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Industry warns UK Building Regs are undermining net zero aims

Industry bodies have reacted to a critical new report on the UK’s decarbonisation strategy by urging authorities to drastically rethink building standards and heat policy

The UK’s Building Regulations and broader environmental policies are currently insufficient to viably eliminate national carbon emissions by 2050 and must therefore be amended, a range of industry bodies have warned.

Organisations working across the construction and building services sector have welcomed critical findings from the influential Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that have warned that the UK must back introduce clearer policy and support programmes to realise its net zero carbon emission aims.

Legislation has been recently passed setting out a stricter decarbonisation target that seeks to eliminate emissions entirely by 2050, ramping up pressure on the heating and building services sector to rethink their operations.

The CCC report has backed a broad range of recommendations to meet the new target, these include setting out a clear, definitive policy for the future role of the UK gas grid in heating by the mid-2020s. It also demanded that any new or replacement heating systems being installed by 2035 be classified as low carbon appliances – creating significant opportunities for electric solutions.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) responded to the CCC’s findings by welcoming the report’s calls for much more drastic action to address limited progress so far in meeting both its previous and more ambitious targets to decarbonise heat.

UKGBC director of policy and places John Alker said, “Having loudly trumpeted the UK’s global leadership credentials in setting a net zero target, today’s report has laid bare the scale of the challenge and how far we are currently falling short. The cost-effective mitigation potential from the built environment is huge, but for yet another year, emissions from buildings barely changed.”

“Businesses are starting to wake up to the realities of achieving net zero and are crying out for clarity on the future policy framework. The government has clear opportunities this year to unleash waves of investment and innovation in low carbon.”

Mr Alker added that urgent policy action was now required to ensure the UK’s credibility to deliver a clear path to net zero carbon remained intact.

He said, “The review of Building Regulations must set out a pathway to achieving genuinely net zero carbon buildings and the Spending Review should allocate major public investment into a national infrastructure programme to improve energy efficiency.”

The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) trade association said that industry had become frustrated with a lack of direction and clarity from government on how emissions from heat can be reduced in line with the latest zero carbon targets.

EUA chief executive Mike foster said the association backed the CCC report’s conclusions that government must now establish a clear path for how the country and industry can realise legal obligations relating to the environment.

He said, “Decarbonising heat must be affordable and with minimal disruption. The gas infrastructure is already in place for nearly nine out of 10 homes. Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes – such as biomethane or hydrogen – will deliver the carbon reductions we need to make without any major disruption to peoples’ lives.”

“In addition, we must utilise all of the ‘tools’ and energy sources available to us. Carbon capture and storage is a valuable addition to the suite of technologies, as a means of allowing the UK to use flexible energy sources to meet seasonal variations, dictated by the UK climate whilst supporting carbon reduction.”

Mr Foster said work was already underway by industry to consider how a natural gas and 20 per cent hydrogen blend may reduce carbon emissions from UK homes using existing appliances.

“This could save 6m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – the same as removing 2.5m cars off UK roads.”

“The strong case for hydrogen is well underway. The question now is, will the industry-led research translate into government action and a real-world energy revolution? Or will political complacency put the 2050 target out of reach?”

Meanwhile, a number of manufacturers such as Worcester Bosch and Baxi are working on developing prototype boilers capable of fully running on Hydrogen as part of cross-industry work to determine the gas’ viability in a net zero carbon economy.

Jeff House, Baxi’s head of external affairs, recently joined H&V News for its latest podcast to discuss current progress within industry to determine how viable a solution Hydrogen heat can be to realise decarbonised buildings.

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