A new report published today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that England needs a huge investment in energy efficiency if we are to even approach our 2050 carbon reduction target and avoid inflicting widespread damage on the countryside .
The Warm and Green report asserts that energy efficiency has been grossly underplayed in discussions and policy on England’s future energy supply, and that it must become increasingly important in rural areas . The report highlights the potentially huge impact of infrastructure on the countryside if old and new homes remain energy inefficient, and illustrates the dearth of funding for improvements in rural areas.
Based on research conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research and Anglia Ruskin University for CPRE, Warm and Green finds that we can cut carbon emissions from homes by 44 per cent through an ambitious retrofitting programme. Yet the research shows that even if we make such upgrades, we would still be considerably short of meeting energy demand while cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. One possible scenario to meet the demand is to plant half of England with biomass crops, build 3,500 new wind turbines, and install 8,000 hectares of new solar panels.
Seeking solutions to the huge challenges we face, the research looks at case studies from across the country to explore motivations for and barriers to making energy improvements in rural homes and community buildings. It finds that cost, the difficulty of finding skilled installers and payback time are barriers that are too high for many people to overcome .
To ensure progress on reducing our energy demand, the report calls for a bold national programme to reduce energy and carbon emissions from homes and community buildings; the implementation of stronger zero carbon standards for new homes; and for rural communities to receive a fairer share of funding for energy efficiency. 18 per cent of the population live in rural areas, but those areas receive less than 1 per cent of funding for energy efficiency improvements.
The Warm and Green report explores the widening gap between action needed on climate change and the efforts of policy makers to tackle it. While all English communities have faced dramatically increasing energy costs since 2003, rural communities contend with comparatively lower home energy efficiency and higher energy costs.
Nick Clack, Senior Energy Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:
“Our research intensifies calls for the new Government to implement a much bolder national programme to reduce energy and carbon emissions from homes if we are to get anywhere near the 80% emissions cuts required under the Climate Change Act. Unless there is effective Government support for this work, we risk seeing large areas of the countryside lost to avoidable new energy infrastructure and even higher energy bills.
“Existing national programmes such as the Energy Company Obligation and the Green Deal have failed to sufficiently reduce energy and carbon emissions. We must instead focus on community-led retrofit initiatives to target fuel-poor households, and offer more persuasive and understandable financial incentives for all households. Such approaches would not only reduce carbon emissions, but reduce people’s energy bills, create jobs and help protect our landscapes.
“Much of the focus of the current debate is on supply: on whether to frack or where to put wind turbines. If we are to close the big energy gap, we need to make huge progress on reducing our need for energy from today.”
Dr Chris Foulds, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, says:
“The UK’s housing stock plays a key role in lowering carbon dioxide emissions and therefore mitigating climate change. However, if the Government is to meet its legal obligations on emissions, while also allowing growth in areas such as aviation, then the whole housing stock will need to be almost 100% zero carbon by 2050. Our report emphasises how difficult this will be, as retrofitting homes at 65 times the current annual rate would still be nowhere near enough.
“Also, in practical terms, the retrofitting of rural homes is more difficult than carrying out the same work in towns and cities. A higher proportion of rural homes tend to be solid walled so cannot have cavity wall insulation, a higher proportion are listed making them more difficult to externally insulate, and many do not have a mains gas supply, meaning they cannot enjoy the benefits of an energy-efficient gas-fired boiler. On top of this, even though 18% of people live in the countryside, rural communities only receive 1% of Government financial support relating to low energy homes. Urgent action is needed to change this and increase the rate of retrofitting homes and the building of new zero carbon homes in rural communities.”
Notes to Editors
 In 2008 the Government passed the Climate Change Act, setting a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050.
 Some of those who participated in these case studies are available for interview. Please contact the press officer below for contact information.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.