New proposals to make 2016 zero carbon homes target a reality

Housing minister Margaret Beckett has set out the government's proposals for making all new homes zero carbon from 2016.

The consultation proposes a system that meets green objectives but recognises the difficult economic conditions facing the housing industry. This includes:

* requiring a greatly increased level of energy efficiency in the fabric of new homes;

* setting a minimum level of carbon reduction that developers must achieve on the site of the housing development, such as through improved insulation, or providing onsite renewable energy;

* requiring developers to tackle the remaining carbon emissions of the new homes, by choosing measures from a list of "allowable solutions", such as providing energy efficient appliances with the home or exporting low and zero carbon heat and cooling to surrounding developments;

* setting a limit on the amount expected to be spent on these allowable solutions, to provide the house-building industry certainty over maximum costs of the policy;

* reviewing the list of allowable solutions in 2012 to ensure they will be sufficiently available within the cost limit that has been set and to check whether the proposed list of allowable solutions needs to be updated;

Margaret Beckett said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world, and introducing zero carbon homes is an important part of our plans to tackle this, as well as further action to tackle emissions from the existing housing stock. I am absolutely committed to our 2016 target, and this demanding goal is already spurring action here and abroad.”

UK Green Building Council chief executive Paul King welcomed the publication of the consultation.

King said: “The science on climate change tells us action is even more urgent than it was two years ago when the zero carbon target was first set. So government should be congratulated for sticking by the commitment that all new homes will be zero carbon from 2016.”

He continued: “UK-GBC has some strong views about what should and shouldn't be allowed to contribute to the definition of a zero carbon home. But as our task group report showed earlier in the year, these are very complex issues and there will be a lively debate over the coming months. The important thing is that, by the end of the process, we have an approach which is clear, provides certainty to all parties and retains the original environmental ambition underpinning it.”

Zero carbon status is measured against the annual emissions from heating, ventilation, hot water, fixed lighting and the expected use of appliances.

The consultation now gives an opportunity for all groups to have their say on the proposed structure and further details, including the minimum level of carbon emissions that are reduced by onsite means and the list of allowable solutions. The consultation runs until 18 March 2009.