Last month Labour launched a report on a green economic recovery for the UK (for housing proposals see p.14-16), showing how we intend to recover from the current economic crisis by investing in green jobs and technologies.
Replacing windows, lagging lofts and insulating walls are all labour intensive, semi-skilled tasks. Potential jobs are spread right across the country, with poorer levels of insulation found in many of the more deprived areas that have been hardest hit by the jobs crisis.
We estimate the government could create more than 100,000 jobs over the next 18 months by extending and expanding several current grant programmes, including the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund and the Green Homes grant programme (see below).
The government recently published their own 10 Point Plan, but as usual it was big on rhetoric but short on substance. The funding in this long-awaited announcement doesn’t remotely meet the scale of what is needed to tackle the unemployment emergency and climate emergency we are facing. Only a fraction of the announced funding is new. We desperately need an ambitious plan that meets the scale of the task we are facing and – crucially – creates jobs now.
Making new and existing housing more energy efficient is one of my priorities as Shadow Housing Secretary. It is also my focus as a member of Labour’s Climate Action Committee, a shadow cabinet sub-group putting together the strongest possible climate policy for the UK.
Green Homes grants
The Committee on Change Committee has made clear that the UK cannot meet its climate objectives – cutting carbon emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050 – without a major improvement in UK housing.
The Green Homes grant scheme, which has been extended into next year, is a step in the right direction but does not nearly go far enough. Many interested homeowners report they are unable to get the work done due to a lack of accredited installers. We need a long-term improvements programme which gives industry the certainty it needs to create jobs, invest in technology and build expertise.
Higher building standards for new homes
Last month in the Commons, I challenged Robert Jenrick to commit to climate-friendly, zero carbon homes. If the Tories had not scrapped the Zero Carbon Homes standard five years ago, homes built today would already be much more efficient than the proposed ‘Future Homes Standard’.
While the consultation on the Future Homes standard is yet to report, it seems likely that these new standards should reduce current emissions by 75-80% by 2025 – hardly the ambition or urgency needed to respond to the climate emergency.
I believe these delayed and unambitious building standards fail to give the construction industry the clear direction it needs to invest in future methods. As a result, homes built over the next few years will soon need expensive retrofitting to bring them up to the necessary levels of comfort and energy efficiency.