Cold kills more in temperate Britain than freezing Sweden

November 22nd, 2013

Cold kills more in temperate Britain than freezing Sweden

British homes a major cause, say campaigners

The cold will kill more people in Britain than in freezing Sweden this winter due to our woefully insulated homes, according to new research released today.

The cold kills over 20,000 in the UK each winter, 23% more than Sweden as a proportion of all deaths.

The share of British people who cannot afford to heat their homes is four times higher than the Scandinavian nation, where winter temperatures regularly plunge as low as -30 degrees centigrade.

Campaigners lay the blame squarely at the door of Britain’s appallingly insulated houses, which leak on average three times as much heat through their walls as those in Sweden.

Swedish families pay twice as much for gas to heat their homes as those in Britain. Levels of disposable income are nearly identical in the two countries.

Despite this, the proportion of people who live in fuel poverty is 70% higher in Britain than in Sweden.

Over 10 million British people live in a home with a leaking roof, damp walls or rotting windows, a rate almost twice as high as that of Sweden.

Britain also lags well behind other Scandinavian nations. The share of people living in a leaky home is nearly three times higher in the UK than in Finland, and the UK’s walls lose more than three times as much heat.

These facts may help explain why the rate of excess winter deaths in the UK is more than double Finland’s rate.

Figures due for release next week are expected to show that the cold remained as deadly as ever for Britons last winter, as energy bills rose and the temperature plummeted.

The Energy Bill Revolution, the world’s biggest fuel poverty campaign, is calling on the Chancellor to use December’s Autumn Statement to tackle fuel poverty and super-insulate Britain’s homes.

Commenting on the findings, Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, said:

“It is a national disgrace that thousands of people are dying unnecessarily every year, lives that could be saved by something as simple as better insulation. That more people die from the cold every year in temperate Britain than in freezing Sweden is an embarrassment and a tragedy. George Osborne has an opportunity when he gives his Autumn statement in two weeks time to solve this problem once and for all, by increasing funding for energy efficiency. If he cuts the total energy efficiency budget as many fear he will be condemning people to death.”

The fuel poverty crisis

Five million UK households are in fuel poverty, meaning they spend more than 10% of their income on keeping their homes warm.

The fuel poverty crisis is getting worse, with every energy supplier raising energy bills this winter.

ONS statistics released this week warned of above-inflation rises on energy bills for the next 17 years, with the average energy bill due to be £700 more expensive by 2030.

Government’s energy efficiency failure

Recent figures reveal the dismal failings on both of the Government’s flagship energy efficiency policies.

The Green Deal, which gives home owners Government-backed loans to upgrade their properties, has been taken up by a meagre 219 households in its first year.

The Government’s embarrassment is compounded by figures released last week showing that most energy companies are falling far short of their obligations to install insulation and better boilers for their customers under the Energy Companies Obligation.

Even if successful, ECO will only provide one eighth of the spending necessary to end the scourge of fuel poverty in Britain.

Super-insulation would slash heating bills by £500 a year

Energy Efficiency spending is the only long term way to cut energy bills for every British family.

A programme of super-insulation would save the average family household £500 on their energy bill, and eliminate fuel poverty once and for all.

The Energy Bill Revolution alliance, which represents over 150 British businesses, charities, energy companies and unions, says 600,000 homes a year could be super-insulated by recycling Carbon Tax, which over the next 15 years will swell treasury coffers by £4bn a year.

Their ambition is to make UK homes as well insulated as new homes built today. They want home energy efficiency to be made the UK’s number one infrastructure priority.


Notes to editors:

1.       Figures are based on the share of all deaths that are Excess Winter Deaths (a term used by the Office for National Statistics to refer to the increase in deaths that occurs in the winter).

2.       A full copy of the report, compiled by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE), is available on request.

MPs supporting the campaign
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