Warm homes that don’t cost the Earth
It’s estimated that nearly five million homes in England and Wales lack basic energy efficiency measures such as loft or cavity wall insulation. Recent research by Friends of the Earth identified the 1,000 coldest neighbourhoods in England and Wales where homes have the lowest energy efficiency ratings and where the majority of people are living on low incomes.
We’re calling for these areas to be targeted first for the roll-out of a free, street-by-street insulation programme. This can’t wait until 2025, it needs to happen now, to bring down bills and harmful carbon emissions. This energy efficiency drive would create thousands of new green jobs nationwide. Our analysis shows this would include as many jobs (600) in West Cumbria as the new mine.
Make the polluters pay
Big fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell have posted huge profits off the back of soaring energy prices. Sunak’s decision to introduce a windfall tax on these bumper profits was welcome but doesn’t go nearly far enough – and contains a significant loophole that allows them to avoid paying the bulk of the levy if they invest in more planet-heating gas and oil developments.
The government must take a much bigger slice of these unearned profits. The extra cash raised should be channelled into schemes, such as insulation, to help the millions of people struggling to cope.
Invest in more cheap, popular renewables
Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation – far cheaper than gas – and turbines are quick to build. Wind power is also popular, with eight in 10 of us supporting it. But for the past seven years, planning rules in England have prevented all but a few wind developments from being built. Bizarrely, an objection by just one person can be enough to scupper a planning permission.
Thankfully, following intense public and political pressure, including from a sizeable number of Conservative MPs, the government has been forced to review this de facto ban. Sunak must now ensure that the new rules do not create another set of impossible barriers. Cheap, clean, homegrown and almost limitless – wind power is a no brainer.
Leave fossil fuels in the ground
The government must end its harmful and outdated addiction to fossil fuels. More than 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences are planned for the coming year – bypassing advice from scientists that they are incompatible with global climate goals. Despite promises ahead of COP26 to relegate coal to the history books, the new mine was approved. Even the government’s official climate adviser slammed it as “absolutely indefensible” and business leaders at the CBI described it as “a huge step backwards”. If we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change new fossil fuels must be left in the ground.
Sunak’s decisions will have significant implications for years to come. Will he stick with the failed energy policies of the past, or throw his weight behind the clean, modern and affordable future we so urgently need?
Mike Childs is head of policy, science and research at Friends of the Earth
This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.
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