An Open Letter to the Tory Leadership Candidates from BRE

As Chief Executive of BRE, the UK’s foremost centre for driving positive change in the built environment, I am compelled to reiterate the importance of decarbonising Britain’s buildings. At present, heat and energy use in our buildings makes up a quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions and tackling this will be crucial to reaching net zero by 2050. This is why we urge you, as candidates to become the country’s next Prime Minister, to publish credible and effective plans to decarbonise our homes and buildings.

This year has been tough for our economy, and it will become tougher still as cost-of-living pressures and macroeconomic conditions worsen. However, we will be sentencing families, businesses, and communities to an even more costly and bleak future if we abandon our net zero commitments. We strongly believe that, for the UK to have a resilient economy and a prosperous future, we must continue to act on climate change – and central to this should be driving a green transition in the built environment.

While an increased focus on investment in renewable energy is welcome, the Government’s current plans do not go far enough to address two of the biggest issues we currently face: tackling rising energy costs and decarbonising the built environment. The crisis in global energy prices can be quickly and effectively alleviated by improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings.

For this reason, we are calling on candidates to reaffirm their commitment to tackling climate change and reaching net zero by 2050, by setting out a fully funded national retrofit strategy to roll out efficiency measures to all UK households. This should include cost-effective solutions such as insulation that will reduce demand for natural gas, address spiralling energy bills and, ultimately, make Britain’s homes fit for the future.

Local authorities will be at the heart of this strategy – delivering change in their areas and enforcing new regulations – and it is vital that they are adequately resourced to do so. The future Government must also set out clear directives on how to train, or retrain, the hundreds of thousands of workers required to retrofit the UK’s 29 million homes.

The need to roll out and invest in retrofit measures extends beyond housing. With nearly a fifth of all gas being consumed by the non-domestic sector, a lack of any retrofit strategy will result in higher costs for our businesses and public infrastructure – with these costs also being fed down to households.

Setting out a clear, long-term strategy to retrofit the UK’s buildings will not only ensure we continue to deliver the Net Zero Strategy, but it will also bolster our energy security by lowering demand for natural gas.

Decarbonising our homes and buildings is a priority which we cannot afford to ignore, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government to support the UK on its path to net zero.

Yours sincerely,

Gillian Charlesworth

CEO of the Building Research Establishment