Government considering proposals on whole-life carbon for buildings

buildings office city

The government is considering proposals from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on decarbonising the built environment.

The EAC report, Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction, published in May 2022, said the proposal has the potential to address the source of 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The government has said it will consider the measures recommended by the EAC – in a “statement of intent”, the government appears willing to explore whole-life carbon assessments. The EAC will press for the consultation to cover the mandating of whole-life carbon assessments through regulation and the planning system, and to propose progressively more ambitious carbon targets for the built environment that are consistent with climate commitments and carbon budgets. Crucially, the EAC says the consultation must propose a clear and achievable timeline for introduction of mandatory whole-life carbon assessments.

While the government’s response engages with a number of recommendations, the EAC is concerned that the rejection of a recommendation to fast-track the introduction of the Future Homes Standard represents a missed opportunity. If brought forward, the Future Homes Standard would accelerate the construction of low carbon homes with increased energy efficiency, which would in turn lead to lower household bills for energy use.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

The Government’s positive response to our Committee’s report represents a clear statement of intent to crack down on emissions from the built environment. Emissions from buildings – both in the fabric of building materials and the operating emissions – have been overlooked for too long, but it is a promising sign that Ministers now appear intent on taking action.

Emissions in buildings span the responsibilities of multiple government departments. After years of pressure from this Committee, it appears that in this area departments are finally starting to demonstrate the joined-up working which is vital to get to net zero.

But this progress must continue under the new administration. It is very welcome that the Prime Minister has already confirmed her Government is committed to net zero. Tackling emissions from our building stock must be a vital part in achieving this.

I hope the new administration will reconsider fast-tracking the Future Homes Standard. Mandating energy efficient new-build homes will not only help the UK’s net zero ambitions, but will reduce the energy bills for their future occupants. The Government must be bold and act now on energy efficiency.

EAC has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities reiterating the committee’s findings detailed in its report, and making the case for action to address emissions associated with the built environment.