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New homes will need retrofitting, UK climate change advisor warns

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Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change says new houses may have to be expensively retrofitted in future to meet national carbon-reduction targets

New housing currently being built in the UK may need to be retrofitted with expensive energy-saving technology within the next two decades, the government’s climate change advisor John Gummer has warned.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for 400,000 affordable new houses in his spending review on Wednesday (25 November). But if those houses are not built to high standards of insulation and energy efficiency, they could put the UK in breach of its carbon budgets, Gummer said.

Gummer, who is also a former environment minister and sits as a Tory peer in the House of Lords, told the Guardian: ‘We are in danger of building houses that have to be retrofitted, which would be very expensive. We could build them now to low-carbon standards instead.’

The government recently abolished building standards that would have made new houses zero-carbon from next year, without announcing any replacement standards. Ministers also scrapped the Green Deal flagship insulation scheme over the summer and on Wednesday, Osborne cut funding for a separate energy-efficiency scheme called ECO.

The warning from the Committee on Climate Change came as it set out a new ‘carbon budget’ for the UK – its fifth – that would require an emissions cut of 57 per cent by 2032. As well as major increases in renewable energy and other low-carbon power, this would also require substantial investment in home energy-efficiency improvements.

Next week, the heads of 190 countries will gather at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris, which is known as COP21. The hope is that they can strike a new deal on greenhouse gas emissions, to take effect from 2020 when current international commitments run out.

Are you attending or getting involved with the Paris summit? Please get in touch with the AJ to tell us about it by emailing will.hurst@emap.com or tweeting @Whurst1

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