Dear Chancellor

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

There is, according to the open letter in today’s Telegraph, a “remarkable degree of consensus on the business case for tackling emissions.

And that’s just as it should be. Of course making our businesses and our homes more energy efficient is going to be a Good Thing. The industry has been yelling this at the Government for years, with varying degrees of success in terms of being listened to.

Today’s letter, to the Chancellor George Osborne, is signed by the leaders of 55 organisations – from BAM Construct and Barratt Developments to E.ON, Knauf Insulation, Travis Perkins, BSW Timber and Worcester Bosch. Even Whitbread.

The letter points out that the Conservative Party Manifesto pledged that a Conservative Government would “cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible” to meet the UK’s climate change targets. It argues that the building sector provides “cost-effective carbon reductions” which not only present opportunities for major economic growth but also contribute to ongoing economic recovery and deficit reduction.

The four, long term policies which the business leaders say are needed to provide clarity for the sector are:

  • Recognise energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority and allocate infrastructure funds to catalyse a national retrofit programme
  • Deliver on the commitment for all new homes and all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2016 and 2019 respectively
  • Ensure that Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for the private rented sector from 2018 are effectively enforced
  • Outline how the Government intends to meet the third and fourth carbon budgets, and introduce an ambitious fifth carbon budget

    This really should be a no-brainer. We use around a third of our total carbon emissions in building and running homes and buildings. That means there is massive, massive scope for reducing both the emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels.

    There’s also, as we have seen with the previous administration, massive, massive opportunity to screw it up. One of the signatories is Bill Rumble, chief commercial officer of the Mark Group, the insulation group that had to announce the loss of over 600 jobs in September, blaming the changes to the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, which cut insulation work by a third.

    Whatever the intentions were with ECO and the Green Deal, the fact is that both schemes failed to live up to their expectations and weren’t really what you would call ‘fit for purpose’. This Government has a great opportunity to listen to business, to industry, hell, even to normal people, and give us a proper, well thought out energy efficiency policy that works.

    We have a new Energy Secretary in Amber Rudd who in the last months of the Coalition has already been dealing with the tail-end of the Green Deal and ECO, following her promotion into Greg Barker’s vacated job. However, we have the same Chancellor we had before. Is Osborne going to be any more likely to listen to the business case for energy efficiency this side of the election than he was before?

    Let’s hope so.

  • About Fiona Russell-Horne

    Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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