Where next on Net Zero Homes?

Our CEO David Postings considers what the UK needs to do next to green our housing stock, the role of banking and finance, and the impact of recent government announcements.

In the foreword of our Net Zero Homes report, published almost a year ago, I wrote that climate change is upon us and that meeting its challenge was “literally existential”. Nothing in the last twelve months has fundamentally altered that. The science hasn’t changed. We still need to reach net zero by 2050. To do that we still need to reduce the carbon emissions created by heating and powering our homes – some 14% of our total emissions. Now is still the time for action.

Something else that hasn’t changed is that we continue to require a clear roadmap of how to get to our destination. To deliver on net zero we need clear policies from government to enable us to meet the ambitious targets. Without that plan there is a very real risk that we will not have a just transition and that some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society will be left behind.

The recent announcements from the Prime Minister that private rental sector homes would not be required to reach EPC C by 2025/28, that some 20% of homes will not be included in the phase-out of fossil fuel boilers, and that the phase out of oil and liquid gas boilers for off-gas-grid homes will be stretched to 2035 were rooted in common sense. It gives us time to put in place the measures needed to green our homes.

The recommendations in our Net Zero Homes report remain crucial. The report gives us a clear set of policies that could be readily taken up, grouped around inspiring action, delivering funding and redefining standards. Coming months will give us the chance to put some of these in place, to deliver on the government’s new timelines.

Inspiring action

We need to drive up awareness and interest in “greening” properties across the UK. The mortgage industry has the willingness and capacity to help fund energy performance improvements (as the growing list of green mortgages and add-on services shows) but without consumers wanting to invest in their homes there is a limit to what can be done. Putting in place a nose-to-tail advisory service for consumers is a must and will help regardless of deadlines for homeowners to act.

Delivering funding

The next six months is a real opportunity to make good on several of our recommendations to deliver funding. The government’s Autumn Statement is a golden opportunity for consideration of Stamp Duty Land Tax rebates as an incentive to retrofit, as well as further support for small businesses to scale up for delivering retrofit services, and direct support for homeowners unable to pay, starting with those in social housing.

We have seen some hugely welcome and significant funding already announced this year, but with estimates of £500bn needed to hit retrofit targets more is required, alongside a clear articulation of how the Government will use its public funding to unlock the private lending and investment that will form the bulk of these billions.

Raising the bar with better standards

The long-awaited response to the consultation on improving energy performance through mortgage lenders should be arriving before the end of the year. This now needs to be seen in the wider context, to ensure that lenders are not required to deliver higher standards of energy performance without the means to do so. In the longer terms if MEES are to be introduced we need a clear and achievable steps on the way to 2050 across all tenures.

What can be delivered is long-awaited reform of EPCs, not least clarity about what will be the main standard – energy efficiency or environmental impact – so that homeowners can be clear about what the demands on them are and what they must do to meet these.

And Looking Ahead

There are other areas too, especially collaboration, and yet more collaboration, between all those involved.

Many financial services firms have sustainability commitments, which can only be achieved with bold action from Government. We must not go soft on climate ambition but we must have a coherent plan that make the transition to net zero achievable and affordable for everyone. We look forward to working with government to put it in place.

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