Groundbreaking green policy has been undermined by government says WWF campaign manager Darren Shirley

WWF is certainly used to working closely with both government and business to ensure green policies are developed and implemented, so it’s not every day that we have to walk away from what was, we felt, a pioneering piece of green housing policy.

The recent watering down of the zero carbon homes policy, announced during the Budget, left us with no option but to resign from the Zero Carbon Taskforce – something WWF had been part of, since its launch in 2007. The policy would have ensured all homes built from 2016 would be zero net emitters of CO2 – adding no new carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

This was not only a groundbreaking policy in the UK, but was ahead of Europe and the rest of the world.

The government changed the definition and removed tackling emissions from “unregulated energy” (used for cooking, and powering your fridge, TV or computer). The fundamental shift in this policy at the budget has resulted in new homes now adding to the overall emissions burden of the UK. New homes built from 2016 can no longer be called “zero carbon”.

All of us in the Zero Carbon Taskforce were working hard and cooperating to make this policy a reality. But the unilateral decision by ministers to change it, has rendered it meaningless in terms of zero carbon, and we’ve been left with no choice but to resign from the taskforce.

We could no longer support the policy, or be part of the taskforce, following the changes that would have significantly reduced the impact zero carbon homes would have had. We can not publicly endorse the altered policy, and our continuing membership would have implied our support. Government cannot expect NGOs to give up their time to assist in the development of a policy when they ignore the work of those tasked to do so.

When the government published the Carbon Plan they wanted NGOs to hold them to account and monitor their policies. Therefore, they cannot expect us to stand back and not act when


WWF’s resignations letter to Grant Shapps

Dear Minister
I am writing regarding the recent announcement in the Budget that the definition of Zero Carbon Homes will no longer include the emissions from unregulated energy use within the home.

WWF has been a member of the Zero Carbon Taskforce since it’s inception in 2007 and we believe that this announcement is a fundamental shift in policy. The redefinition will not result in newly built homes being truly zero carbon as it will add to the overall emissions burden of UK homes.

We do not believe that enforcement of existing regulation will deliver this; nor would the existing policy have had a detrimental effect on those on lower incomes, the initial, up
front costs to the new home owner would have been minimal and saved in fuel bills in the long run, while now the costs will simply be defrayed across the board, regardless of ability to pay.

It is our belief that reducing emissions from homes, both new and existing, is critical to the Government achieving its targets under the Climate Change Act.

The zero carbon homes policy, as it stood, would have been a pioneering policy instrument for the UK putting us not only ahead of European housing policy but globally as well. Such leadership had the potential to provide the UK with clear economic and environmental benefits.

In addition, the last four years has seen a real change across industry and supply chains for zero carbon homes with house builders and suppliers gearing up to deliver this policy from 2016.

This is in no small part due to the excellent work of the Zero Carbon Hub and in particular the energy of David Adams, Paul King and Stewart Baseley. Given this level of progress and commitment from our counterparts in industry WWF is disappointed at such a U-turn. It also sends the worst possible signal to companies that have planned their investments on the basis of the original zero carbon homes policy.

WWF believes that the alteration to this policy is a fundamental one which significantly undermines the original intent of this policy - for new homes to add zero net carbon emissions.

Therefore, as WWF’s representative on the Zero Carbon Taskforce I find that I am reluctantly no longer able to support the zero carbon homes policy or remain on the Zero Carbon Taskforce.

Please accept this letter as formal notification of WWF’s resignation from the taskforce with immediate effect.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Butfield
Head of Campaigns