Rishi Sunak has this week (21 September) delivered a major U-turn on the UK Government’s green policies and ambitions to get to net zero by 2050. The shift in policies comes off the back of the Prime Minster stating that a new pragmatic approach is needed to ensure costs are not passed on to hard-working families.

Changes to policies include:

  • A delay in the ban on new fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes to 2035
  • The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will not come into force until 2035, a delay of 5 years from its 2030 target
  • Raising the Boiler Upgrade Grant by 50% to £7,500 to help households who want to replace their gas boilers
  • Scrapping the requirement on landlords to ensure all rental properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of grade C or higher, from 2025.

Below is some reaction from our clients on the impact of this statement on the industry.

David Craddock, Founder of The VerdeGO Group and a founder member of The Passiv Haus Trust comments: “It’s very disappointing and reminds me of the U-turn the UK Government made in 2016 on removing the need to build Code 6 Level Homes. We are playing politics with our climate and falling short of our drive to decarbonise buildings. The promises committed at COP26 were not meant to be broken. Delaying the ban on gas boilers and removing the need for existing homes to be upgraded only increases the damage to our environment and jeopardises the UK’s chances to reach net zero by 2050.

There is a real drive in the SME and National House Builders to build low-carbon, energy-efficient homes that the sector was really starting to get to grips with by delivering innovative building practices, modern methods of construction, and renewable energy systems. To now delay them from doing so by giving them a 5-year reprieve is all wrong and will stifle new companies who are bringing forward new energy-saving products to meet this agenda.

This could mean a loss of jobs and a reduction in innovation in new sustainable technologies coming forward. As one of the greatest contributors to carbon emissions, as an industry we should be doing all that we can to minimise the impact of what we build and refurbish and not just give way when it looks hard.

Homeowners are already grappling with higher energy bills to heat their homes that is only going to worsen with our reliance on fossil fuels. We should be looking to accelerate our renewable technology across the UK and remove fuel poverty, not perpetuate it which is what today’s announcement does not only to our existing homes but also to new builds.”

Simox Cox, Managing Director at Walter Cooper adds: “We need to stick to our promises and commitments when it comes to our decision making. What we lack is clarity by the Government. Whilst the industry is making great progress in trying to eradicate carbon from its processes and develop new technology and methods to support this, there is uncertainty of what is being asked from them in terms of green credentials and today’s announcement only makes this worse.

Perhaps the creeping sense of realism on the challenges that lie ahead to getting to net zero were apparent and today’s decisions means the Government allow more time to achieve these targets rather than miss them. However, despite this, we are now less clear on designing homes of the future and how they will be built. The Government needs to listen to the industry and create credible plans that will help achieve our sustainability goals.”

So, what do we think?

Natalie Daniels, Sustainability Account Director at Building Relations says: “It was incredibly disappointing listening to today’s announcement on the UK’s green policies. This year we have seen first-hand the devastating effects of climate change on our planet and people; heat waves, flooding, and volatile energy prices on households.

Delaying the transition to net zero is frustrating and undermines all the incredible advancements in the housing industry being pushed forward. Updating our homes to become more energy efficient and ensuring our properties are set up for a low-carbon future is vital; taking our foot off the pedal will only make the transition to net zero by 2050 an even more challenging target.”