Net-zero Emissions: Behaviour Change Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Net-zero Emissions: Behaviour Change

Lord Grantchester Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I am very grateful to have been nominated to join your Lordships’ Environment and Climate Change Committee on the retirement of our esteemed colleague Lord Puttnam in January. It is a great privilege. I thank the committee’s excellent chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for her welcome and the committee members for their tolerance throughout. I join others in congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford on securing this debate today, so soon after the committee’s report was published last week—he must have had a premonition.

The Minister and many of his colleagues have already admitted the case and its urgency from the analysis of the Climate Change Committee, yet the paucity of government support is clearly exposed with recommendations for action in this report. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Frost, that, without change, human behaviour is proving destructive to the planet, and that should concern us all.

In their net-zero strategy of last October, the Government set out six principles needed to underpin behaviour change. I highlight the three critical elements: make the green choice the easiest; make the green choice affordable; and set out a clear and consistent vision and pathway of how people and businesses can engage to get to net zero and fulfil their role with changed behaviours.

The committee’s report sets out a detailed analysis with clear recommendations. I am glad to be able to keep the report on the agenda, keep raising the issues, and keep the urgency on the Government to respond more fully with an exhaustive reply to the report as soon as possible.

If behaviour change is accepted in all quarters—so that, in the grudging words of the most recent former Secretary of State for Defra, George Eustice:

“Behaviour change is quite integral to many parts of Government policy”—

I would like to concentrate my remarks on the most crucial area of everyday behaviour with the most crucial need for improvement and change: everybody’s homes and buildings. They are where most people spend most of their time. This also highlights a key area for the Government to co-ordinate and encourage with resources and responsibility, namely with local authorities, schools, health authorities and businesses.

The UK’s housing stock is among the oldest and least efficient in the developed world. The private rented sector has some of the least fuel-efficient homes, with high numbers not connected to the grid. Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show that heat and power currently make up 40% of the UK’s total energy use. In the net-zero strategy, carbon emissions from new-build homes must be around 30% lower than current standards and emissions from other new buildings, including offices and shops, must be reduced by 27%.

Under the heat and building strategy, the future trajectory for the non-domestic minimum energy efficiency standards will be EPC B by 2030. Clearly, the Government must initiate a national engagement strategy to highlight the benefits of improved energy efficiency of homes, which also comes with the benefits of reducing household bills and the cost of living.

As the Minister highlighted at Second Reading of the Energy Prices Bill last night, ECO Plus with ECO 4 needs to be prioritised, and learning the lessons that he recognises from the past failures of the green homes grant is a crucial and central plank to encourage the necessary behaviour change to be embedded in the consciousness of the public. This will call for determination and consistency of support. Results from Climate Assembly UK’s findings into public perceptions on retrofitting homes showed that, in addition to the costs involved, major anxiety concerned the scale of disruption to be lived with throughout the process.

Will the Minister assess whether the new efficiency schemes could reintroduce the landlord energy savings allowance, to permit landlords to offset the purchase and installation of the most important energy-saving measures from their income returns? Have the Government reconsidered the zero-carbon homes measures for housebuilders? Although it is encroaching on the Treasury’s recent confusing energy statements, may I call for consideration of the promotion of green mortgages and reductions in stamp duty should a property qualify with energy-efficiency ratings?

Necessarily, the Government need to prioritise support for energy cost relief this winter. However, they cannot row back on the long-term imperatives necessary to achieve the crucial targets to ensure that net zero can be reached with the least cost.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the speaking limit? He has rather exceeded it.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My last sentence is this: this is the first mixed message the Government must learn to avoid in the report today.