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Government must implement zero carbon homes standard, says Climate Change Committee

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The government must implement the zero carbon homes standard without further weakening in order to help the UK meet its climate change obligations, according to a new report by the Climate Change Committee

The committee produced a progress report yesterday (29 June) ahead of a December meeting where international governments will meet to agree a new deal to limit global warming.

The report said that action is needed to replace a number of UK policies designed to reduce future emissions which are set to expire over the course of this parliament.

Lord Deben, chairman of the committee, said: ‘This government has a unique opportunity to shape climate policy through the 2020s.

‘It must act now to set out how it plans to keep the UK on track. Acting early will help to reduce costs to households, business and the Exchequer. It will improve people’s health and wellbeing and create opportunities for business in manufacturing and in the service sector.’

Last year, the watchdog criticised government plans to exempt small housing developments from the zero carbon homes standard when it is introduced in 2016 and urged it to scrap the proposal.

And yesterday, it said that the zero carbon homes standard is among a number of ‘at risk’ policies which are currently contributing to reducing carbon emissions.

It added that the standard should also seek to ensure passive cooling, in addition to minimising emissions.

Preliminary figures indicate that greenhouse gas emissions fell by more than 8 per cent during 2014, while the economy grew by about 2.8 per cent and manufacturing grew by about 3 per cent, the report said.

The large reduction across the economy was attributed to falls in emissions from buildings, industry and power generation.

However, the committee said that much of the drop was due to the mild winter, leading to a 15 per cent reduction in building emissions.

‘We estimate that without the higher average winter temperatures, buildings emissions would have fallen only slightly,’ it said.

Good progress was identified in renewably energy generating capacity, efficient boiler installation and loft and cavity wall insulation.

But it said there had been limited progress in the deployment of low carbon heat in buildings.

‘Evidence remains limited or of poor quality in some areas, especially agriculture, industry and commercial buildings,’ the committee said.

There is a need for a new strategic assessment of land use at a national and sub-national level to guide new development and infrastructure.

It said that the cumulative impact of individual decisions on new development could be creating systemic risk, with the number of homes located in areas of flood risk set to increase from 153,000 to 183,000 by the 2060s.

This increase was largely due to new homes being located in areas where it is uneconomic to improve flood defences.

By 2017, the Environment Agency and Department for Communities and Local Government should, by 2017, publish an assessment quantifying the impact of new development on long-term flood risk, the committee recommended.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: ’The government has rightly identified the need to ensure that emissions are reduced as cost-effectively as possible. No sector provides a better opportunity to do this than buildings, in which energy efficiency can stimulate economic activity, lower bills and strengthen our energy security.

‘Yet the committee has issued a clear warning – progress on improving our buildings is currently falling short. The Government must follow its advice and agree an action plan for energy efficiency which results in homes that are cheaper to heat and that are shielded from the worst effects of climate change.’

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