Brits will struggle to reach UK Government Net Zero targets

New research from Tandem Bank shows that over a quarter of Brits (c.19 million[1]) are unaware, uninformed, unwilling or unsupported on how to approach greener living

Tandem Bank
March 31, 2022

New research from Tandem Bank shows that over a quarter of Brits (c.19 million[1]) are unaware, uninformed, unwilling or unsupported on how to approach greener living

Conclusive evidence Brits prioritise cost of living crisis over reducing their carbon footprint

It is estimated that on average every home in the UK will have to reduce 3.6 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 to keep us on track for hitting thegovernment’s 2050 Net Zero goal[2].

But according to research conducted by leading digital bank Tandem, over half of Brits are most worried about the rising cost of living, not about the effects of climate change[3]– an issue which has now fallen behind geopolitical risks in our worry list.

Looking at how consumers view the current climate change debate, Tandem’s research points to significant challenges in the UK’s race to Net Zero.

With consumers not prioritising the issue, there is a question on the UK’s abilityto reach targets. And even for those who may understand the priority, the research shows that just under one in four Brits don’t think they need to change or don’t even know where to start[4].

But with over 80% of the population feeling that it is important to reduce their personal impact[5],the issue remains of key importance. Again though, even despite last year’s COP26 summit making clear just how real the dangers of climate change were, overhalf of Brits feel that the event made no difference in persuading them to change their carbon footprint – with almost one in ten not even knowing what the summit was[6].

For British homeowners, the issue is even more pressing given that over 15% of emissions come from our homes. The Government, in the Heat and Buildings Strategy, has set out the need to retrofit over 29 million homes. Tandem’s research shows that only 30% of Brits understand their EPC rating[7]and less than one in five of the population think that making their home greener is the single biggest change they would consider[8].

With the Climate Change Committee estimating that the total cost on individual homes to transition to become more energy efficient solutions is going to be £10,000 on average [9],and a lot more for many homes, the research highlights both the affordability challenge and the information gap to make such changes. Almost half of respondents feel they cannot afford to make any changes to their home, with another 14% who think there’s a lack of help and information on what to do[2].

And while the Government has made clear its plans to replace around 1.7 million fossil fuel boilers annually by the mid-2030s[3],only around 3.3 million of the UK’s population (5%) would consider changing their boiler to reduce their home’s footprint[4];with one in ten thinking their current boiler is working fine and they wouldn’t consider greener alternatives[5].

Commenting on the survey, Tandem’s CEO, Susie Aliker, said:

This research shows conclusively the scale of the challenge for Brits to meet Net Zero commitments by 2050. Whilst greening homes is at the heart of the UK’s plans, it’s clear we need increased awareness and support to equip them to tackle this important challenge.

Tandem’s made great progress in helping customers green their homes, supporting them with £230 million green lending for home improvements, which last year alone financed a reduction of 12,000 tonnes in CO2 emissions. But there’s much more to be done – it will require a collaborative approach between Government and industry to ensure a comprehensive policy and funding landscape, and a coordinated plan.”

Responding to these findings, Emma Harvey, Programme Director at the Green FinanceInstitute, who leads the Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings,commentated: 

“Improving the energy efficiency of UK homes offers a rapid solution to the cost of living, energy security and climate crises. A national retrofit drive can unlock multiple benefits, however today’s research shines a light on the knowledge and funding gaps that homeowner’s experience when looking to decarbonise one of the most energy intensive assets – their home. 

“The finance community can play a vital role in educating customers on the benefits of an energy efficient home, as well as innovating financial solutions that are attractive to customers and help achieve their net-zero ambitions. The Green Finance Institute welcomes today’s findings and looks forward to continuing to work with organisations like Tandem Bank to co-design, pilot and rapidly scale the financial solutions and data tools needed to help consumers on their decarbonisation journey.”

1 UK population 67 million according to ONS, accessed 10March 2022, Link; 28%(18.76 million) responded negatively when asked what the single biggest change they could make to reduce their carbon footprint.

2 Making our homes more carbon-friendly: The cost of doing nothing; Tandem Bank, March 2022, Link

3 Asked “From the below, what issues do you worry about the most in current changes in society?”, 55% of respondents chose the ‘risingcost of living’, while only 11% chose ‘climate change and your impact on theplanet’. Notably, 19% selected ‘global political issues / international relations’.

4 Asked “What is the single biggest change you would consider making to help reduce your carbon footprint and fight climatechange?”, 22% responded either ‘I don’t need to change anything’ or ‘I don’t know where to start’. 31% felt lifestyle changes while 20% felt greening their home.

5 Asked “How important is it to you that you feel you are helping to reduce your personal impact on the environment?”, 84% of respondents selected ‘quite important’ or ‘very important’. 4% commented that it was ‘not at all important’.

6 Asked “Has last year’s COP26 global climate summit persuaded you to make any changes in your life to reduce your carbon footprint?”, 52% said ‘not at all’ or didn’t know what COP26 was.

7 Asked “Do you know what the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating is for your home?”, 32% responded ‘yes’, 53% said ‘no’, and 15% ‘not sure’.

8 See footnote 4

9 Source: Climate Change Committee, Independent Assessment: The UK’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, March 2022, Link

10 Asked“15% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from theenergy we use in our homes – what prevents you from reducing your home’s carbon footprint?”, 48% responded ‘I can’t afford to make any changes in my home’ and 14% responded ‘there’s a lack of help and information on what to do’.

11 Source: Climate Change Committee, IndependentAssessment: The UK’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, March 2022, Link

12 Asked“15% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy we use in our homes –what changes would you consider making to reduce your home’s carbon footprint?”, 5% responded ‘Change my gas boiler for a carbon neutral alternative like solarpanels or heat pumps’.

13 Asked ‘ 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy we use in our homes – what prevents you from reducing your home’s carbon footprint?’, 10% responded ‘My gas boiler works fine – I don’t want to change it for new technology like solar panels’.