Angela Smith gives her backing to Building’s 99% Campaign and argues that the government is already 100% focused on tackling the energy efficiency of existing stock
Concerns that the Government has been so busy regulating the energy efficiency of new buildings that we have taken our eye of the 99 per cent of existing stock are unfounded.
The impact of existing buildings on climate change is far too important to ignore. Around 27 per cent of UK carbon emissions come from homes alone. If we fail to tackle the sustainability of our existing stock, it would seriously undermine the action that Government, businesses and individuals are taking to reduce carbon emissions.
Measures on new and existing buildings already underway mean we will be reducing the carbon emissions from all homes to 16 per cent below 1990 levels by the end of this decade, and further measures are in the pipeline.
The 99 per cent campaign rightly points out that we have placed great emphasis on new homes and buildings over recent years. Our changes to Part L deliver a 40 per increase in energy efficiency standards in new buildings since 2002 and apply to extensions of existing ones.
New measures on water efficiency, to be consulted on this summer, will apply to new buildings and existing ones when they are refurbished by requiring the use of low and dual flush toilets, spray taps and more efficient appliances.
On top of mandatory requirements, our stronger Code for Sustainable Homes to be published later this year will set higher voluntary standards including energy and water efficiency - above building regulations. New homes financed by public funds are expected to comply with higher standards already.
I'm sure those in the building industry reading this will be pleased to hear the Code will signal the future direction of future mandatory standards for new homes. The industry can then see just how much we intend to raise them further - towards low and zero carbon development.
Our new Planning Policy Statement on Climate Change will also outline how we can minimise carbon emissions in the way we plan our communities. In the meantime we are urging all local authorities to insist that on-site renewable technology is included in large developments.
But the campaign is also right to press for further action on existing buildings which makes up the majority of our stock. That is why across Government we are already taking this issue and action to tackle it extremely seriously.
Recent changes to Part L require more energy efficient replacement boilers and windows saving around 0.93 Mega tonnes of carbon each year by 2010.
The 99% Campaign is right to press for further action on existing buildings – their impact is far too important to ignore
A cross Government review led by DCLG, is also bringing together DEFRA, DTI and the Treasury as well as the Carbon Trust, Environment Agency, Better Regulation Executive and the Energy Saving Trust to look at further measures for existing buildings. The review is examining not just regulations but the wider role of incentives, Government and voluntary initiatives, and other measures that can make a real impact.
And it is with this mixed arsenal of measures that the Government is already improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings. DEFRA's Energy Efficiency Commitment has led to over 10 million households benefiting from energy saving measures, and over 1 million vulnerable households have received Warm Front Grants.
Our Decent Homes programme has also increased the energy efficiency of over half a million social rented homes as part of tackling the £19bn backlog of repairs left by the last Government.
£50m of grants through the DTI Low Carbon Buildings Programme is subsidising micro-generation equipment in our schools, businesses and public buildings. The Landlords Energy Savings Allowance is being extended to cover hot water insultation and draught proofing to give landlords in the private sector an incentive to improve energy efficiency.
People are increasingly realising that they can save on their fuel bills and help the environment so we need to make it easier for them. From next June Energy Performcance Certificates will be required for all home sales giving people clear and costed information on the energy efficiency of ther homes, and advice on how they can improve it, for the first time. We will roll out the certificates for lettings, non-dwellings and new buildings too.
We will also relax planning rules so that from next year you will be able to install many more micro-renewable technologies in homes without planning permission.
So across Government we are already improving existing buildings. However we know we need to go further - and we will. I believe the Government and industry can agree it is crucial that we get the right balance between regulation, voluntary action, incentives and information. We must use every tool in the box to help tackle climate change by reducing emissions from buildings.
So congratulations to Building for championing the case on existing buildings. I am really encouraged to see that the industry is so keen to innovate and to raise standards in this area - as it has already shown for new buildings.
I have no doubt the campaign will continue to press the Government and hold us to account. So I look forward to taking on this challenge with you.
Angela Smith is the Building Regulations minister and MP for Basildon and East Thurrock
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