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Climate gap report: heating

Rob Harrison and Ruth Strange discuss the findings around heating from Closing the Climate Gap 2023: An annual report on progress towards sustainable consumer lifestyles in the UK.

Actions taken this decade will be crucial in mitigating the worst impacts of climate breakdown. Yet, according to our Climate Gap research, we are not cutting emissions fast enough across any of our key lifestyle areas - including in heating our homes.

Heating and the climate gap

Emissions from residential heating did fall in 2022 and seem to be on target. But mild winter temperatures were found to have accounted for almost two thirds of the drop in emissions, with the rest likely due to high gas prices.

So our second key finding in the report is that some of the apparent progress is caused by external circumstances rather than policy success.

Heat pumps are still too expensive for many, and our homes are among the worst insulated in Europe. Government-funded installations for fuel-poor homes were over 1.5 and 2 million in 2010-2012, but suddenly dropped to the hundreds of thousands, and have still not been revived over 10 years later.

Our fourth key finding was that insulation and heat pumps continue to be the furthest off target of all our measures (see graph below). There is at least a new “Great British Insulation Scheme” in 2023, which eligible households can access through their energy supplier. Let’s hope that this has some impact.

Bar chart of million installations of heat pumps per year. 2019 0.03million, 2020 0.04 million, 2021 0.06 million, 2023 0.07 million, target 2030 1.10 million.
UK heat pump installations

Not moving fast enough

Heating accounts for around 14% of our total emissions.

The 2023 report found that there is still a 14% reduction needed in CO2e emissions needed if we are to meet the CCC's 2030 targets.

As can be seen in the graph for heat pump installations, some targets are currently a very long way off.

We call on consumers to not only reduce their own emissions in these areas, but to also consider getting engaged with political campaigns trying to persuade the government and companies to take some of the actions identified too.

Actions for government, companies and consumers

The report card below summarises the key actions consumers, governments and businesses need to take in order to help meet the CCC's 2030 targets.

Heating Report Card 2023

Home insulation installations Heat pumps installed Emissions from home heating
Actions for government Subsidise; provide clear and consistent framework; mandate and enforce quality standards. Subsidise; provide clear and consistent framework; mandate and enforce quality standards. Subsidise; provide clear and consistent framework; mandate and enforce quality standards.
Actions for companies Insulate commercial buildings; develop creative funding instruments; address the skills gaps. Install heat pumps in commercial buildings; develop creative funding instruments; address the skills gaps. Reduce demand through smarter heating.
Actions for consumers Insulate your home. Get a heat pump if suitable for your home. Reduce demand.

Access the 2023 Climate Gap report

A summary and PDF of the 2023 report and the other impact areas is available on our campaign page.

The reports include the evidence behind all the information.

At a glance graphs

The 2023 report includes 12 graphs, like the heat pumps graph above, across the four impact areas of food, heating, transport and consumer goods. These graphs are quick ways to see where progress is taking place, and where the target is going to be very difficult to achieve.

Your feedback

After you have read this report, we’d really appreciate it if you could complete a short survey to help us understand the impact it is having, and improve this in future years.

Handy advice on climate actions you can take

We are creating a series of articles highlighting actions you can take for the climate on the areas of food, heating, transport and consumer goods - see the links below for some heating related advice:

Join in

Combined efforts can have greater impact than people on their own. Key heating campaigns to support include:

  • Warm This Winter - coalition of environmental and anti-poverty groups
  • United for Warm Homes - a Friends of the Earth project to support people to set up local campaigns in their own communities
  • Great Homes Upgrade - campaign from New Economics Foundation with a toolkit for actions supporters can take locally
  • Just Stop Oil - non-violent direct action campaign to do what its name suggests
  • Energy For All - campaign for essential free energy for all, by Fuel Poverty Action, funded by windfall tax on energy companies and redirecting subsidies, and an end to standing charges

We would like to express gratitude to Ecology Building Society for its sponsorship of the 2023 Climate Gap Report.

Ecology Building Society logo

What is the Climate Gap report?

Ethical Consumer's first Climate Gap report was published in October 2021, to track progress towards sustainable consumer lifestyles in the UK. The report helps identify how consumers, governments and companies can work together to help fix the climate crisis.

The report's aim is to track the gap between our current combined consumption emissions and where they need to be by 2030. A second key aim of the project is to produce a simplified list of key actions for consumers, companies and governments.

The report has four sections on the areas where our lifestyle climate impacts are the biggest: food, housing, transport and consumer goods, covering 75% of combined total consumer emissions. It compares where consumer behaviour is in these areas against 2030 targets from reports issued by the UK Government's own Climate Change Committee (CCC). Read more about whether the CCC's targets themselves are robust enough, in the Key Findings on our campaign page.

We update the report annually, to provide targets for consumers, companies and government each year.