Boris Johnson insists his plans to cut carbon will not be enforced by the ‘boiler police’

Politics

The much-anticipated details of how the government plans to actually meet its legal targets to cancel out carbon emissions by 2050 will be announced imminently.

More specifically, we will get a sense of how our lifestyles and homes will need to change, with a plan to phase out gas boilers in Britain’s 28 million households within 14 years.

The alternative is heat pumps, which can cost at least £10,000 to install, using heat from the air or the ground – and can involve digging pipes under the garden.

Boris Johnson Speech - Investment summit
Image:
Boris Johnson Speech – Investment summit

There will be £5,000 grants available from next April under a £450m scheme outlined in the Heat and Buildings Strategy, seen in advance by Sky News.

The package is seen as a win by the business department and it hopes it will create tens of thousands of jobs and see costs rapidly fall.

But this equates to just 90,000 new heat pumps, and the target outlined is for 600,000 a year by 2028.

Boris Johnson, writing in The Sun, is at pains to stress that no one will be forced to part with their gas boiler. Instead he argues the idea is to make it affordable to use green alternatives when they are naturally replaced every 15 years or so.

More on Cop26

“The Boiler Police are not going to kick your door in with their sandal-clad fee and seize, at carrot point, your trusty old combi,” he writes.

But Anne-Marie Trevelyan, now the trade secretary but who used to work on these green policies in the business department, told Sky News the scheme would only be “voluntary in the short-term” until it gets off the ground.

All new technologies are a gamble to see if the costs can be brought down, but the announcement today does not promise heating bills will be cheaper.

Hence the concern that the grants may be gobbled up by middle-class families of means, and those without spare cash will be left behind.

Tory MPs are already voicing concerns about what this means for the cost of living, with a campaign building for the chancellor to cut VAT from energy bills.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who said she had just installed a “hydrogen-ready” boiler in her home, said she had also paid to insulate her property.

She conceded that insulating draughty buildings will be “critically important” if heat pumps are to be effective.

Insulation schemes for council housing are in place already, and there will be more funding announced soon.

Labour has promised a much bigger plan to insulate Britain’s homes, but it comes with a £6bn price tag. Shadow treasury spokesman Pat McFadden said other countries would be “looking to the UK for a plan to meet the scale of the challenge and this has failed the test”.

Other huge announcements on our green future including new nuclear reactors are coming before the Cop26 summit, which will be held in Glasgow in just a few weeks time. The PM has talked about Britain being “the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind”.

But replacing boilers is where it all comes closest to home, and our wallets.

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