using a programmer for different radiators in your home to ensure you’re only heating the rooms you’re spending time in at different times of the day.
You could also explore new kinds of heating systems for your home. One of the most sustainable options is a heat pump, which is powered using renewable energy. But even swapping out an old, inefficient gas boiler for a newer condensing gas boiler will make a difference.
This kind of change will also save you money on your energy bills in the long term, so it’s worth looking into if you want to reduce your heating costs and do your bit for the environment.
Earlier this month, Inside Housing reported on the government’s latest consultation about improving energy efficiency standards for new-build properties. Its preferred option is for new homes to show at least a 30 per cent improvement in energy efficiency compared to 2013 levels.
According to the news provider, this could cost housing developers £10 billion over the course of 70 years. However, it would deliver benefits worth £11 billion, including in terms of lower heating bills, carbon savings and air quality savings.
The impact assessment that set out the suggested policy stated: “Split incentives mean that developers have little reason to build better performing buildings, as they do not enjoy the benefits of lower energy bills or income from energy generated by renewable technologies installed in the building.”
But whichever government we have following the December general election will need to find a way to boost standards in house building, given that one-fifth of the country’s emissions are generated by our building stock.
Robert Jenrick, housing secretary, said that he wants to see developers doing their part to deliver homes that are environmentally friendly and that can be supported by communities and maintained for the next generation to enjoy.
Energy efficiency in both existing and new-build homes needs to be a priority for everyone if the 2050 target of the UK being net zero with its emissions is going to be met, Simon Storer, chief executive of the Insulation Manufacturers Association recently stated.
Speaking to Planning and Building Control Today, he said that ensuring every home – both existing and new – is correctly insulated will be essential if the UK’s building stock is to reduce the emissions it generates.
Mr Storer also explained that it’s not only about the type of insulation that’s used in homes, but how well it’s installed. His recommendation is for PIR/PUR insulation, which he described as “the easiest and most cost-effective way to saving energy in homes and buildings”.
He added: “Competency in installation is vital because when a high-performing product such as PIR/PUR is installed incorrectly, the thermal performance and reduce thermal efficiency will not be maximised.”
If you have an older home that’s in need of some work, installing high-performance insulation could be one of several steps you take to maximise its energy efficiency. Replacing old windows is another, as is further draught proofing around doors.
Should you be carrying out a significant renovation, you could also explore the options for introducing renewable energy sources to your property. As well as lowering your carbon footprint, this will reduce your energy bills.
When it comes to retrofitting properties, it’s essential that you do so with the highest quality materials and that the work is carried out by professionals who are fully accredited and trained.
TrustMark is a government-endorsed quality scheme for tradespeople. Accreditation shows that the person or business in question is committed to meeting certain standards and maintaining a high quality of work.
Earlier this year, the scheme published a framework for high-quality retrofits. This scheme is known as PAS 2035, takes a whole building approach to retrofits and the framework was developed specifically with residential properties in mind.
Chief executive officer of TrustMark Simon Ayers said that publication of PAS 2035 will help the industry deliver higher quality retrofits that can help the country meet its carbon reduction obligations.
“TrustMark is increasingly working with a number of energy efficiency bodies to establish excellent practices that will ensure homeowners are protected and efficiency is a priority in existing homes,” Mr Ayers explained.
Making sure that homeowners know about such guidance is important, to enable them to make informed choices as consumers when they’re deciding which energy efficiency measures to implement in their homes.
With more and more people interested in mitigating their impact on the environment, there is likely to be greater demand for clear and concise guidance that can help people make decisions about how best to retrofit their properties, whether they’re looking for new windows or considering installing renewable energy generation equipment.
In addition to the TrustMark framework, the Energy Saving Trust offers useful advice and guidance to homeowners about the ways they can boost the energy efficiency of their properties.