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Climate body: UK government must “firm up” Clean Growth heat aims

Independent committee warns that Clean Growth Strategy will require additional commitments to phasw out most polluting fossil fuel heating to meet emissions targets

The government must do more to “firm up” policies to improve energy efficiency in new buildings and phase out the most polluting fossil fuel heating if it is to realise its Clean Growth Strategy, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said.

The CCC, an independent body that helps inform government on environment policy, said that the Clean Growth Strategy was ambitious, but did not go far enough with a view to curbing carbon emissions and improving the environmental impact of functions such as heating.

CCC chair Lord Deben argued that the broad ambitions contained within the government’s strategy in areas such as reforms of the energy grid were not on their own a sufficient means to shift the UK’s heating needs to lower carbon alternatives.

He said, “As it stands, the strategy does not deliver enough action to meet the UK’s emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s. The government’s policies and proposals will need to be firmed up as a matter of urgency – and supplemented with additional measures – if the UK is to deliver on its legal commitments and secure its position as an international climate change leader.”

The CCC said following the publication of its own report on the strategy that the government should look to supplement existing milestones in the Clean Growth plan with additional targets. It is hoped this will help the Clean Growth Strategy meet the fourth and fifth carbon budget targets that run between 2023-2027 and 2028-2032 respectively. These budgets set limits on the UK’s carbon emissions so that they can, by 2050, be reduced by 80 per cent from levels recorded in 1990.

Particular risks have been raised by the CCC around meeting the emissions restrictions intended for the fourth carbon budget that is set to commence in five years. It findings have called for new domestic initiatives around energy efficiency in UK buildings that are not classed as housing low-income individuals.

The findings also back immediate efforts to ensure current heat networks are more reliant on low carbon sources.

A range of policies including moving the “most polluting” fossil fuel heating in homes and businesses off the gas grid and deploying carbon capture and storage technology at scale nationally by the 2030s have been put by forward as key recommendations from the CCC.

The CCC added, “Starting to phase out the installation of fossil fuel heating in homes off the gas grid is a sensible low-regrets strategy, given the higher heating costs and the need to develop supply chains and the heat pump market in order to keep open the option of high electrification of heat to 2050.”

“In practice, this means installing low carbon heating alongside insulation upgrades.”

“Policy gap” concerns

UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) chief executive Julie Hirigoyen welcomed the CCC’s assessment of the Clean Growth Strategy that she argued highlighted a “policy gap” that needed to be addressed to successfully achieve the upcoming carbon budget targets.

She said, “The CCC highlights the importance of buildings in bridging this policy gap, and UKGBC welcomes the focus on measures for our sector to achieve vital emissions reductions. With big housing targets and some of the draughtiest housing stock in Europe, it’s important we take action now to cut our emissions and make new buildings and infrastructure fit for the future.”

“We stand alongside the CCC in calling for robust energy efficiency regulations for rented homes; the introduction of performance-based labelling for commercial buildings; and high standards for new build properties. It’s essential that the recommended action plan for home energy efficiency is published as soon as possible to give us a fighting chance of meeting our carbon budgets.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Air pollution is known to affect peoples health.  Legislation introduced since the first Clean Air Acts has gone a long way towards improving the quality of the air we breathe.  Historically, the large-scale industrial burning of fossil fuels in our cities was the main concern.  In more modern times, however, the main threat to air quality comes from road traffic.
    The Government introduced a series of Air Quality Objectives for seven key pollutants.  For most pollutants, there is not believed to be a risk to health providing that concentrations remain below the objective levels.  Lately, it has been recognized that some pollutants have no safe threshold, and health effects have been observed at even very low concentrations.
    Air pollution levels in Cheshire East are not likely to cause health problems for the majority of people. During times of high air pollution, however, it is possible that some people may experience symptoms such as eye irritation or coughing.  Some people who are more sensitive to air pollution may feel the effects more severely, or at lower levels.  Those likely to be more sensitive include those who suffer from heart and lung disease including asthma and bronchitis, especially young children and the elderly.
    You can download Government Advice on the health effects of air pollution from the Defra website.
    You can read a summary of the Government's health advice.
    The United Kingdom Government has produced an air quality index to describe the health impact of the different levels of pollution, especially on sensitive individuals.  The bands have been set using the latest research on the medical effects of air pollution on health and are intended to simplify air quality information.

