Proposals to reform Part L of the building regulations are too timid, the government’s independent committee on climate change has warned
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has written to housing secretary Robert Jenrick to say that eliminating carbon emissions from housing was one of the ‘toughest challenges’ in reaching the UK’s target of having net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
‘It is vital that we do not make that challenge harder, or worsen our preparedness for rising global temperatures, by building substandard new homes,’ committee chairman John Gummer and his colleague Julia King wrote.
On Part L, the letter stated: ‘These are important steps, but they do not go far enough to reduce carbon emissions, or address the growing risks of overheating, flooding and water stress – key climate risks facing the UK. Stronger standards will serve future occupants better.’
The government recently consulted on proposals to tighten Part L as a ‘stepping stone’ to bringing in the Future Homes Standard in 2025, which will take stronger action, such as ruling out gas boilers in new homes.
Earlier this month, climate change activists urged architects to reject the government proposals before the consultation ended on 7 February.
Now the CCC appears to be backing many of the points raised by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the Architects Climate Action Network.
The committee’s letter pointed out that most of the new homes will still be standing in 2050, by which point the UK’s net zero target requires an end to the burning of fossil fuels in the home.
Making a new home genuinely zero-carbon at the outset is around five times cheaper than retrofitting it later
‘It obviously makes no sense to build homes that will need to be retrofitted again before 2050,’ it said. ‘Making a new home genuinely zero-carbon at the outset is around five times cheaper than retrofitting it later, and almost always will reduce residents’ energy bills, too.’
The committee also argued that, rather than waiting until 2025 to introduce the Future Homes Standard (FHS), the government should set out its full definition for the new standard now and legislate for the FHS before 2024 to give ‘market certainty’.
The committee also recommended letting councils set tougher and earlier targets if they want to – a key objection to the proposals from local authorities and from protesters at Extinction Rebellion
The government consultation set out two possible options for energy efficiency. One would deliver a 20 per cent cut in carbon emissions due to improvements in insulation, such as triple glazing.
The other would see 31 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by installing equipment such as solar panels together with tougher insulation standards – though not as tough as in the first option.
Analysis by the London Energy Transformation Initiative suggested that by 2025 all new buildings must have net zero carbon emissions to meet UK climate targets.
Clara Bagenal George, initiator of the London Energy Transformation Initiative, has claimed the proposals for Part L were ‘likely to result in a step backwards’, when what the climate emergency demands is ‘a huge leap forward’.
The climate change committee’s role is to advise the government and devolved administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The new Part L and Part F rules are likely to be published in early to mid-2020, and to come into force in mid to late-2020.