The Carbon Plan brings clarity to green policy including a commitment to make display energy certificates mandatory in commercial buildings
Today government published its Carbon Plan, an 83-page document which draws together policy from across departments, dealing with carbon reductions economy-wide. The plan can be viewed here. What’s this all about and why now? Haven’t we got enough government policy tomes, you might add.
With glass half full, it does provide a very good overview of government’s thinking and provides some helpful clarifications on timings of consultations, plans and pieces of legislation. For example, there’s some useful stuff on the timeline for the Green Deal, which our industry will need to continue to engage with, to make sure we get something that will actually have mass take up and will genuinely deliver.
Slightly more cynically, there’s a school of thought that suggests this is about the deputy PM and Chris Huhne upping the ante on green, in order to win back disaffected left-leaning voters who have deserted them since the election. And there isn’t that much brand new in here (with a notable exception, below).
Regardless of motive, and I’m inclined to be generous, we’re always crying out for certainty on the future policy landscape and this is a decent attempt at providing a coherent narrative on carbon right across some disparate policy areas.
The Plan says that by October 2012, government will extend Display Energy Certificates (DECs) to commercial buildings
For once, non-domestic buildings get more of a look-in and here comes the notable exception I mentioned. The Plan says that by October 2012, government will extend Display Energy Certificates (DECs) to commercial buildings, saying that ’Government is currently developing options for extending DECs to commercial buildings and working with industry on their take-up’. That work refers to the UK-GBC task group, reported by Building a few weeks ago. This is great news and something we’ve been campaigning on for a long time.
Our task group is also looking at the Carbon Reduction Commitment but the Plan doesn’t go any further than previous announcements in this area. Therein lies a weakness of the Carbon Plan in its current format. To be fair it is only a draft, but it doesn’t yet do enough to make the necessary links between different, but overlapping, policies.
Non-domestic buildings is the obvious example where EPCs, DECs, the CRC, Green Deal and Climate Change Levy all need to be disentangled and aligned. Perhaps this is the job of the government’s GreenEconomy Roadmap, expected in the spring. I hope so.
Elsewhere in the document there are helpful re-commitments to zero carbon, both homes (2016) and non-domestic buildings (2019). There is still no great progress in terms of exactly what the trajectory will look like on the latter, but having this commitment will keep up the pressure on relevant departments to set out how this will be implemented.
However, we do get confirmation that the all important details on the Green Investment Bank will be set out in May.
There are some positive words on the Green Investment Bank, but nothing to suggest this could be the vehicle for much-need low cost finance for the Green Deal. However, we do get confirmation that the all important details on the Green Investment Bank will be set out in May.
There are also some interesting passages on planning. The document emphasises the importance of planning in meeting the challenge of climate change and says this will be reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework. There are encouraging references to the Code for Sustainable Homes and Eco-towns in relation to how you enable local authorities to go further than national standards, while maintaining some consistency, but all the detail is yet to be decided on this - and it is detail that is vital for this industry.
A whole chapter is dedicated to emissions from waste, with a particular emphasis on energy-from-waste, highlighting the case study of Sheffield’s district heating scheme. It’s very good from our point of view to see this highlighted in a national policy context, as we’ve long championed the role of decentralised energy and other forms of Sustainable Community Infrastructure.
At least there is a refreshingly strong emphasis on the built environment, in terms of the role that our homes, communities and businesses can play in reducing emissions
The last thing I’d highlight, but I hope by no means least, is the Plan’s reference to the role of the public sector. Too often, government is overlooked as a major investor, procurer and occupier in and of buildings. Following on from the 10:10 commitment, government is saying it will address its own estate, but my feeling is it can probably go much further than it currently is in terms of its procurement powers and its ability to embed Whole Life Costing.
It’s a familiar story - a welcome step forward, but a huge set of challenges still ahead of us. At least there is a refreshingly strong emphasis on the built environment, in terms of the role that our homes, communities and businesses can play in reducing emissions. That’s an opportunity which the construction and property sector have to be at the heart of.