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HVACR sector must push government on climate action, trade bodies demand

The UK Green Building Council and Sustainable Energy Association are seeking to hold the new government’s ‘feet to the fire’ over its General Election decarbonisation commitments

The construction sector must ensure strong political pressure is in place to realise sustainable building commitments made in this year’s General Election, several trade bodies have argued.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has said that the provision of heating and cooling and the overall design of buildings must be put at the forefront of a decade of climate action with a new government now in power after this week’s General Election.

Boris Johnson was elected prime minister with a majority of just 80 MPs. This will now allow his government to pursue his Brexit withdrawal agreement, as well as commitments to try and eliminate or offset UK carbon emissions nationally from 2050.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC, said the 12 December General Election could arguably described as the first to have been strongly focused on the climate crisis.

She said, “[It is] no longer the preserve of a single party or associated with any one shade of the political spectrum, we know that voters of all political persuasions care about tackling climate change, and every single manifesto had climate promises in response.”

Ms Hirigoyen said that environmental protections currently in place across the UK needed to be preserved and even strengthened, regardless of the likely direction of Brexit and the country’s future trade and regulatory relationship with the EU.

The international climate change conference (COP26) that will take place in Glasgow in December 2020 therefore presented an opportunity for the new UK government to step up initiatives to move towards a green economy and transform homes and buildings, Ms Hirigoyen said.

She said, “Housing and infrastructure were also major issues in this election, so it’s crucial that we recognise the benefits of tackling all these priorities together and ensure that our industry rises to the challenge of delivering a net-zero carbon-built environment. To coin the now well-used phrase, let’s use the upcoming decade, to get net zero carbon done!”

The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), an organisation made up of retailers, manufacturers and regulators that includes HVAC specialists, said that the issue of Brexit had been a major consideration in the election.

However, It also shared the view that all major political parties in the country had been “aligned” in the overall goal to transform the UK into a net-zero economy over the coming decades.

The SEA said in a statement, “Whilst the ambition varied between the parties with the Conservatives considered the least ambitious, the commitments were still much more than we would have expected just a year ago. The Conservatives committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and this had of course already been enshrined into law before the election.”

“The Conservatives also confirmed the establishment of an Office for Environmental Protection which will uphold performance against environmental standards post-Brexit. This includes new legal targets for air quality.”

The SEA said it would now be important for environmental-focused organisations working in the construction sector to hold the Conservative government accountable, alongside opposition political parties, in both realising, and expanding upon key decarbonisation commitments.

Initial campaign aims for the association include seeking to introduce draft legislation to parliament around its EPC Band C energy efficiency campaign. The bill, which seeks to legally mandate minimum standards for energy efficiency performance, has already been reviewed by BEIS lawyers and is expected to be put to a ballot for bills that will be read in parliament before MPs in order to get potential support. This ballot will take place on the second Thursday after the Queen’s Speech, the association added.

SEA chief executive Lesley Rudd said, “We need policies to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and to decarbonise our heating. This is an emergency and we need to treat it as such.”

“We expect a new Conservative Government to be in place in a matter of days, and we will hopefully see a budget and a spending review soon.”

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