This Devon eco-home is insulated with newspaper

‘Buildings can be part of the climate solution’

From heat pumps to insulation competitions, Kevin McCloud outlines his climate change policy

By Kevin McCloud | 18 November 2021

According to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions. That percentage breaks down as follows: around 11% is from construction and around 28% from the energy needed to heat, cool and power them. Bet you never thought that nearly a third of carbon emissions come from the fossil fuels spent in heating, cooling and lighting our buildings?

That 28% is a sobering figure because, for all that energy expended, there is nothing to see: no tangible result, no trade-off. For that percentage – which is a staggering 10 billion tonnes per year – we don’t get better medical care or improved flood defences. We don’t get a new bridge or investment in new solar-tidal energy technology or a million new eco-homes.

Ten billion tonnes of carbon emissions result from us wanting to be able to pad round our homes in T-shirts in winter and to avoid looking sweaty in summer.

This Devon eco-home is insulated with newspaper

This Devon eco home, also pictured above, is insulated with newspaper. Photo: Paul Ryan-Goff


No wonder our government wants us to buy heat pumps instead of gas boilers. Heat pumps use up to five times less energy and, since they run on electricity, can be powered by a wind farm in the North Sea.

Boris Johnson announced Britain’s ambitious plans for heat pumps and wind farms in October, just before the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit in Glasgow, although he did not announce extensive funding for either, hoping that industry will step forward to attract investment in wind farms and find enough efficiencies of manufacturing scale to bring down the price of heat pumps.

Tellingly and disappointingly, he also did not announce any plans for promoting behavioural change among his electorate. The official insights team has probably been too busy worrying about the impact of behavioural change policy on Tory voters’ allegiance to consider the content of the policy itself.