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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

F.G’s Dangote Flood Committee Shares N1.5b Relief Materials To Flood Victims

The Dangote-led Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFRR), known as Dangote Flood Committee has distributed N1.5 billion relief materials to victims of flooding nationwide.

The PCFRR, which was established by the Federal Government following the 2012 flooding, is co-chaired by Africa’s foremost industrialist Aliko Dangote and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba.

The flagging off ceremony for the relief materials distribution for this year started in Borno State and was conducted by the State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum Tuesday in Maiduguri, Borno State capital. The Governor thanked the Dangote Flood Committee and promised that he will ensure that the items get to the victims.

UNICEF revealed that the 2022 flood killed 600 people, displaced 1.3 million and destroyed more than 82,000 homes in Nigeria, therefore making it the worst in decades.

The representative of the committee, Alhaji Umar Musa Gulani, assured at the flagging off for the Northeast zone that the exercise would also be conducted in the other five geopolitical zones of the country.

Gulani said the items from the committee have been officially handed over to the Borno State Government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). He said the exercise would be conducted across the six geo-political zones, beginning from the northeastern State of Borno.

The breakdown of items donated includes 86 bags of rice, 34 bags of beans, 34 bags of maize, 34 bags of millet, 34 bags of Guinea Corn, 34 bags of Garri, 86 cartons of noodles, 86 cartons of spaghetti, 86 cartons of macaroni and 86 bags of sugar, and 857 bags of cement, among several food and non-food items.

Gulani said over N10 billion has been expended by the committee to mitigate the effect of flooding since inception in 2012, adding that no fewer than 84 Hostels have been built for flood victims in 24 states of Nigeria. According to him: “This private sector led project is highly commendable and it has been sustained in the past ten years. It is a selfless service from the private sector and Nigerians should appreciate their selfless service to humanity”.

Director General of NEMA Alhaji Mustapha Habib Ahmed described the Committee’s intervention as a milestone for Nigeria in general, and flood victims in particular. “Responding to the humanitarian outcomes of this nature requires concerted effort,” the DG said, and added that the donation by the Dangote Flood Committee would eventually be made available to flood victims across the affected states in Nigeria.

Speaking on behalf of the victims, Khalifa El-Miskin said the victims were extremely appreciative of the gesture.

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Environment

600 Persons Killed, 1.3m Displaced By Floods – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund has said at least that 600 persons died and 1.3 million others rendered homeless by floods.

This was disclosed by the Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Juliet Chiluwe, on Saturday, during an official handover of supplies for Anambra State Flood Response from UNICEF to Anambra State Government

Ms Chiluwe said the figure was obtained according to government data available it received.

During the visit by the UNICEF, the first set of supplies of 100 drums of chlorine for disinfection of water sources, 40 cartons of Aquatabs for household water treatment and 320 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic food were handed over to the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was represented by his deputy, Onyekachukwu Ibezim.

The UNICEF official said, “We acknowledged that since September 2022, the worst floods in a decade affected 2.8 million people, of which an estimated 60 per cent are children, across 34 of the 36 states in Nigeria. Of those affected, 1.3 million people have been displaced, and over 600 people have died in relation to flooding according to government data.

“Continuous heavy rains have collapsed hundreds of public health facilities, water systems and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, and malaria.

“To contribute to the effort of government and other development partners, UNICEF, with funding the Central Emergency Response Fund, has initiated a multisectoral response comprising Health, Child Protection and WASH sectors, to mitigate the impact of the floods support the early recovery-phase of the affected population in Anambra State.“

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Environment

Dantata, Rabiu, Others Gift Jigawa Flood Victims N1b

Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji Aminu Dantata, and Abdulsamad Rabiu, the founder of BUA group, on Saturday raised over N1 billion for Jigawa flood victims.

The donations were made in Dutse at the fund raising in support of the 2022 flood victims in the state.

Dantata and Rabiu each donated N200 million, Jigawa State Government N250 million, Gov. Muhammad Badaru, donated N25 million on behalf of himself, family and his company, Talamis Group.

However, Dantata, who was represented by Alhaji Salisu Sambajo, expressed concern over the conditions in which the flood victims found themselves after the disaster.

The philanthropist prayed for those who died during the disaster and sympathised with those who lost their property and crops in the floods.

Similarly, Badaru also expressed appreciation to the teeming donors for their kind gesture and urged the fund raising committee to be equitable and just in the distribution of the palliatives and cash.

The committee Chairman, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, (Wazirin Dutse) and former Minister of Power, thanked individuals and group of companies for supporting the victims.

Other donors included the members of the state and National Assembly as well as Council Chairmen.

Zenith Bank, Jaiz Bank, FCMB, Sterling Bank, GTBANK and Unity Bank were among the financial institutions who made donations.

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