    Automatic Monitoring Sites
    The Council currently has automatic analyzers, one located in Disley and the other is to be relocated shortly.
    These units provide high quality, real-time data which can be used to analyze patterns and try to find out more about the characteristics of the pollution as it varies over time.  This information is extremely useful for identifying causes of pollution and highlighting where efforts need to be targeted to reduce air pollution.
    Whilst providing high-quality data, this equipment is expensive to purchase and maintain and often compromises have to be made in terms of its location for logistical reasons.
    Each of our monitoring sites measures levels of nitrogen dioxide

    Passive Diffusion Tubes
    Diffusion tubes are a relatively cheap, convenient and pollutant-specific method of monitoring many different types of air pollution.  The tubes are small and can be located exactly where we need to monitor.  They are useful for providing longer-term measurements and observing trends in pollution concentrations.
    Tubes can be placed on the suitably located street furniture around the Borough.  It is not possible to measure inside as there are too many internal sources of nitrogen dioxide.
    The convenience of diffusion tubes comes with two main disadvantages. The main disadvantage is accuracy, and of course, we only get one number representing a whole month, meaning it is not possible to examine daily or weekly fluctuations.
    We currently monitor nitrogen dioxide and benzene diffusion tubes.
    Diffusion tubes passively absorb the pollutant to which they are exposed in a given place over a given time.  There are no pumps or complicated technologies involved; tubes are exposed, normally for a month, resealed and sent to a laboratory. The laboratory then completes the analysis of the tubes using nationally agreed procedures.
    The monthly results are then adjusted at the end of the year to take account of laboratory and other inaccuracies, and a single annual mean figure is produced.  This figure is used for the purposes of review and Assessment and comparison with the Air Quality Objective.

    Air Quality review and assessment
    The United Kingdom Government published its strategic policy framework for air quality management in establishing national strategies and policies on air quality, which culminated in the production of the Environment Act. Under Part IV of this Act, the Secretary of State adopted a National Air Quality Strategy, designed to provide a framework for air quality management and control through specific air quality standards and objectives required to be achieved throughout the United Kingdom.
    The Act requires Local authorities to undertake a regular review and assessment of the air quality within its area, and assess levels of air pollution against the air quality objectives.  Where levels are found to be in excess of these objectives, the authority must declare an Air Quality Management Area and through the action plan set out the measures, it intends to take to work towards achieving the objectives.
    Cheshire East Council has completed all statutory reports up to and including the Updating and Screening Assessment.
    From onwards Defra requires councils to submit a single Annual Status report.  The and Annual Status Reports have been submitted to Defra. The Annual Status Report has been approved by Defra and can be found below.

    Animal Welfare and Licensing
    Under the Animal Welfare Act, it’s against the law to be cruel to an animal. If you own an animal, you must ensure that its welfare needs are met.
    Choose a link from our navigation menu to apply for animal licenses issued by Environmental Health.
    Reporting stray dogs and cats
    The Dog Warden Service can assist with stray, fouling, barking or aggressive dogs. Find out more.The Council does not deal with stray cats but you can contact the RSPCA below.
    Reporting cruelty to animals
    If you suspect an animal is being neglected or subjected to cruelty, take note of what you've seen. Then phone the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ -hour cruelty and advice line. You’ll be asked to give a detailed description of what you have seen or heard. Organizations like the RSPCA may request the help of the Council or the police if they need to gain access to a property or are physically threatened by the owner.

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