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Surprise as UK govt axes energy efficiency group

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-25 09:11

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during a press conference on the net zero target, at the Downing Street Briefing Room, in central London, on Sept 20, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Sunak's reforms see plug pulled on body just six months after formation

An energy efficiency taskforce set up by the British government in March to help with domestic boiler upgrades and home insulation measures has been axed as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's controversial overhaul of energy policy and steps towards Britain's net-zero targets.

When the group was launched, a government representative said its work was to support "a step change in the reduction of energy demand through accelerated delivery of energy efficiency measures across the economy", and its members were asked to come up with a plan to reduce energy demand across domestic and commercial buildings by 15 percent from 2021 levels by 2030.

At the time, its co-chair Alison Rose said "improving energy efficiency will not only drive a lower carbon environment, but also deliver greater economic security through lower bills for people, families, and businesses right across the (United Kingdom)."

But just six months later, the BBC reported that energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan had sent a letter to group members explaining that their work had been "hugely valuable", but would be "streamlined" into other government activity.

"We would like to thank the Energy Efficiency Taskforce for its work in supporting our ambition to reduce total UK energy demand by 15 percent from 2021 levels by 2030," said a representative of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, set up by Sunak at the start of the year.

"We have invested 6.6 billion pounds ($8.07 billion) in energy efficiency upgrades this Parliament and will continue to support families in making their homes more efficient, helping them to cut bills while also achieving net-zero in a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic way."

Laura Sandys, a former Conservative member of Parliament who was part of the taskforce, said she was "disappointed" by the decision and "confused" over the government's intentions towards dealing with the cost of living crisis.

Writing on social media platform X, she said "If people are at heart of gov agenda energy efficiency must be v first priority to reduce citizens costs, improve energy security with less energy required & cutting carbon emissions."

Ed Miliband, the opposition Labour Party's shadow net-zero secretary, said the decision showed that Sunak "didn't give a damn about climate change," calling it "another short-sighted decision "and adding that "every family is paying the price in higher energy bills due to 13 years of Tory failure on insulating homes".

The announcement of the group's disbandment came just days after leaks forced Sunak to bring forward the announcement of a major change of government policy on steps towards achieving net-zero targets, which include delaying the introduction of a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, and relaxing regulations about the phasing out of household gas boilers and energy efficiency upgrades.

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