Report slams Treasury for ‘last minute’ and poorly-evidenced decision to axe policy

A report by MPs has slammed the government for axing its zero carbon buildings policy and called for it to be reinstated.

Shortly after winning the general election last summer the Conservatives scrapped both the target for all new homes and all other buildings to be zero carbon by 2016 and 2019 respectively.

An investigation by MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee said the decision by the Treasury was one of many it made on environmental matters “at short notice with little or no consultation with relevant businesses and industries.”

The MPs’ report found the Treasury had “ridden roughshod” over other departments’ objectives to change and cancel several long-established environmental policies.

It noted the decision to axe the zero carbon homes policy caused “shock” and “uproar” in the construction industry, including among housebuilders, who had been working towards implementing the policy for over a decade.

The committee added there is a risk that costs to the economy and householders will increase in the long-term due to the “last minute decision” as new homes will need to be retrofitted to contribute towards meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon targets, and recommended that the government reinstate the policy.

The report argued that the technical and political frameworks the Treasury uses to back up its decisions tend to favour short-term priorities over long-term sustainability.

The committee added that “comparatively expensive, glamorous” low carbon technologies, such as off-shore wind power and nuclear energy, received more attention than energy efficiency measures, which it says “might represent better value for money.”

The committee’s chair, Mary Creagh MP, said: “The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of Government works to promote sustainability. But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this.

“The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run.”

Responding to the report, UKGBC campaign and policy director John Alker said: “[Scrapping zero carbon homes] showed not only an irresponsible disregard for the steps we need to take to tackle climate change, but also overlooked the years of investment and preparation made by thousands of companies across the construction supply chain.

“This volatility in the policy landscape is highly damaging to industry, jobs and investor confidence.”