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Spring statement: return of scrapped zero carbon policy?

Ccc uk housing

The chancellor Philip Hammond vowed to bring in a range of tough energy efficiency targets for new housing in yesterday’s Spring Statement

He said the government planned to introduce a Future Homes Standard by 2025 in a bid to make all ’new-build homes […] future-proofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency’.

The move, Hammond added, would ’help ensure consumer energy bills are low and homes are better for the environment’ and it formed part of the ’prime minister’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge mission to at least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030’.

Among the targets is that new UK homes would be built without fossil fuel-powered heating from 2025.

The announcement comes just a few week after the the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) hard-hitting report UK housing: Fit for the future? said only a ’near-complete elimination’ of building emissions would see the UK meet Parliament’s agreed reductions.

According to the body, which demanded immediate action from the government, the drive to reduce emissions from the nation’s 29 million homes had stalled, while energy use in homes had actually increased between 2016 and 2017. 

A separate report published last month by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) claimed owners of new-build homes were paying £200 more a year on bills because the government had scrapped zero-carbon energy standards.

It added that home-owners would have been making significant savings on their energy use if the super-green standard for all new homes had been brought in during 2016, as originally planned.

Yesterday’s news was welcomed by the CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, who said: ’I welcome the climate measures in the chancellor’s spring statement and I’m particularly pleased to see the focus on reducing emissions from UK homes.

’The fossil fuels we burn to keep our homes warm are a significant chunk of UK emissions – we need a credible plan to tackle them. This commitment to phase out fossil-fuelled heating in new homes by 2025 is in line with the committee’s recent recommendation.

’It represents a genuine step forward in reducing UK emissions. Plans to consult on cleaning up the UK’s gas supply also get a thumbs up from the committee – we have been calling for the government to consider the use of alternative, ‘greener’ gases for some time.

’Taken together, these are positive steps.’

However Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, was not so impressed: ’[Yesterday] the chancellor claimed to support housing delivery but actions speak louder than words and the burdensome and poorly thought-through biodiversity targets for developers will bring yet more costs and more delays for builders. Just as the environment for SME house builders starts to improve, these measures could end up stalling our progress.

He said: ’The government wants to make developers, large and small, increase the biodiversity on their sites by a whopping 110 per cent and for an average site of 10 units, the additional cost could be in excess of £2,000. Needless to say, this would also create delays to projects by adding additional hurdles for builders to negotiate during the already bureaucratic planning process.’

Berry concluded: ‘Rather than hampering the building of new homes, if the government wants to be “more green”, it should focus instead on retrofitting the more than 24 million homes that have already been built and which account for around one fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

’This will not only help reduce the UK’s carbon footprint but will also tackle the scourge of fuel poverty.’


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Readers' comments (2)

  • More talk from everyone. Now we need action! It’s not rocket science, and we could help solve many problems with relatively small changes to designs and actions? Cut carbon emissions, fuel bills, first price for a start.

    Architects to lead? We have all the skills and knowledge. Rab Bennetts says they can lead. Do it Rab and Co?

    Going blue in the face here. So use Green Bonds. Consult the IPCC, CCC, UKGBC. Perhaps there are too many committees involved, and the message and actions are becoming diluted, even before the planners put their spanner in the works.

    The viability of the planet is at stake?!

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  • its a positive step forward, granted. However over a million homes will be built before this comes into effect and the vast majority of those just, just, meet the minimum standards set by building regulations. The other related story that broke yesterday was that Persimmon have admitted lobbying government strongly and successfully to ditch the carbon zero (and cfsh) standards which, along with help to buy, has led them to record profits for them and the infamous £75m bonus to their CEO. Yes we need new homes, and yes we need them to be affordable but we cannot afford to let 1,000,000 or more new houses be built in a way that we know will make climate change worse than it otherwise would be if those homes were designed and built to higher energy performance standards. Its literally a matter of life and death and yet due to lobbying, due to volume house builders profit margins and some poor planning policy (building 1000's of homes in areas 100% reliant on car travel) this continues apace and the can has been kicked down the road again.

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