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Britain’s Leaky Homes Make The Energy Crisis Worse

Britain’s leaky homes make the energy crisis worse. Why have governments not fixed them?

Over the past few days the country has been thrown into panic, as soaring gas prices threaten to plunge hundreds of thousands more households into fuel poverty, joining the 2.5 million already there. For others, uncomfortably tight budgets will be further squeezed. Any country reliant on the worldwide gas market faces the risk of perennial price shocks. But let’s be clear: the extent of this crisis was not inevitable. It is, in significant part, the result of a decade of government failure to insulate us from the disastrous downsides of fossil-fuel dependency.

The UK is a difficult country to keep warm. It has some of the oldest and leakiest housing stock in western Europe, ensuring that heat dissipates through walls, windows and doors quickly after leaving radiators. Nine in 10 households rely on gas boilers, and lots of gas boilers need lots of gas: UK households consume more of it than almost all of their European peers, at around twice the EU average. In 2000, when North Sea gas accounted for 98% of overall supply, households were at little risk of price shocks. But as national production has tumbled by two-thirds in the two decades since, imports have risen from just 2% to 60% of supply to fill the gap.

Gas burned in households now equates to half of all imports – that is why any spike in gas prices immediately translates into higher heating bills. In times like these there is little standing between the average household and the opaque mechanics of a deeply politicised, and profit-driven, global gas market. Using cheap gas to compensate for poor housing stock only works as long as gas is cheap – and as long as you don’t have a climate crisis spinning out of control.

Given all this, you’d be forgiven for thinking the government might have made it a national priority in recent years to reduce our entrenched reliance on fossil gas. While a significant task, a well-designed programme to repair the nation’s homes should not have been beyond us. It’s Rockwool insulation, not rocket science. Instead, we have witnessed a decade of half measures and outright failure.

In 2013 the Tory-led coalition launched the “green deal”. Intended to be cost-free for government, it offered loans – with interest – to householders to install efficiency measures, repayable via the household’s energy bills. Unsurprisingly, the complexity of the scheme combined with its inherent financial uncertainty did not lead to strong takeup. Of a target of 14m insulated households by 2020 just 15,000 had been completed when the programme was binned a couple of years later.

Next, the zero carbon homes standard, which had been due to come into effect in 2016, would have required new homes to generate as much energy on-site from renewable sources as they used – it was a flagship policy genuinely worth the hype. Instead, soon after the surprise 2015 Conservative election win, George Osborne killed the programme at the behest of the construction lobby. It has never been revived.

Then came the green homes grant, announced in one of the first Covid economic stimulus packages last year. This was a simpler scheme, with upfront government grants. And yet, despite very high levels of public interest and applications to the scheme, it reached only 5,800 of its target 600,000 homes – a select committee investigation called its implementation “botched” and its administration “disastrous”. Like the green deal nearly a decade ago, it was cancelled early.

The sum total of this is not pretty. Between 2012 and 2019 the number of home insulation installations actually dropped by 95%. The charity National Energy Action has noted that at that rate it would take nearly a century to properly insulate all of the current fuel-poor homes in the country. In 2021, millions still live in fuel poverty, and many more will likely join them this winter, while domestic gas boilers account for one in seven tonnes of carbon the UK emits each year, accelerating the climate crisis.

This must be the last winter fuel crisis we ever face, and our homes must be future-proofed without delay. Ministers are already more than a year late on delivering plans for how to end burning gas for heat. They must deliver a credible plan immediately. Only an ambitious, long-term, well-funded and properly designed national retrofit scheme will do.

Even further than this, it is well past the time to bid farewell to gas boilers altogether. No new builds should be connected to gas, and every time a boiler breaks, with a handful of exceptions, it should be replaced by a heat pump – an ultra-efficient device that uses electricity to harvest ambient heat from the air (or ground) to heat your home. The UK props up the table of European countries for annual installations: Lithuania installs five times as many per year as we do, Italy 10 and Norway 60.

At the current rate it will take the UK around 700 years to move to low-carbon heating. The government’s legally enshrined climate commitments require us to be halfway there by the mid 2030s. The good news is the public are increasingly warming up to change: polling by researchers at Walnut Unlimited in June found that more than two-thirds of people agreed that homes should switch to a low-carbon heat source. Like solar panels, the more that are installed the more we’ll learn – and the cheaper they will get.

This task is ambitious, but also entirely achievable. To succeed, we must learn from our mistakes – and the success of others. Whether this government does so will be a deciding factor in whether we will find ourselves again at the mercy of the markets as the winter nights draw in.

Max Wakefield is director of campaigns for the climate action group

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Environment

Lagos govt shuts 367 churches, mosques, others over environmental violations

The Lagos State Government has shut 367 churches, mosques, night clubs and others over environmental violations in the last three months.

This was disclosed by the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Services, Tokunbo Wahab, at a ministerial news conference on Friday.

Wahab said the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) undertook the 367 enforcement activities in households, markets, hotels, warehouses, service centers, eateries, stores, church, mosques as well as 140 hospitality facilities including; Supermarket, Nightclubs, Bake houses with a view to ensuring compliance with the state environmental laws.

He said 76 abatement notices were served to individuals and organizations violating laws on indiscriminate discharge of raw sewerage into the lagoon or other forms of water and land pollution, saying that a 25% compliance rate with environmental laws was recorded compared to the previous year.

