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Industry slams government's zero-carbon U-turn

The decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes target “has undermined industry confidence in construction” and will “be harmful to British industry”, according to construction and property business leaders.

More than 200 businesses have called on the government to reconsider its zero-carbon U-turn, which emerged as part of chancellor George Osborne’s productivity plan earlier this month.

Senior figures from companies including Argent, Bouygues, Lendlease, Sir Robert McAlpine and Willmott Dixon, as well as the British Property Federation, signed an open letter criticising the decision.

The policy, launched by the Labour government in 2007, would have required all new homes built from 2016 to meet the zero-carbon standard, with businesses already having invested billions of pounds to ensure compliance.

The decision to scrap the policy was unveiled in the Treasury’s Fixing the foundations paper, released on 10 July.

In the letter, the 246 business leaders wrote: “This sudden U-turn has undermined industry confidence in government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low-carbon products and services.

“There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.”

The letter was organised by the UK Green Building Council.

Its chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “The speed and the stealth with which this administration has destroyed some of the long-term policies supporting the renewable and low-carbon industries has been breathtaking.

“We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long-established zero-carbon policy will impact their business and investment.

“This u-turn not only means our new buildings will be less energy efficient and more costly to run, but it comes at a time when the UK should be taking strong action on climate change ahead of the UN conference in Paris in December.

“We urge government to reconsider its position for the sake of future confidence in the UK’s low-carbon economy.”

Willmott Dixon energy services managing director Rob Lambe said the contractor had “worked tirelessly over the past 10 years” and had invested “tens of millions of pounds” to develop zero-carbon solutions.

Letter to the chancellor: full text

Dear Chancellor,

For the best part of a decade, in response to a long-established government target, the construction and property sector has been gearing up to deliver zero-carbon homes and buildings.

Last Friday, we were extremely disappointed to learn that this policy is being arbitrarily scrapped, despite the fact that the necessary primary legislation only acquired Royal Assent in February this year.

There was a broad consensus in support of the zero-carbon policy, which was designed to give industry the confidence it needs to invest and innovate, in order to drive higher energy efficiency standards and low-carbon energy solutions.

Since the policy was first launched eight years ago, business has invested heavily in preparing for future standards.

This sudden u-turn has undermined industry confidence in government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low-carbon products and services.

There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.

The weakening of standards will mean our future homes, offices, schools and factories will be more costly to run, locking future residents and building users into higher energy bills.

It also runs counter to advice from the committee on climate change, impeding our ability to meet our statutory carbon targets cost-effectively at a time when we should be showing international leadership on this issue.

Abandoning the zero-carbon policy will have regressive impacts and be harmful to British industry.

We urge you to reconsider and engage with us in dialogue to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Project Five Consulting

    Well done to the Industry Leaders on responding so quickly. This is not a time to be sending out a confusing message about Climate Change. So much progress has been made in this sector; to scrap it now makes no sense. We wait with eager anticipation to hear the Government's response to this.

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