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Government ditches zero carbon homes commitment

The government has abandoned its commitment to make all homes zero carbon by 2016

After renewing its zero carbon homes pledge in last year’s budget, the government has back-pedalled on its promise that all new housing should meet stringent energy efficiency standards - a move which the UK Green Building Council called ‘deeply worrying’.

Later this week small housing developments are expected to be exempted from the zero carbon standard when new legislation within the Infrastructure Bill is announced in the Queen’s speech (4 June).

Developers will also be allowed to build homes at just Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, not Level 5 which is widely accepted as the zero carbon standard. The bill will then allow them to offset the scheme’s carbon emissions, effectively letting a developer buying its way out of adopting zero carbon standards.

In support of the changes the Liberal Democrats said this would allow ‘carbon emissions reduction to be met through flexible, cost-effective measures (‘allowable solutions’).’

But the announcement is seen by many as a further watering down of the standards which were originally proposed to ensure all new buildings meet increasing levels of energy efficiency.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘It’s good to see the coalition is following through on its promise to introduce allowable solutions, an integral part in ensuring our homes will be zero carbon from 2016. The industry urgently needs clarity on this part of the policy and we look forward to hearing more details in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. 

‘However, it is deeply worrying to hear suggestions that ‘small sites’ could be exempt from the zero carbon standard. This decision could cause confusion and lead to perverse outcomes, for example the slowing down of housing supply as developers phase the delivery of ‘small sites’ to avoid regulations.’

The government is set to publish what it means by a small development after a later consultation.

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