Seemingly in an effort to throw out just about every ‘low carbon’ strategy that the last Labour government (1997-2010) had strived to achieve, the present Conservative government has now chosen to flush the UK’s zero carbon aspirations away, even though the Coalition Government in 2010 (Conservative and Liberal Democrats) confirmed a commitment to delivering zero carbon homes by 2016 and the Building Regulations were improved in line with the pathway set out in 2007.
Shortly afterwards, however, in the 2011 Budget, the Chancellor George Osborne announced a reduction to the overall ambition of the policy by excluding the unregulated carbon (associated with cooking, appliances and plug loads). In 2013, despite a reconfirmation of the zero carbon homes policy in the Budget, the 2013 Building Regulations fell short of the improvement required to stay on track to 2016.
This policy was well aligned with European Policy, specifically the ‘Energy Performance of Buildings Directive’ (EPBD) which requires all new buildings to be nearly Zero Energy Buildings from 2020 (nZEB), as described in Article 2 (definitions) of the directive.
Even as recently as 2014, just a year prior to the recent general election, the Queen’s Speech reiterated the zero carbon homes 2016 policy and the intention to introduce an Allowable Solutions mechanism (i.e. off-site carbon offsetting scheme) and in February 2015 just before the election, the enabling powers to bring about the Allowable Solutions mechanism were introduced in the Infrastructure Act.
However, at the same time, government also announced a minimum ‘on-site’ standard that was weaker for most dwelling types than the standard established in 2010 by the Zero Carbon Hub and supported by industry which was odd. The same announcement also introduced an exemption for small sites (of 10 units or fewer) from the definition.
One can only wonder if the Conservatives actually had intended all along, (once they were free of their coalition partner) to comprehensively dump the commitment in an axing assult similar to that which other ‘green technologies’ and initiatives have suffered recently.
Now, just two months after the general election the government announces in its ‘Productivity Review‘ that it “does not intend to proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards”.
All this under the guise of creating a more prosperous nation as the government claims in the subheading of the document. All seemingly without a sideways glance at the sheer volume of forward investment and related research and commitment that the construction industry and its support service have invested over the last eight years.
We at Green Building can only assume that the Conservatives believe that the UK will not be a part of the European Union by that date!