UK Government legislates the 2050 net zero carbon target
12 Jun 2019
This week the UK has become the first G7 country to legislate itself into becoming a net zero carbon area by 2050. And with this news, eyes will now turn to other leading nations to see who follows (which given recent politics makes a refreshing change).
The UK already has in place the Climate Change Act of 2008 which sets out how the UK’s carbon emissions will be cut by 80% by 2050 (based on a 1990 baseline). This amendment will tighten up on current targets to put us on a path of net zero carbon.
To clear up a technicality, ‘net’ zero carbon means we’ll still be creating CO2, but we’ll be offsetting as much as we generate. This could be through carbon storage projects.
Aside from giving ourselves this new enhanced target, there’s been no follow-up announcement to confirm what we’re going to do differently to achieve it.
The official press release from Gov.uk admits that future governments will need to determine the ‘precise direction of future climate policy’.
When it comes to greener construction, in recent months we have seen releases from the Committee on Climate Change and the UK Green Building Council – both have put forward recommendations on how the Government can take next steps to more sustainable buildings. So far though, no changes to Building Regulations have appeared.
The biggest hint of change we’ve seen from the Government is within their response to the Hackitt Review of Building Regulations.
Within the proposals there is talk of consulting on a revised version of Approved Document Part L later this year. We’ve been at this stage before, but Part L work has been postponed while reviews into Grenfell were conducted. Following this, the rolling debate on how Building Regulations will be affected post-Brexit has been muddying the waters.
The ‘Building A Safer Future’ document implies the new Part L will be written in line with the Clean Growth Strategy. This suggests less environmentally friendly fuel sources such as coal and oil will be phased out completely, and could also lay the foundations for making it illegal to sell or rent E rated buildings (blocks are already in place for F and G rated buildings).
Greener electricity is going to be a key component (when the building regulations catch up) which could see developers shunning conventional boilers for heat pump technology. The GLA in London has already started pushing this approach on the Capital’s larger new-build developments.
Discussions on introducing an overheating section to Building Regulations are also on the cards. If implemented this could also help reduce emission rates from new apartment blocks by cutting out the need to install cooling systems in new builds.
Today’s announcement doesn’t give us any answers; just a new goal. Future Governments now have to set out targets to show how net zero carbon is going to become a reality. The next wave of green-minded legislation changes will hopefully give us clearer hints about how construction practices are going to change in years to come.