Sunak’s watered-down net zero plan slammed
Changes to key initiatives aimed at tackling the climate crisis have undermined the property industry’s own efforts to reduce emissions and will “destabilise investment” into the green sector, according to experts.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a raft of changes to the government’s approach to reaching net zero by 2050, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of politicking ahead of next year’s general election.
Among the changes announced at a hastily arranged press conference were the scrapping of the minimum energy efficiency standard for landlords and a five-year delay for transitioning away from both diesel cars and gas boilers from 2030 to 2035.
Sunak said pivoting to a more “pragmatic” approach would still see the UK reach its net zero deadline without burdening ordinary people with the cost.
Not angry, just disappointed
The overwhelming feeling among the North West property community in the wake of the announcements is one of disappointment.
“The government’s announcement regarding net zero will cause untold disruption to the progress that has been made across the UK over the last few years,” said Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood.
“Moving the existing deadlines risks undermining our action to address climate change and puts our future targets in jeopardy as businesses lack the certainty they need to make both the financial and structural changes that will be critical to decarbonising.”
Despite the government’s U-turns, Oglesby said Bruntwood’s approach would not change.
“We have always recognised the urgency of the climate crisis and will continue to forge ahead with our ambitious plans, in spite of these changes.
“It is our hope that others in our industry and businesses across the country decide to take the same initiative and continue on the journey to net zero for the sake of the UK’s future health and prosperity.”
Yet more uncertainty
The current macroeconomic climate and years of turbulence have starved the property industry of the certainty and stability it craves. Yesterday’s announcements have not helped.
Juergen Maier, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the uncertainty caused by the government’s net zero climb-down would “disincentivise investment, slow our path to net-zero, and reduce the opportunities for well-paid green jobs in the North”.
JLL’s UK head of sustainability Emma Hoskyn agreed, claiming Sunak’s approach would “destabilise investment into green skills, sustainable technology, and energy efficient homes” as well as “derailing the opportunities and security that a green economy and green energy can provide for the UK”.
In a damning assessment of the situation, Simon McWhirter, the UK Green Building Council’s deputy chief executive, said the announcements would have a “chilling effect on investment and skills training across green industries”.
He added that the change in approach had caused “anger and frustration” across the industry and would mean higher costs for all in the long term.
“Delaying green policies just means they’ll have to be implemented much faster, later, pushing up the cost for everyone – householders and businesses alike.”
Not all bad?
Some of the Prime Minister’s announcements were better received, including an increase in the maximum grant amount for switching to more energy-efficient boilers and a pledge to fast-track schemes that would boost the electricity grid’s capacity.
Stephen O’Malley, chief executive and co-founder of Civic Engineers, conceded that Sunak’s announcements would be popular with some, but criticised the Prime Minister’s short-term approach to such a serious issue.
“We know that a sizeable portion of our society is far more concerned about financially being able to get to the end of the month, rather than worrying about the climate and the end of the world.
“We do need to remember, however, that systemic climatic changes bring with them devastation in terms of flooding or excessive temperatures and this has a real cost and negative impact on these communities too.”
O’Malley called for a “clearer coherent” long-term plan that “stretches beyond the political survival of an election cycle”.
“Perhaps we need a citizen’s forum to uncouple these critical issues from political interference?” he suggested.
Josh Bullard, divisional director of smart energy and sustainability at Hydrock, said: “Yesterday’s announcements were farcical and geared around short-term political gain. Many are largely meaningless and won’t stand the test of scrutiny.
“We have a legal obligation to meet net zero by 2050, these announcements further jeopardise the UK’s potential to meet our interim target. It’s a missed opportunity by our government to show real ambition, leadership and, frankly, some imagination to show we’re setting the bar as a nation that wants to seriously tackle climate change head-on and mitigate, adapt and transform our nation into a better place for everyone.”
Richard Cook, senior director ‑ economics at Pegasus Group, said: “Businesses like certainty and the government’s U-turn is unlikely to help in this respect.
“The Prime Minister is in a difficult position because there will undoubtedly be many people who welcome his announcement. However, the delay could potentially undermine the significant investments already made by companies getting ready for 2030, while also discouraging future investment because of the uncertainty created. At a time when boosting the UK’s productivity has arguably never been more important, it is highly debatable as to whether the delay will actually benefit the economy.”
“The green agenda is the biggest opportunity we have to move forward in a sustainable way and Rishi’s speech has put a cataclysmic blocker to progression for companies and citizens alike.