Speaking during a debate at the Think 08: Sustainability in the Built Environment conference in London on Thursday, representatives said the issue needed to be debated openly.

They urged ministers to introduce schemes such as feed-in tariffs to encourage take-up of renewable energy generation to power buildings, and consider reducing stamp duty or council tax for homeowners with energy efficient properties.

The construction and development industry also needs incentives to build green improvements into homes as a standard measure, the experts said.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said; “I think this whole incentives issue needs to be got out on the table.

“We need to debate it. We need to look at how we are going to help the industry to do things that will be expensive.”

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, who also took part in the debate, confirmed that Government will be looking into feed-in tariffs, but sounded a note of caution over spending on incentives.

“In the end, where does incentive money come from?” he asked. “There’s a not a secret pot we can dip into. It comes from you, the taxpayers.”

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said he hoped his organisation would be able to organise a forum for Government and the industry to sit down and discuss the thorny issue of incentives.

A Dragon’s Den-style event hosted by Think 08 and the UKGBC in the run-up to the conference voted feed-in tariffs and income tax rebates the most effective and actionable financial incentives to sustainability.

Speaking at the conference earlier in the day, Ché Wall, founder and director of the Australian Green Building Council, said the one thing the UK could learn from Australia was that Government should provide “floors not ceilings”.

“Too much legislation will dull opportunity and take innovation away from industry,” he said. “We all know that the best people to solve this problem is industry and not Government.”

Kate Martin

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