THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR ECO FRIENDLY HOMES – ARE THEY STACKING UP IN THE UK LEADERSHIP DEBATE?

With the political leadership race now well and truly underway, recent climate events have undoubtably put the issue of global warming under the spotlight for voters – both in the UK public and government alike. 
In the face of climate change, awareness of the importance of reducing CO2 has never been more acute, with sharp focus on how we live our day-to-day lives being one of the key changes necessary. 
Major increases in housing stock is, of course, very high on the political agenda, and so those changes to modern-day life must include eco-friendly homes. This needs to be addressed quickly and meaningfully against the backdrop of imminent political change.
Simon Rowland, Head of the Construction and Engineering at Transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson considers where the two leadership candidates, Sunak and Truss, stand in relation to the ever-pressing issue of climate change and more specifically, if and how they might ensure our homes can help us achieve a truly sustainable future. 
He said: “The time is right for a reset of housing provision, and how we can build quality homes at scale and pace, create jobs, reduce labour costs, drive down emissions, and improve workforce diversity. To meet our Carbon-Zero targets and address the housing crisis we must speed up the adoption and implementation of digital technologies and modern methods of construction to build the next generation of new homes that are of much higher quality, are lower in cost and save the environment.
“We need an urgent review of the eco-capabilities of new build housing stock to withstand extreme weather as the impacts of climate change continue to evolve and worsen, as the events this summer alone have shown. 
“This needs to be coupled with a retrofit revolution, to upgrade our existing housing stock towards Carbon-Zero at pace and scale and to increase resilience to extreme weather events.
“All of this requires significant focussed investment by the Government over the next 20+ years, and starting right now, if we are to achieve our aims.”
Simon continues: “Rishi Sunak has stated he would set a new legal target for the UK to be energy dependent by 2045 and has committed to the government’s legally binding goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. He would also consider a new homes energy efficiency scheme this year. With the UK economy front of mind, he is likely to understand the need for a profitable alternative to fossil fuels and make the switch from dirty to clean energy. 
“Liz Truss has also committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but has said that she would suspend green energy levies. There is less detail yet on her commitment to the climate change agenda, although she has recognised it is unsustainable to rely on fossil fuels and she is backed by the energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, who has a focus on renewable energy, and the general consensus is Truss was very supportive of Cop26.” 

Simon concludes: “The jury’s still out on how sustainable building and eco-friendly housing might play into the Conservative Party leadership competition. Both Sunak and Truss have publicly backed the UK’s strong net zero strategy, but action and not words are now needed as the journey towards the 2050 net zero target gathers pace.” 

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