ACAN’s statement on the aims of Insulate Britain
ACAN and Architects’ Declare make a joint statement in support of the aims of Insulate Britain
The UK’s housing stock is not fit for the climate emergency we are in, to meet the government’s own legal obligation of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 we must undertake a massive and holistic retrofit of UK homes. This has been advised in numerous reports to the Government and the UK will not meet our climate obligations without updating our buildings. It is with this understanding of the scale and severity of the problem that Architects’ Declare and the Architects Climate Action Network support the aims of the Insulate Britain Campaign.
According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), emissions from buildings in the UK have fallen by less than 1% per year since 2009 (1). Recent extreme weather events in Britain and all over the world indicate that the long-predicted Climate Emergency is now upon us. Without rapid and far-reaching action to reduce CO2 emissions, there will be even more irreversible damage to the natural world and our ability to live within it. According to the UN Secretary-General, the IPCC’s Working Group 1 Report of August 2021 is ‘a code red for humanity’: "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses" (2).
Heating our homes currently accounts for 15% of UK CO2 emissions (3), the vast majority of these homes will still be standing in 2050. To ensure our homes are capable of providing comfortable, affordable and low-carbon dwellings, whole house retrofit including insulation, ventilation and more efficient heating systems must be undertaken. This means that we need to retrofit a million homes a year for the next 29 years – this is possible, but we need to act now.
Upgrading the thermal performance of the UK’s draughty and inefficient homes is an essential part of a wider strategy to decarbonise the UK. This vital work will create tens of thousands of skilled jobs, release hundreds of thousands of people from fuel poverty and protect them from excessive heat as temperatures increase.
We need a national, government-funded programme, led by the built environment industry supporting workers and starting with the most vulnerable in our society. It must have clear objectives, appropriate methodologies and consumer guarantees. This has been necessary for decades and is only getting more urgent. The government’s own Climate Change Committee has stated that this should be “supported by the Treasury as a national infrastructure priority.”
Construction industry professionals have the knowledge, experience, skills and motivation to help make this happen today, but we need our government to support this essential work. They must ensure it is properly funded, effectively administered and that households are supported through the costs and disruption. Decades of inadequate response and botched programmes have led us to the point where we have a daunting task ahead of us but it is not too late to fix our homes and ensure they are the healthy, climate-resilient buildings we need.
Insulate Britain is demanding that this low carbon retrofitting programme is rolled out immediately and completed by 2030. We realise that it would take a huge and coordinated commitment of finances and resources from our government to do this; much like (although a lot less expensive than) their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Insulate Britain campaign is highlighting one aspect of the housing crisis in this country, the warnings have been given and the science is clear, we must act now, any more delay is simply irresponsible. The industry is ready, people are in need and the government must show the leadership necessary in this emergency.
The Architects' Declare Steering Group
The Architects Climate Action Network Steering Group
(1) BEIS (2021) 2020 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Provisional Figures quoted in the CCC 2021 Progress Report
(2) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report
"Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity," said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success."
(3) DECC. Emissions from Heat: Statistical Summary. 1–12 (2012).