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April 16, 2007 8:08 AM

Millions of tonnes of carbon emissions could be saved and fuel bills cut under new Liberal Democrat proposals to make Britain's homes more energy efficient.

Housing is crucial to combating climate change, as it is responsible for over a quarter of our carbon emissions. The proposals could save 31 millions of tonnes of CO2, more carbon than is produced annually by all the cars on Britain's roads. Currently, British homes waste an average of £385 a year in energy compared to Sweden.

The Climate Change Starts at Home proposals would:

•?Set tough new GreenHouse standards for new homes which would cut fuel bills and soon pay for themselves.

•?Create a system of 'energy mortgages' which would encourage energy efficiency improvements on existing houses. Three quarters of the homes we will use in 2050 have already been built so a major programme of refurbishment is needed. Under the current rate of Government schemes, it would take 125 years to refurbish existing homes.

•?Introduce a 'cap and trade' scheme for energy companies - they will maximise their profits by helping their customers become more energy efficient.

Speaking while visiting a visit a house built in 1870 which is undergoing improvements to make it more energy efficient, Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell said:

"Tackling climate change requires us to take action now - the Stern Review made it clear that we simply cannot afford to wait.

"People are paying high fuel bills because their homes too easily lose energy. Our proposals will help people save the environment and cut bills.

"Creating a national scheme of 'energy mortgages' will allow people to use the money saved from having an energy efficient home to invest in the necessary improvements."

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne MP said:

"Millions of people struggle to pay their fuel bills each winter, yet are unable to afford improvements on their homes to make them more energy efficient.

"With an 'energy mortgage', proven improvements will deliver real energy cuts, that will pay for themselves and save money in the long term, will be accessible to everyone.

"Building new homes to tough, rigorously enforced standards, would significantly cut fuel bills and effectively pay for itself, making homes more affordable for first time buyers."


Notes to Editors

1. The Liberal Democrats would introduce tougher building regulations for new homes with early pilot projects leading to a target of ensuring GreenHouse standards - based on Germany's PassivHaus standards - across the UK from 2011.

But since three quarters of the housing stock that will be used in 2050 has already been built, the key to meeting our carbon emissions targets lie in improving our existing homes.

There will be a new scheme to reassure householders - whether renting or buying - that standardised packages will improve energy efficiency. Householders could typically receive a £2000 subsidy towards the cost if they install packages based on specifications for the type of home worked up with the Royal Institute of British Architects, and aiming for best practice standards.

Such packages will vary in cost, but can be funded through an 'energy mortgage' - a long-term loan secured on the property and repaid through energy bill. Normally, such a package should ensure that the householder's energy bill falls by at least as much from the reduced energy use as it rises to pay for the energy saving package.

At present, energy companies make more money the more energy they sell. We will reform the energy efficiency commitment to place an incentive on energy companies to cut energy consumption through a new cap and trade scheme: each company will be allocated a declining total for its sales to residential customers depending on past sales. It will be able to sell permits if it undershoots - and will have to buy them if it misses its targets.

For more details, please see the attached Policy Paper.

2. Advance Praise for Climate Changes Starts at Home:

Paul King, Director of Campaigns WWF-UK, said:

"WWF is impressed with the scope, ambition and credibility of the Liberal Democrats' Climate Changes Starts at Home policy. It is good to see political parties getting to grips with the environmental challenge we face, and this policy raises the bar for other parties to match."

Graham Ponting, Director of the National Home Improvement Council, said:

"If we are to face up to the challenge of climate change we need to act now. This policy provides a comprehensive approach to reducing the carbon emissions from not just new homes, but more importantly from our existing homes. It will also make British homes significantly warmer, while cutting heating bills. Our European partners are ahead of us in building new homes to a higher standard and refurbishing their existing homes, and we need to catch up."

Andrew Warren, Director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said:

"The importance of tackling climate change has been highlighted by the recent Stern Review. This set out how much greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by energy efficiency. With the UK's homes responsible for 27% of the country's carbon emissions, it is vital something is done to improve the energy efficiency of every home. The Liberal Democrats are to be congratulated on putting forward a policy which would set higher energy efficiency standards and cut carbon emissions from new and existing homes."

Jack Pringle, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said:

"The RIBA has called for some time for a package of incentives and changes to the regulations to make it easier and more attractive for ordinary people to invest in the energy efficiency of their homes, alongside steps to improve the energy performance of new homes. We welcome the Climate Changes Starts at Home initiative as a policy which reflects that and we are pleased that Chris Huhne and his colleagues sought our advice as architects' skills will be needed to create the attractive and efficient homes that we need."

3. Over a quarter of UK carbon emissions come from domestic sources: <<a href="http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/globatmos/kf/gakf07.htm">http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/globatmos/kf/gakf07.htm>

Our proposals would result in savings of 31million of tonnes of Carbon (MtC). Personal car use is responsible for 19.4 MtC (it is responsible for 13% of the UK's total green house emissions of 152 MtC: <<a href="http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Greenertravel/DG_064428">http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Greenertravel/DG_064428>)

The average fuel bill is £1,030 (<<a href="http://www.energywatch.org.uk/uploads/A_social_responsibility_1_December_20061.pdf">http://www.energywatch.org.uk/uploads/A_social_responsibility_1_December_20061.pdf>), which could be cut by £385 if we were to have Swedish levels of building energy efficiency (<<a href="http://www.scb.se/templates/tableOrChart____135889.asp">http://www.scb.se/templates/tableOrChart____135889.asp>).

4. Parts of this paper referring to the Energy Efficiency Commitment and regulation of utilities are federal policy; building and other detailed energy efficiency improvement schemes will differ between the nations of the UK according to devolved responsibility.