Energy price hikes: what can consumers do?
Whilst the climate emergency continues, oil and gas giants, like Shell and BP, have announced record-breaking profits. For example, Shell announced annual adjusted profits of $40 billion in 2022, exceeding the $19 billion it generated in 2021.This injustice and inequality, alongside rising energy prices, has sparked a number of campaigns and calls for consumer action.
Individual action to decarbonise our own homes is important but not, on its own, sufficient to make the required changes fast enough.
Around 17% of people live in social housing, and 19% in private rented accommodation where making these kinds of choices is more complicated. And the high relative costs of technologies such as heat pumps means that government subsidies are needed, particularly for poorer households.
Both our Climate Gap reports have therefore listed actions which we thought government needed to take including:
- subsidise insulation and heat pump installation
- provide a clear and consistent framework
- mandate and enforce quality standards
- address the skills gaps
In our most recent Climate Gap report, we also began to consider which campaigns we thought were most likely to deliver these actions and were therefore worthy of support. Not all these types of action will appeal to, or be possible for, everyone. But any support that can be given, in addition to reducing individual emissions, will add to the aggregate pressure for change. Rob Harrison outlines below where each campaign is now.
1. The Climate and Ecology bill
This private members’ bill aims to require the UK government to systematically address all impacts according to the best available science. It was first introduced in Parliament by Caroline Lucas MP in September 2020, and now has the backing of over 150 parliamentarians representing all major political parties.
It has a consumer-friendly website at www.zerohour.uk which lists ways to support the campaign – from signing petitions to joining events.
Ethical Consumer is also a supporter, and we think it is one of the best ways to get formal government support for most of the government actions listed in our Climate Gap report. It is building a big coalition outside Parliament with 210 supporting councils and 466 supporting organisations including:
- Friends of the Earth
- Surfers Against Sewage
- The Co-operative Bank
- The Wildlife Trusts
- Triodos Bank
- UK Youth Climate Coalition
- Women's Institutes of Northern Ireland.
2. Warm this Winter
This is a coalition of around 40 environmental and anti-poverty groups like Greenpeace and Oxfam calling for emergency support with heating bills, help to upgrade homes, access to cheap renewable energy and an end to expensive oil and gas. They have a petition for people to sign and are engaging politically on the support that poorer households are not getting for help with bills and home insulation.
3. United for Warm Homes
This is a Friends of the Earth project to support people to set up local campaigns in their own communities. The initial focus is based on building support for urgent action on warm homes in each area. Friends of the Earth is looking to work with food banks, housing groups and climate activists "to build powerful coalitions that force our government to take decisive action on the energy crisis". The website has a step-by-step guide to creating local campaigns and other resources.
4. The Great Homes Upgrade
This is a campaign initiated by the New Economics Foundation to press for a coherent national retrofit programme for insulation and clean energy. Supporters include local authorities like Bristol and Leeds, businesses like the Carbon Co-op and First Thermal, and civil society groups like Citizens UK and Greenpeace.
They are looking for donations and for supporters to build local coalitions.
5. Insulate Britain
And the new wave called Just Stop Oil, are high profile non-violent direct-action campaigns, whose names say it all. Much of their current work around insulation involves publicising the court acquittals taking place for many of the activists arrested in 2022.
> Read the full Climate Gap report.