Rishi Sunak at Bury Market in c HM Treasury CC BY NC ND . bit.ly SLASH tAFsmV

Sunak has been accused of politicking. Credit: HM Treasury, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 bit.ly/3tAFsmV

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.” 

Ev Nov Bruntwood p.Citypress

Bruntwood is pushing the net zero envelope with its Ev0 workspace scheme. Credit: via Citypress

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.

More reaction

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.”

Angela Mansell, managing director of Mansell Building Solutions, said: “This is populist policy plain and simple and a chasm away from the long-term, well-thought-through strategy that we need.
“If the government is pulling away from its commitments, then why should we as business leaders follow ours? Morality certainly doesn’t pay the bills and what’s lacking from the whole agenda is incentives to comply.

“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.

“What I think the country, particularly its businesses, need is certainty in the long-term across five or six parliamentary terms, which, in my opinion, would help to instil at least some confidence back into the leadership – but there’s a very long way to go in that regard.”

Your Comments

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All the comments above evidence that the green blob does exist outside the Westminster bubble.

By Eco Realist

What a disaster of a government

By Anonymous

Going to cause a lot of uncertainty. Something of which I’m starting to resemble him and his party with. Luckily, a general election is coming around next year. Maybe time for a change?

By Anonymous

The accusation of politicking may be warranted, but the fact is that the 2030 targets were never more than aspirational. In reality, without a massive investment in the country’s electricity transmission and distribution networks, which will take years to deliver (assuming that the necessary funds are made available, of course), the desired outcomes could never be met.

By Anonymous

I’m no fan of his, but he is right to do this. The technology is not quite there yet and certainly not afforded by the average household. Until China/India starts doing their ‘bit,’ it’s all a waste of time.

By Observer

Anonymous – it absolutely is naked politicking (that looks like it will backfire as effectively as most of the lame-brained politicking that this government has engaged in in recent times). The argument that it wasn’t going to work only points to the lack of ambition and commitment at the heart of government.

By Unlevelled for balance

Problem is who to vote for next. All you’re doing is replacing tweedledum with tweedledumber. Ooh, I know though , vote for me, I will promise you anything I think you want to hear…and then not do it. See, I’ve got the hang of it already.

By RT Hon Cecil B Demince

Such a massive disspointment that the government won’t take the lead on this, all in the hope of winning a few more votes. However, it is good to hear regional business leaders stepping up in the place of such weak central leadership.

From a property point of view, I really hope that the moves made by building owners, developers, and occupiers over the last few years to address the environmental challenges we face don’t start to slow down with the pressure lifted. I’m putting my faith in the community to be better and even more ambitious to show the government how it is done.

By Anonymous

This is common sense policies – the 2030 ICe ban would be completely impractical for millions of people with a multiple number of reasons – the boiler ban was costly and impractical- at last we have some people who take the issues seriously and willing to bring some sanity to the question

By Stuart wood

I’m not sure this will cause untold disruption although I understand many of the comments Putting politics aside is this not a pragmatic and sensible route for a country not ready with adequate infrastructure, training , supply chain and knowledge to meet the timescales that were imposed. It now also puts us in line with other progressive European countries. We may think its wrong but we don’t need to stop as an industry in pursuing net zero if we believe its the right thing for occupiers and if investors are still requesting it

By Alf Full

Generally this is a bad move but the 5 year push back on fossil fuel cars was caused by Germany moving the EU goalposts first. The move to try and force landlords to get a C and then B EPC rating was quite frankly ridiculous and would cause the wholesale destruction of the private letting sector during a rental cost of living crisis. If the government wants to improve energy efficiency it needs to give out grants for wall and loft insulation and remember that not all Victorian houses etc can be retrofitted economically or have heat pumps added effectively. I can however see why the construction industry would like to lay waste to most of the private rental sector with these excessive rules, hence the bleating.

By Dr B

Sunak being conservative? There’s a genuine surprise. Pull a few more strokes like this and he may well get re-elected.

By Anonymous

The latest poll shows that 44% of voters want to delay net zero and 38% want no delay. The “slammers” are a minority.

By Matthew Jones

The PMs U turn might be acceptable if it came with a plan to upgrade the electrical network, insulate homes and invest in public transport but this is just kicking the can down the road for perceived political gane. No chance of net zero by 2050.

By Monty

It is a strange spectacle to see hordes of people demanding authoritarian regulations, presumably because they know their customers won’t pay for the benefit of such changes in a free market. I can see that businesses need policy stability, but it is no wonder that such a contentious topic as mandating net zero leads to instability.

By Anonymous

I never thought I’d see the day when “big business” line up to hammer Sunak . The tories have form for this as Johnson was alleged to have said “**** business” over Brexit.
Sunak may just have written the “longest suicide note in history” with that disaster of a speech. Goodnight Vienna!

By Alan Quinn

It’s almost as if Sunak is trying to appeal to the british public.

By Gilly

The 2050 target has been a distraction all along, framing the problem as something which can be pushed back. The real issue when looking at the science is the carbon budget. 2050 is meaningless if we carry on with this level of inaction.

By Anon

I wonder where all this climate discussion will be in 5 years time? The trend in recent headlines suggest that the environment will fill our climate sceptical newspapers every day as we face increasing environmental disasters. And again we will be floundering on the wrong side of history & science. Trump defied science with Covid & it cost him the election effectively defeated by a virus…, Rishi & his advisors are doing the same stupid trick. Bye bye…..and deservedly so…proven climate science is like a brick wall. If you try to run at it, it will hurt you very badly indeed…

By Wigan Ste

PNW – I think this report is slightly one sided. At least the government has acknowledged the single major factor to carbon zero and especially in relation to electric cars… at the moment we can’t even get the capacity in the grid for new housing development, never mind the infrastructure required (over what was a 6 year period) to have the full infrastructure for every person in the UK to have an electric car.

By Ian T

@Ian T you’re probably right re infrastructure but does this mean we should give up trying? They are just leaving it to be someone else’s problem

By Levelling Up Manager

@Levelling Up Manager – absolutely we should not give up trying, but I’m just saying it can be like banging your head against a brick wall delivering housing schemes of 50-100 dwellings in relation to grid capacity. There needs to be an absolute overhaul of the national grid, with more emphasis on green methods of generation – maybe even a UK Energy company owned by the tax payer, leading the way?

By Ian T

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