Monday, 16 November 2009

Grasping the golden opportunity for a low carbon economy

Dr Phil Webber, Programme Manager, Kirklees Warm Zone.

Copenhagen needs to be a massive wake-up call for governments to realise the huge economic and social benefits that a low carbon economy can offer.

All the evidence we have from the Kirklees Warm Zone scheme shows that rolling out insulation and other large-scale energy efficiency schemes generates multiple benefits. Economically it brings job creation, skills development, fuel savings and increased benefits uptake. Every £1 invested returns around £5 into the local economy. This equates to over £90m going into the economy. An area-based scheme like ours delivers significant efficiency savings too.

The social impact means fewer families living in fuel poverty; warmer homes for the elderly and people with long term health conditions and fewer cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Add to this the environmental impact of reduced carbon - the estimated CO2 savings from 32,000 households are 22,556 tonnes per year for our measures installed up to June 2009. The expected savings at the end of the Warm Zone scheme are 55,000 tonnes per year.

A new report by the Audit Commission (October 2009) concludes that reducing CO2 emissions from domestic energy use is one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways to achieve the UK’s CO2 reduction targets. We would like the UK government to use existing Winter Fuel Payments to roll-out schemes like Kirklees Warm Zone on a wider scale. This should be part of the fiscal stimulus measures advocated in the Stern Report and would be a clear signal to the international community that the UK is taking serious and concerted action to reduce its own emissions.

We already have the evidence of what works. Copenhagen is a golden opportunity to convert this evidence into positive action that will save us all from the nightmare of climate change.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

Kirklees Council’s Kirklees Warm Zone scheme won the Ashden Award Local Government category in 2009. The scheme is now used as an example of good practice across the UK by government departments, key environmental groups and other local authorities and has won several awards.

View the Ashden Awards video of Kirklees Council:

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