Building covered in plants

BRE responds to the Net Zero Review

Green buiding ftd image | BRE Group

This week the Government published the review of net zero targets and policy by former minister Chris Skidmore MP, which BRE fed into. The review is comprehensive, with sensible and far reaching recommendations, as well as a realistic assessment of the benefits – and costs – of pursuing net zero.

BRE welcomes the recognition of the scale of the challenge, and much of what the review says aligns with arguments we have been making for some time. As it says, there is no future economy but a green economy.

The Review rightly says that national government needs to set the framework for the response to net zero, and also emphasises the central role of local authorities. It is encouraging to see the Review set out the need to support them with capacity building and data.

We know from our work on, for example, the cost of poor housing, that local authorities need more and better data to help them understand the condition of their housing stock so they know what kind of investment to prioritise.

The Review also recognises that net zero was a gap in the planning system which is now being addressed – there is a consultation on updating the National Planning Policy Framework which aims to do this which we will respond to.

The Review also correctly identifies that retrofit hubs must be locally driven so that the key stakeholders can all be brought together – again, this is something that BRE and many others in the construction sector have long called for.

The Review is also correct in identifying the need to expand training provisions – this should be the impetus finally to support business to train the people we need for retrofit. As BRE has argued before, these are thousands of jobs needed in every region of the country, for decades to come, at a variety of skill levels.

The UK has a huge opportunity to maintain or gain a world leading position in many of the areas which will make a difference if we can put the people in place to research, manufacture and install the right technology. BRE’s world leading sustainability assessment for buildings, BREEAM, is a good example of a British product which sets a global benchmark.

We agree with the urgent need to review how the tax system – including VAT, business rates and council tax – can better incentivise and reward investment in green technologies. Removing VAT on solar panels should of course be made permanent, but it is long past time for government to reform business rates so that it does not disincentivise investment in green plant.

The Review also acknowledges that costs will be brought down with certainty and stability provided by government policy. This has happened in the past with technologies like solar panels and must now be the approach taken to heat pumps. We have had plenty of reports now which talked about the importance of energy efficiency measures, even before the latest cost of energy crisis. Let us hope that this is the last and that proper action is now taken.

One area where we would like to have seen more policy recommendations is on the private rented sector, where a lot of poor housing is concentrated. Two years ago BEIS consulted on making a new energy efficiency rating mandatory for non-domestic buildings over 1000m2, and we would like to have seen more reference to implementing that as well.

Overall though, Chris Skidmore is to be commended for a thorough piece of work, which everyone working in this area should read. We have only been able to highlight a few parts of it here, and there is much that we will take time to analyse and respond to in more detail. As the Review says, this is too important to get wrong.