Nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption arises from the way in which our 25 million buildings are lit, heated and used. Even comparatively minor changes in energy performance and the way we use each building will have a significant effect in reducing energy consumption and therefore carbon emissions.
Almost half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas which causes climate change, actually come from the things we do every day. Leaving the lights on unnecessarily, or boiling the kettle with more water than is actually required, all waste energy. We are already seeing the effects of climate change here in the UK. Winters are becoming milder, rainfall patterns are shifting, making drought and floods more common.
After two and a half years of intense negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP3) in Kyoto, Japan on 11th December 1997. Following ratification by Russia, the Protocol entered into force on 16th February 2005. The protocol requires developed countries to reduce their green house gases (GHG) emissions below levels specified for each of them in the Treaty. Under the Kyoto Protocol, by 2008-2012 the UK must reduce its baseline emissions of the six major greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent, from a baseline target set in 1990. The UK Government has also set a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent beneath that baseline. The long term goal is to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
Following an EU directive, all domestic properties being sold or rented out, will shortly need to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). In response to this, Communities and Local Government has introduced a number of energy and cost-saving measures to make all buildings more efficient. These measures are being applied across all European Union countries and are in accordance with the European Directive for the Energy Performance of Buildings.
The energy efficiency and fuel costs will now become an element in the design and decision process of all new projects, and an important component to future property purchases. By 1st October 2008, all buildings in the UK that are constructed, sold or rented will require an EPC.
The EPC is part of these new measures to improve the efficiency of buildings, resulting in lower energy bills for the occupier. An EPC provides the owner with a rating for the building, showing its energy efficiency and environmental impact on a scale from A-G (where A is the most efficient and G the least efficient). Two ratings are given:-
The environmental impact rating is a measure of a building’s impact on the environment in terms of carbon dioxide emission-the higher the rating, the less impact it has on the environment.
The energy efficiency rating is a measure of a building’s overall efficiency. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the building is, and the lower the fuel bills are likely to be.
The ratings will vary according to the age, location, size and condition of the building. The potential rating on the certificate will take these factors into account.
Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper on its launch in 2006, said,
“Given the growing challenge from climate change and rising energy costs, I think people should be entitled to this kind of information about the home they buy. You can get this kind of consumer information on fridges and washing machines, so why not on a home where emissions-and the savings-are so much greater?”
Therefore the introduction of EPC represents a positive step forward. Encouraging home owners and users, to be given-user friendly information they need to reduce the environmental impact of their homes and energy bills. By providing knowledge and increasing awareness through long-term incentives, the EPC will contribute greatly to a reduction in UK carbon emissions.