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Response to Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy

by Jennie Ward

FMB bemoans lack of a “bold and long-term plan of action to tackle the impact of our homes on the climate”, whilst UKGBC says Heat and Buildings Strategy “falls well short of what is required to make the transition to clean heat speedy and fair.”

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has responded to today’s publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy – the flagship Government strategy to address the impact of our homes on the climate – saying it looks to have failed to deliver the ambitious blueprint for action that is needed to deliver a greener Britain 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Today’s Heat and Buildings Strategy needs to set out a bold and long-term plan of action to tackle the impact of our homes on the climate. Unfortunately, it is not looking encouraging. Grants for heat pumps is a step in the right direction so we begin to reduce our reliance on polluting and volatile fossil fuels, but incentives are also needed to make our existing homes better insulated.”

Brian Berry, FMB.

Berry continued: “The Government appears to be only listening to one half of the story. If there is no detail in the Strategy on how we can address the megatonnes of carbon lost through the leaky walls and roofs of our homes, it will have failed and the benefits of installing heat pumps risk being lost.”

Berry concluded: “Without a long-term national retrofit strategy, including a proper skills plan and communications campaign, regular consumers won’t know what action they need to take, nor feel it’s within their grasp; and industry won’t take the long-term investment decisions needed to be ready to deliver. I can only hope that the Chancellor will use next week’s Budget to address some of these gaps.”

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC, also feels the Heat and Buildings doesn’t go far enough and fails to address “several key priorities” if we are to create a net-zero carbon built environment by 2050. She explained: “UKGBC welcomes today’s (19th October) recognition by Government that we must move away from heating our buildings with fossil fuels – and that households must be helped to make the transition to clean electric heating.  However, phasing out gas boilers from 2035 is not ambitious enough – there needs to be a clear cut-off date from 2030 to put us on track to meet net zero. And £5,000 grants will help just 30,000 households – a drop in the ocean in the context of the 900,000 annual installations we need to see by 2028.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UKGBC.

“Worse still, there’s no targeted financial help at all for low income households to embark on the journey to clean electric heating – meaning that the gap between rich and poor will widen, not close. 

“Yet more concerning is the Strategy’s failure to address several key priorities that UKGBC‘s recent work has shown are non-negotiable to a net-zero carbon built environment by 2050. The most crucial of these include: 

  • A large scale domestic retrofit programme; 
  • Energy performance standards that rely on actual energy use; and 
  • An immediate drive to tackle embodied carbon emissions from construction and whole life  

“This Heat & Buildings strategy provides scant further detail on any of these aspects, and falls well short of what is required to make the transition to clean heat speedy and fair.   

“Energy efficiency 101 tells us that retrofitting homes with insulation and efficiency measures, has the multiple benefits of lowering fuel bills, enabling low carbon heat solutions to work more effectively, and creating jobs. If we don’t urgently take that basic first step we run the risk of overloading the electricity grid and continue to fail to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable. It’s nothing short of shocking to see no reference to a successor for the ill-fated Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, and a huge missed opportunity to not introduce long-term structural drivers of consumer demand like Green Stamp Duty or 0% VAT on renovations. Equally disturbing to see no firm new proposals on ratcheting up minimum standards for privately rented homes or regulations to improve the energy performance of owner-occupied homes. We need all of these policies – and more – if our built environment is to stand any chance at all of getting to net zero.” 

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