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UK households have written an open letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma, pressing him to push the Government to develop a national strategy for decarbonising existing buildings within the UK. The call to action comes amid reports of rows within the Government about the cost of low-carbon heating.

The open letter is being convened by Households Declare, a new campaign launched this week as an offshoot of the Architects Climate Action Network.

Flagging the repeated assertation of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) that the UK will not meet its legally binding emissions targets “without near-complete decarbonisation of the housing stock”, the campaign is calling for the Government to develop a national strategy for retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.

This was the original aim of the Green Homes Grant and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which help households and public sector organisations respectively with the bulk of the costs of improvements that reduce energy consumption. But the Green Homes Grant closed in spring, with less than 10% of the £2bn promised in vouchers issued.

The Government has partly blamed difficulties in getting tradespeople who deliver retrofitting works certified in line with the scheme’s requirements. It has since confirmed that £500,000 originally earmarked to the scheme will go to English and Scottish Councils directly, enabling them to deliver their own home retrofit schemes.

Ministers have been pressured by trade bodies, NGOs, local councils, and activists to clarify plans for replacing the Green Homes Grant in full, but this has not yet been confirmed. Households Declare is calling for strategy details as soon as possible, calling on Ministers to “do it now and make it fair”. To this latter point, it wants the Government to uphold its commitment to levelling up by ensuring that new policies do not exclude low-income houses and that they tackle the fuel poverty problem as well as the climate crisis. BEIS figures have shown that one in ten UK households is in fuel poverty.

Heat And Buildings Strategy Debate 

After the UK Government missed their chance to outline a replacement for the Green Homes Grant at the 2021 Budget speech, the next chance to do so will be through the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy. This policy package initially consisted of two separate Strategies, both originally slated for publication in autumn 2020.

Delays, until recently, had been attributed to the need to combine the Strategies and to the Government’s prioritisation of the Covid-19 response. Although, the Strategy was due ahead of the start of Parliament’s summer recess on 22nd July and recent delays have led to disagreements within the Conservative Party over the financing of the plans.

It has been reported that the upcoming maximum grant of £4,000 for households looking to install new low-carbon heating systems, currently offered through the Clean Homes Grant scheme, will be increased. There has been backlash from MPs over proposals, however, to only offer grants to low-income homes. Backbenchers have argued that some households should not need to pay upwards of £10,000 towards the cost of decarbonising their home heating.

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