Ten-point plan missed opportunity for low-carbon housing

Ten-point plan missed opportunity for low-carbon housing


The Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution highlights a missed opportunity for developing long-term plans for the housing sector.

The Prime Minister has announced a ten-point £12bn plan to drive the UK’s green ambitions, with investments into offshore wind, hydrogen fuel, electric vehicles, and the restoration of woodlands and other wild landscapes.

While at first glance it may appear a nice looking shopping list, and we will always welcome more investment into the green economy, the Government still needs to publish the detail to show how this list can be made into a plan. It also highlights a missed opportunity for developing long-term plans for the housing sector.

For example, retrofit: a quick easy win for reducing energy demand, carbon emissions and providing skilled jobs. The Green Homes Scheme is already facing issues, and this ten-point announcement was a key chance for the Government to reapproach retrofit.

Only 1,174 installers have signed up to the scheme, which started on 30 September, to cater to the more than 36,000 householders which have applied for the grants. The narrow scope of the Scheme and short time frame meant it would be unlikely ever to achieve its ambitions and, unfortunately, the extra £1 billion promised for retrofit next year, along with the extension of the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme by a year, is unlikely to be enough.

There has been plenty of time to put a National Retrofit Programme in place, yet there seems to be a poverty of ambition and general lack of courage from Government – reflected both in a failure to bring in carbon or quality targets for new housing.

The potential of a National Retrofit Programme was illustrated yesterday by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/northern-powerhomes

Their report estimates green upgrades to homes across the North of England alone could create almost 190,000 new jobs in the region and beyond, as well as a £3.85bn boost to the economy each year. It came just on the back of a report from RIBA on Greener Homes, which together show growing consensus across construction for such an initiative.

Similarly, there is a nationwide – even global – consensus that forestry and timber supply chains are good economic powerhouses as well as efficient carbon reduction mechanisms and sources of construction innovation.

Yet as part of these ten points, we see the Government throw small change towards forestry as part of conservation, rather than recognise and fully support a thriving nature-based supply chain, producing products to displace high-carbon alternatives.

The ten-point list has come out at a difficult time for the Government and will certainly provide a welcome distraction from some of the more negative headlines they are generating.

But, long term low-carbon transformation should be seen as more than a distraction. It should be central to our economic and social future. The £12 billion sum may sound good in a headline but is in fact less than the Government has spent on contracts for PPE equipment (not all of which are up to scratch!) and far smaller than, say the £40 billion that Germany is investing in green recovery, or even the £106 billion that taxpayers are putting towards HS2.

Ultimately, the ten points contain areas which could make a sizeable difference, but they will also need sizeable investment along with detailed plans as to how they can be achieved.

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