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Debates delay zero carbon definition

Agreement on a definition of zero carbon for homes has been further delayed by debate about whether the classification should change depending on where you are in the country.

Department for Communities and Local Government ministers had hoped to have the final recommendations before a Zero Carbon Hub conference on 1 February.

But a meeting of the cross-industry task group set up by the hub to compile the report failed to agree on whether developers in the colder north should be allowed concessions on emissions.

The draft guidance on how much carbon individual homes can generate is based on conditions around a notional location near Northampton. The alternative is to have different zero carbon definitions around the country.

Zero Carbon Hub director David Adams said the answer to the question - which will inform housebuilders what the government’s commitment to make all new homes zero carbon from 2016 means in practice - was too important to rush.

He told CN: “The question might be, ‘Is the carbon compliance set nationally, is it a guideline to be set locally, or is it a combination of both?’ Had it been possible [to have the final report in time for the conference], it would have been extremely beneficial.

“But let’s be realistic. It is a complex area and it is a task group of nearly 50 people. To fit a conference deadline set six months ago doesn’t warrant rushing at the end.”

The final recommendations will not now be handed over to the DCLG until 16 February.

The delay will come as a blow to housing minister Grant Shapps, who said on taking office last May that he would have the zero carbon definition “within weeks”. Insiders claim the final definition is not even close to being agreed, notwithstanding the hub’s report.

The Zero Carbon Hub is charged with making recommendations on two elements which will make up the final zero carbon definition.

But the final ‘allowable solutions’ element will be decided by the DCLG and the Treasury, with some ministers understood to be hostile to what they see as an additional tax on housing.

Under legislation drawn up by the previous government and supported by the coalition, all new homes must be zero carbon by 2016. Mr Adams said the Zero Carbon Hub was on “amber alert” to finalise the definition in time for developers.

He said: “We need to know this in the first quarter of this year,” he said. “This is getting serious because people are buying land for which they need to estimate the cost of the allowable solutions.”

The Zero Carbon Hub’s preliminary report, delivered to ministers in December, suggested that the carbon compliance for new homes after 2016 should be around 60 per cent of the 2006 standard for detached houses, 56 per cent for other houses, and 44 per cent for low-rise blocks of flats.

That equates to 10 kg CO2(eq)/sq m/year for detached houses, 11 kg CO2(eq)/sq m/year for other houses, and 14 kg CO2(eq) sq m/year for low-rise apartment blocks.


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