Insulate Britain says government welcome to borrow its name | Environmental activism

The well-known campaigning group Insulate Britain is happy to let the government borrow its name if officials can’t come up with a different label for their insulation scheme, it has told the Guardian.

According to a report in the Times on government plans for insulating homes, during one meeting to thrash out the policy, a No 10 official suggested calling it “Insulate Britain” – a proposal quickly nixed when someone else pointed out that it was already the name of the disruptive direct action group.

The campaigners say the government is welcome to use the name – but like other environmental groups, they caution that the insulation plans as they stand are based on raiding other environmental funds, and lack the necessary ambition to tackle the issue.

Johnson has reportedly told ministers to divert more than £1bn from existing schemes to focus on insulating poorer households at risk of being clobbered by steep rises in gas bills. Funds could be diverted from a number of sources, including the £1bn public sector decarbonisation scheme, which focuses on making public buildings more energy-efficient, and the £450m boiler upgrade scheme. Under the proposal, the money would be used to top up the “energy company obligations”, levied from bills to fund energy efficiency measures for poorer households.

In a campaign of direct action last autumn, members of Insulate Britain provoked widespread annoyance by blocking busy roads and motorways in London and south-east England. But they seized headlines and pushed the topic of home insulation – one of the less sexy solutions to reducing dependence on fossil fuels – firmly on to the political agenda.

Since then, the Labor party has outlined proposals to insulate 2 million houses in a year, with its leader, Keir Starmer, describing home insulation as a “national mission.”

“We’re happy to give them the name … we’re not precious about it,” Liam Norton, spokesperson for the group, said. “The main thing is that people are experiencing a cost of living crisis; the main thing is to just get on with the job.” But Norton described the No 10 proposals as a gimmick, with “not anywhere near the ambition that it needs to have”.

His assessment was echoed by Friends of the Earth, whose head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “When there are over 5 million homes that could benefit from basic home-warming measures such as loft or cavity wall insulation, it’s clear we need a Well funded, free street-by-street insulation program to minimise the amount of energy our homes waste.

“A comprehensive plan like this would cost in the region of £4bn-£6bn, much more than amount the prime minister is said to be seeking.”

The scheme, if it does go ahead, is now more likely to be called the Great British Insulation Scheme, according to the Times.

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