Headlines: October 21st, 2009

Councils are being put into the front line of the battle against climate change today by the Audit Commission, which says cutting carbon emissions from homes could be done more cheaply and quickly than dealing with those from industry or transport. The Commission says this could be achieved faster with the support of local councillors.

Today’s report, ‘Lofty Ambitions – the role of councils in reducing domestic CO2 emissions’, says homes are responsible for a third of England’s greenhouse gas emissions. Steps such as lagging, insulating, re-glazing and modernising would also benefit the four million people who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. For them, it says, living in more energy-efficient homes would improve health and reduce inequality, while investing in the measures could also boost local economies.

The Audit Commission Chairman, Michael O’Higgins, said: “The global issue of climate change must now become a domestic one.” The best councils, the report says, have championed low carbon and renewable energy generation and have made homes greener. Others, however, had seen the multiplicity of funding streams as creating ‘confusion for householders and duplication of effort’ when energy suppliers and others approach the same households with competing offers. The report also brands the government’s 2.7 billion pounds a year winter fuel payments as a missed opportunity to help keep people warm and reduce carbon.

Michael O’Higgins said changes were needed in energy production and cuts were needed in how much was used. He added: “All this will be achieved better and faster with the encouragement and support of our local elected representatives. Lofty Ambitions shows that councils are so often the catalyst, and that communities can look to them and to government to give a decisive lead in checking climate change.”