Just days after May’s election, David Cameron vowed that his government would be the greenest ever. So how is it doing in the environmental stakes compared with the last administration?
The biggest bit of green legislation came in the form of the revisions to Part L, which were ushered in unchanged. Unfortunately the green glow from this was dimmed by the news that a loophole sanctioned by the communities department meant housebuilders could continue building to the earlier version of Part L for years to come. All they had to do was to pre-register sites and, provided they started work before October 2011, an entire development could be built out to 2006 regulations. Local Authority Building Control reckoned this would save housebuilders nearly £1bn.
Money-saving has continued to be a thorn in the side of sustainability. It emerged in July that former housing minister John Healey had ordered civil servants to strip out a key proposal from the draft consultation to Part L because of the cost to homeowners. The proposal, known as “consequential improvements”, would have required homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their existing property when adding an extension or converting a garage. The trouble was, it transpired that the potential savings to customers and businesses were £705m - some 2.3 times greater than the cost to homeowners that Healey was so worried about.
In November, the coalition announced it would implement the Green Deal, a scheme that pays for energy improvements for homes with the money paid back by savings on bills. Essentially Labour policy, this will take effect in 2012 although the announcement was very light on detail. Paul Morrell called for this to be made mandatory in his recent Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth Team report so this is the government’s chance to live up to its pledge.
The biggest black mark for the coalition is its tweaks to the Carbon Reduction Commitment. It will now claw back all the revenue from the scheme rather than the money being redistributed among organisations affected by the scheme, which gives it the status of just another tax. The government has also delayed its introduction, so it has got some ground to make up here.