Wahab also warned residents of the State to desist from unhealthy environmental practices that could undermine government effort in protecting the environment against degradation and other climate change effects.

He added that its various agencies on environmental sustainability have been empowered to prosecute individuals or organizations that may be caught degrading the environment in any form .

Wahab revealed that the State government is committing huge resources on environmental protection against all forms of degradation, especially, the fight against climate change and its attendant effects on human health and the ecosystem.

He revealed that the State government would intensify efforts on enforcement to ensure compliance with the environmental laws to achieve a vision for a sustainable environment.

Wahab warned that LASEPA has been empowered more than before to ensure total compliance with State environmental laws 2017 across the State to safeguard the environment against further degradation because of its consequences on human health and the ecosystem.

The Commissioner, who explained that various enforcement operations carried out by his Ministry and its agencies across the State were in the interest of the public, noted that the State government would not fold its alms while allowing selfish few to continue undermining its reform efforts in preserving the environment for a better living and sustainable growth.

Wahab, who expressed worry over poor air quality level in many parts of the State as contained in LASEPA ‘s weekly reports of the Air quality index of the State warned against unfriendly environmental behaviours that could trigger climate change action

He stressed the need for green and improved air quality across the State to ensure healthy living for the citizenry, noting that the present air quality in many parts of the State as indicated in LASEPA’s report of the State’s Air Quality Index is unhealthy.

The Commissioner who highlighted some likely consequences of poor air quality as indicated in the index, stated that people in the affected areas may suffer from respiratory-related diseases such as lung infections, asthma, cystic fibrosis,   mesothelioma, pulmonary hypertension and running nose among others.

Other common diseases that may be found in areas with poor air quality, according to Wahab, include; high blood pressure, sight problems, irritation, heart problems, worsened underlying health conditions and other related health issues.

He, therefore, warned against activities that might lead to air pollution such as generator and vehicular emissions, industrial and agricultural activities such as burning of cow skin and electronic wastes, bush burning among others.

Wahab urged people to join the State government’s various advocacy programs targeted at improving the state of the environment for the better.

“The current air index reports in many parts of the State are not acceptable, this is largely caused by poor and unfriendly environmental behaviour which needs urgent change, we should be guided that whatever we do to the environment, it throws it back at us, we must therefore be conscious of what we do to the environment to enable us to live in peace” the Commissioner warned.

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Environment

NiMet predicts 3-day sunny, cloudy atmosphere

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NiMet, has forecast cloudiness and sunshine from Friday to Sunday across the country.

NiMet weather outlook released on Thursday in Abuja forecast sunny skies in hazy atmosphere on Friday over the northern region, with exception of Taraba State, where pockets of clouds could be visible during the forecast period.

The agency said sunny atmosphere patches of clouds are anticipated over the North Central region during the forecast period.

It stated that the cloudy atmosphere is expected over the southern region, with prospects of morning thunderstorms over parts of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

According to the agency, later in the day, isolated thunderstorms are expected over parts of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Abia, and Imo states.

NiMet predicted sunny skies in a hazy atmosphere on Saturday over the northern region, with prospects of afternoon and evening thunderstorms over parts of Kaduna state.

It envisaged sunny skies with patches of clouds over the North Central region during the morning period.

Later in the day, isolated thunderstorms are expected over parts of the Federal Capital Territory, Niger, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kogi, and Plateau states.

Cloudy atmosphere with intervals of sunshine is expected over the southern region, with prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers states in the morning hours.

Later in the day, isolated thunderstorms are expected over the region,” it said.

According to NiMet, sunny skies in a hazy atmosphere are expected over the northern region during the forecast period on Sunday.

The agency predicted a sunny atmosphere with patches of clouds over the North Central region during the morning period.

NiMet forecast isolated thunderstorms over parts of Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, and the Federal Capital Territory later in the day.

NiMet predicted a cloudy atmosphere over the southern region, with prospects of morning thunderstorms over parts of Lagos, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states.

It anticipated isolated thunderstorms over parts of Edo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Imo, Ekiti, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Lagos states later in the day.

“Strong winds may precede rains in areas where thunderstorms are likely to occur; the public should take adequate precaution.

“Airline operators are advised to get updated weather reports and forecasts from NiMet for effective planning in their operations,” NiMet added.

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Environment

31 states, 148 LGAs risk severe floods, FG warns

The Ebonyi State Government has denied that it  borrowed from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund contrary to a report by the Debt Management Office.

The DMO had reported that the Ebonyi State under the current administration led by Governor Francis Nwifuru, was among the 17 states that had borrowed $125.1 million (N111.24 billion) from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Debunking the report, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Leonard Uguru, said  Nwifuru had not borrowed from either internal or foreign creditors since he assumed office on May 29, 2023.

He said:  “Since the inception of this administration, the Ebonyi State Government has not borrowed any money, whether foreign or domestic loans. So, any organisation that’s writing that Ebonyi is among the states that have borrowed money, I don’t know where they are getting their data.

“Among the South East states, Ebonyi is still the least in both domestic and foreign debts. Even though we have a trace of debt, which is the 150 million dollar loan from Africa Development Bank and Islamic Bank inherited from the past administration in the reconstruction of Ring Road, which is what made the loan increase, it is worth it as the road cuts across various local government areas of the state. Outside that, I don’t think there’s any other debt owed by the previous state government.”

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