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03 Jun
Large Green Economy

Conservatives – the new “greenest Government ever”?

Further to the MEN’s recent special report on the low carbon economy (@MENBusinessDesk that Juan Murray contributed to, he discusses the issue further here in this blog. 

David Cameron’s pledge back in 2010 was to deliver “the greenest Government ever’, but what does this none Coalition Government have in store over the next 5 years?

Clearly the deep cuts that were made to departments such as Natural England and Environment Agency didn’t help throughout the last Government term. The recession pushed the environmental agenda to the backburner and the UK started to build with commentators touting this as a mechanism to pull us out of the economic difficulties. But was this at the expense of the ‘eco’ agenda?

Let’s look at the housing standards review for a start. The Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) was an environmental assessment method which pushed house building standards above and beyond Building Regulations.  It traditionally set the future of Building Regulations, especially in terms of CO2 reduction and Fabric Energy Efficiency.  The Technical Housing Standards Review stated that ‘a Building Regulations only approach, with no optional additional local standards in excess of the provisions set out in Part L of the Regulations’ was preferred.  Through this review process the CSH assessment method was amended to streamline with current Building Regulations, making the assessment method technically obsolete.

Some would say this was detrimental to the holistic Climate Change agenda, others would say it had just become a ‘tick box’ exercise that was another constraint on getting homes built.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) is the environment assessment method for assessing commercial buildings.  Due to this being a non-Government assessment method, it has emerged intact.  BREEAM are currently working on a replacement for CSH which is due out fairly soon. Both tools will be non-mandatory, but as in the case of current BREEAM, a lot of Local Authorities specify it in their Local Plan policies – watch this space.

With building technology continually developing and the term ‘sustainable’ becoming the norm rather than the exception, potential occupiers and clients start to look past the building performance and at a more holistic sustainable approach. This is reflected in the importance of location and especially sustainable access and infrastructure (see BREEAM Communities as a driver for this). 

The Northern Power House initiative is a good example of connecting major economic hubs (key cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds) with new infrastructure to enable the cities to work together.   The Stockton South Tory MP James Wharton, has been appointed the minister for the Northern Powerhouse – with a distinct aim to boost growth and jobs in the north.

The appointment of Amber Rudd as the new energy and climate secretary will be seen as a bonus to the green campaigners as she is touted as one of the last ‘green Tories’. Although it will be interesting to see how she deals with the Conservative Manifesto promise to ‘halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms’ especially as she has been vocal on the severity of climate change and the need to act now for the benefit of not just the environment but the economy too.

In addition, she has the strict Carbon Budget Targets to hit.  We are currently in the second carbon budget period (2013-17) which seeks to reduce CO2 by 29% (reduction below base year of 1990) and within the same term of Government, the 3rd Carbon budget (2018-22) which seeks a 35% reduction by 2020.

So it appears to be business as usual – economy first while ensuring the environment is considered – is this a bad thing considering the UK’s GDP was the fastest growing out of any other G7 economies last year according to IMF’s figures? Let’s not get into the economic cost of Climate Change… 

Images used courtesy of Photo Pin.

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