The climate cost of insulating our homes

The Guardian has recently published the following letter:

Your report (UK insulation scheme would take 300 years to meet government targets, say critics, 9 April) is bad climate news, but the situation is actually worse. Even if we did speed up insulating our leaky homes, we would simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Because more than 95% of our insulation materials have manufacturing processes that involve the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in high levels of embodied energy in the insulation. Actual figures are elusive as it’s not in the interests of the manufacturers of insulation made from polystyrene, polyurethane, glass wool or stone wool to make them public.

We need to switch to nature-based materials such as wood fibre, which can both substitute for the majority of carbon-intensive insulations and store carbon removed from the atmosphere when the tree was growing. Sequestration, substitution and storage are low‑hanging fruit when it comes to tackling the built environment’s huge CO2 emissions. It’s high time we picked it.

Paul Brannen
Former MEP, 2014-19, agriculture and environment committees

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