A group of business leaders and trade association heads have called on the chair of the Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Select Committee to investigate the government’s decision to abandon its commitment to a zero-carbon building standard.
The zero carbon homes policy, which required new homes built from 2016 onwards to mitigate all carbon emissions produced on-site as a result of regulated energy use, was scrapped in July as part of chancellor George Osborne’s productivity plan. A letter to Angus MacNeil signed by a range of individuals from across the low carbon building sector has called on the committee chair to review the decision as part of the select committee’s current inquiries.
It claims the decision, which was made in an effort to increase house-building levels, will hinder the UK’s ability to meet carbon budgets cost-effectively as well as guarantee higher running costs for future buildings.
It goes on to say the removal of the zero-carbon standard will also have a significant impact on British businesses, which have been preparing for the standards for almost a decade. As a result, substantial investment and resources stand to be wasted; a consequence that could feed in to the select committee’s ongoing review of the impact of recent policy announcements on investor confidence.
As the COP Climate Change Summit in Paris begins, the letter also argues that abandoning ‘a world-leading zero carbon policy’ could damage the UK’s international standing as a leader in tackling climate change.
David Weatherall, housing strategy manager at the Energy Saving Trust and one of the signatories of the letter, said: “We know that people are looking at the UK and thinking this is a country that has been and in some ways still is a leader on climate change but it does seem a strange moment given the Paris summit for the government to make the decisions it has around changes to policy in some of these areas. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for government to embrace the Paris summit to look again at some of these things and how it can support green industry and green growth in the UK.”
Since the chancellor’s announcement regarding the government’s abandonment of zero carbon homes policy, the future of domestic low carbon construction has been put into question, particularly in light of the European Commission’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which requires all new buildings to be nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB) from 2020. With a replacement policy yet to be announced, it is unclear how the UK will meet this requirement.
Weatherall continued: “It’s just such a shame; we were leaders in Europe on this issue, we were certainly fully compliant with the requirements of the EPBD and now it’s not clear whether we will be compliant and certainly I think the European Directive provides a useful directive.
“But we don’t want government to be doing this because it’s told to by Europe, we want government to be doing it because it’s the right way to create warmer, lower cost homes for British citizens.”
“We’d be pleased for the ECC, as we would for anybody, to look at the issue of zero carbon homes and how they can be promoted. It’s an important issue and anybody choosing to look at it and consider it would be welcome by us,” he added.
It was announced in last week’s Spending Review that the government plans to build 400,000 new homes by 2020, however there was no mention of minimum energy efficiency standards.