Government urged to insulate all homes to create jobs, tackle climate change and save lives

Ahead of Boris Johnson's speech about economic recovery, a broad coalition of NGOs is calling on the prime minister to launch a nationwide programme to insulate energy-wasting UK homes, creating jobs and cutting planet-heating emissions.


Ahead of Boris Johnson’s anticipated economic recovery announcement later today, a broad coalition of organisations are calling on the Prime Minister to prioritise a nationwide programme to upgrade and insulate all homes and buildings across the UK.

In an open letter, 15 organisations, including the National Housing Federation, Citizens Advice, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, National Energy Action and Greenpeace UK, demand a transformative investment in the insulation and heating of the UK’s housing and buildings to revive the economy, while tackling long-standing environmental and social crises linked to poorly insulated housing.

The letter highlights that a ‘nationwide energy efficiency retrofitting programme’ is shovel-ready and could create 220,000 jobs in its first twelve months [1]. In doing so it would provide much-needed employment opportunities all across the UK, prevent tens of thousands of deaths, and help avert the impacts of the climate crisis by dramatically reducing carbon emissions.  

The UK has the least energy-efficient housing stock in Western Europe, which means high heating costs for low-income households. This contributes to poor health, costing the NHS up to £2 billion a year in England [2]. Over the past five years, almost 58,000 people across the UK have died from conditions attributable to cold homes [3].

Homes are currently responsible for one-fifth of the UK’s total emissions [4]. Without properly insulating and sustainably heating them, it will be impossible for the government to meet its climate change targets, and it will fail to demonstrate global leadership on tackling the climate emergency ahead of hosting of COP26 – the global climate change conference – next year.

Paul Morozzo, green recovery campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“A nationwide programme to insulate all homes and buildings to make them warmer, safer and more energy efficient may not be as sexy a subject as some would like, but it’s shovel ready, will create masses of jobs, drive down carbon emissions and save people’s lives. 

“Making sure everyone has a warm, safe home that doesn’t add to escalating problems like the climate emergency shouldn’t even be up for debate. The fact that such a programme could revive the economy while bringing so many other positive outcomes makes it a no-brainer.”

The government pledged £9.2 billion to improving the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals in its election manifesto last year, but that commitment was omitted from the Budget and is now at risk of being spent on building new homes. It was reported this week that the Prime Minister’s chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, has been blocking the money as he views it as “boring old housing insulation” [5].

According to the report, there is still enthusiasm in the Treasury and BEIS, the business department, for the nationwide insulation scheme, and pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to ensure that improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s building stock is prioritised in his economic recovery announcement later today.


Notes to editor:

The full letter and list of signatories can be found below

  1. Net Zero Housing Workforce
  2. BRE Trust report shows poor quality homes and homes at risk of an incident occurring that has health impacts in England cost the NHS £2bn per year
  3. E3G – report on deaths due to cold housing
  4. BEIS – 2019 UK greenhouse gas emissions, provisional figures
  5. Boris Johnson is urged to fulfil £9bn UK household insulation pledge

Supportive quotes:


Rob Wall, head of policy at National Housing Federation, said: “Measures that cut greenhouse gas emissions and deliver safer, greener and more affordable homes should be at the heart of the government’s economic recovery plans.


Not only will this support our long-term climate goals, but will also help us tackle fuel poverty, cut fuel bills, improve public health and well-being and support local economies”

Nicky Philpott, Director of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, said: “We must not lurch from this health crisis to another, caused by the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. To avoid this, the Government must prioritise measures that stimulate the economy and improve the health of people and the planet – like investment to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock, and to reduce the dangerous emissions associated with outdated domestic heating systems.”

The full letter and list of signatories:


Dear Prime Minister 


We are writing to ask you to increase investment in the UK building stock during the economic recovery phase of this crisis, to save lives, reduce the pressure on our stretched health services, improve homes and communities, deliver jobs, reduce emissions and increase resilience, whilst ‘levelling up’ regional inequalities. 


