Ministers called upon to deliver clarity for low-carbon building sector

A coalition of organisations including Kingfisher and the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) is calling on the UK Government to publish a bold emissions reduction plan which addresses the policy gap in the low-carbon building sector.

Led by WWF, more than 30 construction, heat and energy efficiency firms have urged ministers to use the upcoming strategy – now known as the Clean Growth Plan – to provide clarity for businesses on buildings, one of the “weakest areas of Government policy to tackle climate change”.

Government decisions to scrap the Zero-Carbon Homes standard and axe the Green Deal have resulted in a halt of building emissions reductions in the last several years, the group wrote in a letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Coalition member BAM Construct UK chief executive Graham Cash commented: “Government policy is important to drive UK plc towards a lower carbon future. We need clear signals and a strong commitment to get everyone moving in the same direction.

“The bottom line is that a low carbon economy is good for business. Acting now will create opportunities for us, our clients and the communities in which we work”.

‘Desperate for clarity’

With buildings using more than 40% of energy in the UK, the organisations have set a list of recommendations that the Clean Growth Plan must incorporate to reduce emissions from homes and businesses.

The alliance, which includes the likes of Knauf Insulation and ROOKWOOL UK, is calling for a long-term target for all homes to have an energy performance rating of C or above by 2035, which it hopes will generate 100,000 new jobs in the construction and service sectors.

Other proposals include the introduction of minimum standards on efficiency for existing homes, and application of the European Union (EU) Buildings Directive which enforces all new buildings to be ‘nearly zero-energy’ by 2020.

Greater action is called for to accelerate the transition to low-carbon heat, by supporting investment in district heat networks and faster installation of electric heat pumps in homes off the gas grid. This comes just weeks after a new task force was launched to provide guidance on how industry and Government can work together to deliver a subsidy-free heat network market with strong protections for consumers.

WWF head of energy and climate change Gareth Redmond-King said: “The low-carbon economy represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses, so it’s no wonder that they’re desperately looking for longer term clarity that will enable them to invest in the technologies that we know can help to tackle climate change.

“The UK Government must heed their call and build these measures into their Clean Growth Plan; doing so will be good for the environment and good for the British economy.”

State of flux

The construction and property industry is “eager” to work with the UK Government to boost housebuilding standards, improve economic growth and help achieve binding carbon targets, the UK-GBC has recently claimed – stipulating this will only be possible if an array of new policies are introduced.

The Government’s decision to scrap the Green Deal scheme for housebuilders and building owners has left building standards in a state of flux. The Government has attempted to rectify the situation in recent times; the recently published guidance about the new minimum efficiency standard for privately rented commercial buildings was welcomed by the industry for providing “vital clarity” to businesses.

In order to boost energy efficiency, and comply with national carbon reduction targets which currently stretch through to 2032, it is estimated that more than 25 million homes will need refurbishing to exemplary standards.

George Ogleby

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