The way back: energy efficient homes in a sustainable recovery

As we look forward to the economic and societal recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis and not repeat or perpetuate the mistakes of the past.

Our society, our economy, businesses and the financial services industry alike are all eager and impatient to move on from the damage the disease is causing. 

In doing so we should seize the challenge and opportunity to address inequalities and halt climate breakdown.

The climate emergency might have been briefly overshadowed by the pandemic, but it is still very much with us and cannot be overlooked. Both the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic are now the crucible in which we are so hotly tested and will continue to be.

Housing is a major contributor to UK carbon emissions. The financial services industry is actively responding to the challenge of moving to a net-zero carbon economy. Work is progressing in key areas including capital and regulation, disclosures and climate-related financial risks, and in taxonomy - ensuring that ?green? investments and financial products are what they claim to be.

In the mortgages industry there is an emerging market in green lending. This  aims to support households to improve the environmental credentials and reduce the carbon impact of their homes, and this market will be vital to tackling the carbon challenge from housing.

The work of the Green Finance Institute's Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings, of which UK Finance is a part, is essential in identifying the barriers to home energy retrofit across all tenures, including ownership and rental.

The Coalition's recently published interim report Financing energy efficient buildings: the path to retrofit at scale found that each housing tenure had distinct decision-makers with specific barriers to retrofit, many of which connect to the lack of attractive or available finance.

The next phase of the Coalition's work involves a range of demonstrator pilot projects that aim to show how financial, data and standards-based solutions to overcoming barriers could be scaled up and delivered at pace and volume in order to accelerate the much-needed decarbonisation of our homes. 

A key challenge for housing is demonstrating a clear causal link between energy performance and property value. UK Finance is taking part in the demonstrator project looking at how this link can be robustly established in a way that avoids unintended market consequences, for instance by de-valuing lower energy performing homes. It will be essential to get this right, and the valuation link will be critical to other project demonstrators, particularly those looking at products and incentives. 

Overall, the demonstrator pilot projects resonate with views expressed by UK Finance mortgage lender members about what is needed to overcome barriers to growing the green mortgages market. 

Although the way back from the current health and climate emergencies will be challenging and uncertain, low-carbon energy efficient homes will be an essential part of the recovery plan.

The banking and finance sector is determined to ensure that sustainable financial products, including mortgages, are available to customers and it supports the UK in achieving a net-zero carbon economy and a sustainable recovery. 

The journey continues.

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