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Recognizing the urgency of combating climate change, the UK has set legally binding commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving this ambitious goal necessitates a substantial increase in the deployment of insulation measures across various structures.
Despite governmental initiatives aimed at promoting the adoption of insulation measures, installation rates have witnessed a notable decline since 2012. Both the Committee on Climate Change and the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have underscored the imperative for the government to introduce novel strategies geared towards augmenting the uptake of insulation measures. These measures are pivotal in bolstering the quantity of insulation installed, thereby advancing progress toward the nation's carbon reduction targets.



The science is clear: the more carbon dioxide (CO2) we release into the air through human activities, the more the planet warms up. To avoid disastrous consequences, we need to slash CO2 emissions down to zero. To keep track of our progress and guide policymaking, the UK sets carbon budgets every five years. These budgets limit how much greenhouse gases the UK can emit. Right now, we're working on the fifth carbon budget, aiming to cut emissions by an average of 57% compared to 1990 levels. It's a crucial step in our fight against climate change.



The UK has enacted a legally binding target to reduce its carbon emissions by 100% of 1990 levels by 2050. This is known as the net zero target, because the legislation allows the UK to offset any emissions in excess of 1990 levels by purchasing carbon credits.The net zero target replaced the previous target of reducing the UK’s emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.  
‘Net zero’ refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere. Like a bath with the taps on, an approach to achieving this balance can either be to turn down the taps (the emissions) or to drain an equal amount down the plug (removals of emissions from the atmosphere, including storage for the emissions such as ‘carbon sinks’).
In contrast to a gross-zero target, which would reduce emissions from all sources uniformly to zero, a net-zero emissions target is more realistic because it allows for some residual emissions.
This takes into account that some emissions are produced by ‘hard-to-treat’ sectors, such as aviation and manufacturing, where reducing emissions is either too expensive, technologically too complex or simply not possible.
In a net-zero scenario the residual emissions from these sectors are allowed as long as they are offset by removing emissions using natural or engineered sinks – gross negative emissions.
The timing of the net-zero target that will be announced by the Committee on Climate Change is the final key element. Four options have been considered: 2025, 2045, 2050 and any time thereafter.
A target date of 2045 would match the ambition of Sweden and Norway, and, through setting a stringent target, demonstrate leadership on the international stage. This would promote the UK as a global forerunner for international diplomacy on climate change. However, it is also important to recognise that the UK is not even on track to hit its 4th or 5th carbon budgets, so expediting the target date while simultaneously increasing ambition seems unlikely to happen.
All these factors considered, the most realistic target is likely to be 2050, as the Financial Times has now alluded to. Further, this would require no change in primary legislation or formal revision of the 2008 Climate Change Act, whereas any deviation from 2050 is likely to necessitate the proposal of a new Bill or Act.



Energy use in homes accounts for about 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).  

The majority of energy used in homes, 63%, is for space heating. Insulation reduces the amount of heat lost through walls, roofs and floors, meaning that less energy is required to heat a building.  
The CCC argues that “near-complete” decarbonisation of how we heat our homes would be required for the UK to meet its emission reduction targets. This can be achieved through changing to cleaner fuels and reducing the amount of energy required. 



At the end of 2019, 70% of homes with a cavity wall had cavity wall insulation (14.1 million properties), 66% of homes with a loft had loft insulation (16.4 million properties) and 9% of homes with solid walls had solid wall insulation (764,000 properties). 
In 2017, carbon emissions from homes were 9% below 1990 levels. When adjusting for annual temperature variation, emissions from homes rose by 1% in 2017.  



The energy company obligation (Eco) and green deal are Government energy efficiency schemes, which began in 2013. They replaced the previous energy efficiency schemes: the carbon emissions reduction target, community energy saving programme and warm front. Their aim is to improve the efficiency of the country’s homes by encouraging the uptake of energy efficiency measures through grants, loans, and subsidies.  

The Government has a target to upgrade around one million homes through Eco and other Government domestic energy efficiency schemes. The target covers a five-year period, from the start of May 2015 to the end of April 2020. As of December 2019, around 963,900 homes had at least one improvement measure installed under Eco or the green deal. 



The Clean Growth Strategy sets out the Government’s policies aimed at increasing economic growth and decreasing carbon emissions. The strategy includes measures to bring emissions within those set out in the UK’s fifth carbon budget, covering the period 2028–32. 

In the strategy, the Government says that one “possible pathway” to achieving its emissions reduction goal for 2032 involves emissions from homes falling by almost one fifth compared to 2017 levels. This pathway could see a further six to nine million properties insulated. The Government says that “more broadly, our aspiration is that as many homes as possible are improved to EPC [energy performance certificate] Band C by 2035, where practical, cost-effective and affordable”



The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee highlights various factors that hinder the take-up of energy efficiency measures, including: 

  • high upfront costs; 
  • long-term returns;  
  • split incentives between landlords and tenants;  
  • the ‘hassle’ of retrofit works; and  
  • a perception that energy efficiency investment is not captured by property prices. 

It concludes that because of these obstacles, Government should intervene in the following ways: 

As fuel poor or low-income households are often not able to pay for energy efficiency measures, these costs should be covered by public investment to a significant or full extent. 
A combination of central government funding and social landlord investment should pay for energy efficiency in the social-rented sector. 
Better off households and private landlords should, where possible, pay for energy efficiency improvements themselves. However, because not all benefits of energy efficiency are reflected in market prices, incentives and regulation are needed to induce ‘able to pay’ property owners to invest. 



The Committee on Climate Change’s scenarios for meeting the fifth carbon budget require insulation of about 7.5 million more walls and lofts from the number recorded in 2015.  
The CCC argues that in many areas current policy is failing to drive uptake of energy efficiency measures in homes, including for highly cost-effective measures such as loft insulation. The CCC states that the uptake of energy efficiency measures such as loft and wall insulation must be increased, and that “policy needs to incentivise efficient long-term investments, rather than piecemeal incremental change”. 



1. House of Commons Library, Net Zero in the UK, 16 December 2019, accessed 12, February 2024 

2. House of Commons Library, UK Carbon Budgets, 9 July 2019  , accessed 12, February 2024 

3. Committee on Climate Change, UK Housing: Fit for the Future?, 21 February 2019 , accessed 12, February 2024 

4., ‘Home-insulation-and-the-net-zero-target’, accessed 12, February 2024 


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