D-BEIS is presiding over Britain’s failure to control carbon emissions from new and existing buildings, according to MPs shadowing Whitehall’s energy ministry.
The Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Philip Dunne, pictured, and with a majority of Tory members, reported last week that D-BEIS is failing to lead on curbing emissions from buildings both in planning and already standing.
With operation, management and construction of the UK’s built environment together accounting for a quarter of all carbon emissions, the MPs argue that attaining Zero Carbon stands in peril. So does honouring Britain’s pledge made in November in Glasgow at CoP26 of a 68% cut in the nation’s carbon pollution by 2030.
The committee’s implication is blunt. “If the UK continues to drag its feet on embodied carbon, it will not meet Net Zero or its carbon budgets”, they warn.
A lack of leadership from Kwasi Kwarteng’s ministry and other Whitehall departments is all the more galling, says the EAC, in view of agreement across the construction, surveying and property investment industries, who all back tougher curbs on buildings’ carbon.
As D-BEIS drags its feet over countrywide standards, councils are stepping in to provide a variety of local pollution curbs, the report finds.
A December 2023 deadline for D-BEIS to impose whole-life carbon assessments for all flat blocks of ten dwellings or more, or commercial buildings with floor plans over 1,000 square metres, is among remedies towards which the EAC wants to see include the energy ministry energising building owners.
The same deadline should see the introduction of a new Future Homes Standard to address operational and embodied carbon, the committee urges.
“(These requirements) should be established in Building Regulations, and ought to be reflected in the planning system through national planning policy”, the MPs urge. “Local authorities should be encouraged and supported to include such requirements within their Local Plans”.
Among the MPs’ forty recommendations, arguably the most important is encouraging widespread insulation retrofits through a requirement that owners assess the carbon implications of any building project before it proceeds.
Pre-demolition audits, already in force under certain circumstances in London boroughs, and requiring sign-off from the Mayor’s office, should become common practice across the nation, says the committee.
Internationally, Britain should learn more, the MPs counsel. “The UK is slipping behind comparator countries in Europe in monitoring and controlling the embodied carbon in construction”, they write.
Acceptable to the MPs is a current industry standard on embedded carbon, published by surveying body RICS. It has been revised four times since first publication in 2017. D-BEIS is needlessly foot-dragging, the MPs imply, by insisting on further consultation.
Read the report in full here.