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Switching to low-carbon heating ‘biggest challenge’ for Cambridgeshire's green hopes

Switching homes to low-carbon heating will be the “biggest challenge” for Cambridgeshire to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

That is according to the chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate, Baroness Brown, who said moving to low-carbon heating will be the biggest challenge both here and across the country.

Last week the newly formed commission released its first report and initial recommendations, assessing the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions to reduce climate change, and recommending policy changes for Cambridgeshire to meet that aim.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge. (45454169)
Baroness Brown of Cambridge. (45454169)

The report said Cambridgeshire is a high risk area, while also having greenhouse gas emissions 25 per cent higher than the national average.

It estimated that in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough around £700 million a year will need to be invested throughout the 2020s, “some” of which will be public investment, but “much of it will be private”.

Speaking at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee last Monday (March 22), Baroness Brown said switching to low-carbon heating for the area’s homes is “going to need a very significant chunk” of that investment.

Switching to low-carbon heating ‘biggest challenge’ for Cambridgeshire to reduce carbon emissions.
Switching to low-carbon heating ‘biggest challenge’ for Cambridgeshire to reduce carbon emissions.

She said: “I think the biggest challenge, as it is across the country, is this one of low-carbon heat.

“We have got something like 350,000 buildings [in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough] which need to be converted to low-carbon heat.

“Some of that will be heat pumps, some of that may be zero-carbon district heating schemes, some of that may at some point in the future involve hydrogen, although we don’t think this is a region where hydrogen will be arriving early so we think that is something we should not be focusing on”.

And Baroness Brown warned that of all the changes the area needs, retrofitting to low-carbon heating has “the biggest upfront cost in many ways, and the slowest payback”.

She added: “I think that needs an enormous amount of focus, and it needs a huge amount of communication with people, with the population, with our residents about what they can and what they need to do and what the benefits to them will be”.

She said council and housing association housing are “sensible places to start”.

But she warned that it when it comes to privately owned homes, it may be difficult to encourage people to make the change.

“Owner-occupiers are going to be particularly challenging,” she said, adding that for those that have already paid off their mortgages, incentives such as green loans and mortgage schemes may not be particularly effective, “so I think among the older generation that’s going to be a particular challenge,” she said.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate is expected to produce a further report later this year.

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