We welcome your recognition of the importance of embedding green measures into the planned economic recovery. It is widely recognised, for example by recent work from Oxford University and LSE, that this is one of the best routes to boosting employment during this phase of economic recovery. It is also vitally important that as we emerge from this crisis we do whatever we can to mitigate the fast evolving climate crisis. We, the undersigned, urge that a historic and transformative investment in the insulation and heating of the UK’s housing and buildings forms an integral part of the government’s plan to mitigate the economic impact from coronavirus. We cannot build back better if we do not invest in our buildings and homes, so that they protect and nurture peoples health and the environment instead of damaging it.


We understand that the government is seeking ideas for shovel ready projects that drive forward the green recovery. It is our strong contention that dealing with insulation and clean heating should be at the centre of this effort.With the social housing sector taking the lead and priority assistance provided for fuel poor households living in private tenure homes, it can simultaneously help tackle the economic and unemployment crisis, the tragedy of deaths and ill-health caused by fuel poverty and the climate emergency. 


A large-scale programme in its first years  could create an additional 220,000 jobs across the UK. Moreover, it has been estimated that the Treasury would receive £1.27 in tax revenue for every £1 invested. Jobs in this sector would be geographically spread and replacing imported gas with home-grown electricity and insulation grows the economy and builds resilience. 


Over the past five years almost 58,000 people across the UK have died from conditions attributable to cold homes, a completely avoidable catastrophe and amongst the worst rates in Europe. The cost to the NHS of health conditions made worse by poor housing is acute. Not counting the costs to social care services arising from poorly ventilated, badly insulated, unhealthy homes – it  is estimated the poor housing costs the NHS between £1.4 and £2.0 billion per year in England alone, with the cost of productivity loss (including consequent lost education and employment opportunities) potentially as high as £18.6 billion.


Those impacted are often the same groups most badly affected by the coronavirus, with Public Health England (PHE) declaring that there is “clear evidence on the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems”. Whilst there is currently no cure for Covid-19, the UK’s housing stock can and must be improved. Cold and polluted homes are preventable and improvements in energy efficiency can help stimulate the economy, save lives and address the financial impact of the current crisis, especially when this activity is targeted at those most in need.


Increased action in this area would also help with the government’s green ambitions. Homes are currently responsible for one fifth of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Without insulating and sustainably heating the UK’s homes meeting carbon targets will be impossible, ceding International leadership as we approach critical COP26 climate meetings next year.


The case for acting on housing Insulation and heating is incontrovertible; therefore we ask that the government:


  • Immediately kick-start a nationwide home and public sector energy efficiency retrofitting programme, starting with fuel poor households and social housing by implementing in full the policies and investment promised as part of the Conservative Party manifesto and with a significant role for locally orchestrated delivery   
  • Set out a comprehensive strategy and roadmap to 2050, and additional energy efficiency incentives for landlords and homeowners designed to leverage private investment and help support the aim to reach net zero. Establish and sufficiently fund a new Warm Homes Agency to provide market confidence and encourage private investment by supporting, enforcing and guaranteeing the delivery of targets and regulations for building efficiency and low carbon heating. 
  • Invest up to £2.5 billion in low carbon heating to drive the uptake of heat pumps and heat networks, enlarging supply chains in preparation for wide rollout of technologies in before mid-2020s. 


A government programme to bring the UK’s buildings and housing up to standard will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, increase the UK’s resilience to environmental and economic shocks, build UK expertise in advanced environmental technologies and reduce the economic hardship of those hit hardest by coronavirus and the associated economic crisis. 


We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or a member of your team to discuss this further and set out how we could work collaboratively on our shared ambition for a green recovery. 


Yours sincerely


Rhys Moore, Executive Director Public Impact, National Housing Federation 

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice 

Nicky Philpott, Director, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

Ian Calvert, Director, The Association for Decentralised Energy

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better

Simon Roberts, Chief Executive, Centre for Sustainable Energy

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK 

David Weatherall, Head of Policy, Energy Savings Trust

Luke Murphy, Associate Director for Energy, Ippr

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive, CPRE, the Countryside Charity

Hugh Knowles and Miriam Turner, Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth 

Max Wakefield, Director of Campaigns, Possible

Ruth London, Fuel Poverty Action Group

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