Philip Oldfield writes in the Guardian about the government decision to axe plans to make new homes carbon neutral from 2016. This has raised much criticism. What the article does not mention is how the government will now meet its related obligations for nearly zero energy buildings under the EU’s energy performance of buildings directive.
UK scraps zero carbon homes target
Housebuilders, planners and green groups have condemned the government for scrapping plans to make all new UK homes carbon neutral.
The zero carbon homes policy was first announced in 2006 by the then-chancellor Gordon Brown, who said Britain was the first country to make such a commitment.
It would have ensured that all new dwellings from 2016 would generate as much energy on-site – through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. This was to be supported by tighter energy efficiency standards that would come into force in 2016, and a scheme which would allow housebuilders to deliver equivalent carbon savings off site.
However, both regulations were axed by the government on Friday, in a move Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said was “the death knell” for the zero carbon homes policy.
“It is short-sighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house-building industry, which has invested heavily in delivering energy-efficient homes,” Hirigoyen said. “Britain needs more housing but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of high energy bills.”
Housebuilders, energy leaders and environmentalists were similarly critical of the move.
“We are very disappointed with this decision,” said Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust. “Under the Climate Change Act, we have to achieve at least an 80% reduction in the carbon emissions from our homes by 2050. We need to be building homes now that are 2050 ready.”
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said “The cancellation of the policy marks the end of any benchmark for building the high quality, sustainable homes that we so desperately need.”
Daisy Sands, energy and climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK said “Ditching schemes to support energy efficiency for new homes is a calamitous decision all round. Energy-wasting homes mean higher bills, increased dependence on gas imports from countries like Russia, and more climate-warming emissions. ”
Ed Davey, former secretary of state for energy and climate change suggested David Cameron “may as well hug a coal power station”.
Today’s announcement was made as part of a government report, Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation. It said the scrapping of the two regulations was designed to “reduce net regulations on housebuilders”.
The zero carbon homes policy aimed to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions from housing, which currently make up nearly a third of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, a figure which could rise to 55% by 2050.
Paul King, managing director of sustainability, communications and marketing for developer LendLease Europe, said the move was a backwards step for efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s building stock, which is some of the most inefficient in Europe.
“Industry needs as much policy clarity and consistency as possible in order to invest and innovate, and after almost 10 years of commitment and progress, UK house builders and developers have come a very long way,” he said. “It is therefore extremely disappointing that the government has today removed a world-leading ambition for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016.”