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Rishi Sunak’s Net-Zero Policy Changes – Industry Reactions

Rishi Sunak’s Net-Zero Policy Changes – Industry Reactions
21 September 2023 | Updated 22 September 2023

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has outlined new plans to dial back the UK’s net-zero policies, to mixed reactions from politicians, business groups and the general public. ThisWeekinFM takes a look at the latest reactions from the built environment sector.


What’s Changing?


In a speech on 20 September 2023, Rishi Sunak announced several changes to planned measures to reduce carbon emissions, including:


  • Moving the ban of new petrol and diesel cars forward by five years, from 2030 to 2035.
  • Raising the Boiler Upgrade grant amount by 50 per cent to £7,500.
  • Delaying a ban on installing oil and LPG boilers until 2035.
  • Scrapping the rule where landlords would have to upgrade their properties to have an EPC rating of C or higher.


“The Backtracking on Net-Zero Goals is a Hard Pill for Me to Swallow”


Mitakshi Sirsi, Director of Sustainability at Architecture and Workplace Design practice, WILL+Partners, feels that Rishi Sunak has missed an opportunity to demonstrate that he has the country’s best interests at heart:

“The backtracking on net-zero goals is a hard pill for me to swallow - I’m disappointed and feel that my work and that of my colleagues who work with sustainable buildings, and my significant personal commitments towards the cause are being trivialised, even if is not intended to be so. I believe just “over-delivering” on carbon targets is not enough, neither is the so-called great British Insulation Dream – there is more work to be done to deliver a better future for our children.



Picture: a photograph of Mitakshi Sirsi


“I admit this is a difficult debate, yes. A lot of conflicting issues are in place, for example, it is important socially to drive down inflation at this point but are the carbon costs of the decisions today too high? It is clear from the granting of new oil licenses, scrapping meat and flight taxes, and now backtracking on the scrapping of fossil fuel cars that there is pressure on the government to focus on the “Jam today”. While it might be difficult for some to see beyond the next decade, it is also true that systemic structural and policy changes, which play a major role to scale up the low carbon transition - require time. What’s happening today is that some of the time we thought we had, is being taken away from us. 

“Mr Sunak has an opportunity to be the visionary here, and I do give him points for trying. I feel for the decision makers, but that doesn’t stop me from being demotivated. I for one was hoping he would address our collective future in a more innovative way. His comment - If you don’t like what I’m doing, try giving families with a big boiler bill an explanation yourself - was certainly in bad taste.”


“We Urgently Require a Clear, Long-Term Plan to Transition our Homes and Buildings Away From Fossil Fuel Boilers and onto Clean Heat”


Gillian Charlesworth, CEO of the Building Research Establishment (BRE), said: “BRE has long argued that we urgently require a clear, long-term plan to transition our homes and buildings away from fossil fuel boilers and onto clean heat, and today’s announcements by the Prime Minister could set us back substantially on this ambition.  

“Nearly a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from heating buildings – and tackling this will be crucial to achieving net-zero by 2050. Heat pumps are likely to be the technology that will dominate the transition to net-zero, but today’s delay to the phase-out of gas boilers will discourage the public and industry from supporting this drive over the long-run.



Picture: a photograph of Gillian Charlesworth


“The government’s U-turn on introducing tighter energy efficiency targets for landlords is similarly concerning. Our recent analysis shows that the privately rented homes represent a quarter of all poor housing in England: excess cold caused by poor heating and low energy efficiency is the number one health and safety hazard in these properties. Failing to address this hazard head-on will have an immediate impact on the health of householders and pressure on our public services.

“We hope that today’s announcements are not a sign that the government will water down the forthcoming Future Homes Standard as we need ambitious standards for new homes.”


“The Persistent Chopping and Changing of our Net-Zero Policies is Holding Back Millions of Pounds of Investment”


Alastair Murray, MD and Founder of Rendesco, a provider of heat pump technology said: “Across the property and construction sectors, developers are investing in and committing to ambitious carbon-neutral developments now. But the persistent chopping and changing of our net-zero policies is holding back millions of pounds of investment into new housing, infrastructure, and green technologies.

“This constant confusion and lack of clarity is not just undermining the success of the entire sector, it is also stalling the UK’s economic growth and prosperity – not to mention deepening the climate crisis.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about addressing the climate crisis, encouraging economic growth, and building more houses he needs to create an environment of certainty and stability.  Right now, we have neither and it is costing British households dearly."


“Rolling Back Plans to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Rented Homes is Environmentally Reckless and Economically Damaging”


Simon McWhirter, Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) said: “It’s damaging to the industry who were scaling up for these changes, and this package of net-zero delays will be doubly destructive to our climate. Buildings are the second biggest source of climate emissions in the UK. We can’t keep burning fossil fuels to heat our homes and meet our legal climate targets.

“Other countries such as France are working ten times faster to install heat pumps to get off the hook of expensive gas and protect energy security. The roll-out of the government’s heat pump subsidy scheme has been slow but could be massively enhanced by a much bigger effort to insulate our homes.

“This will be a real blow to the green business, investment and quality jobs that must be at the heart of our country’s future as we rebuild. We know from other technologies that if government sets a target, industry will skill up and scale up, confident there is a market.

“And as we’ve said before, rolling back plans to improve the energy efficiency of rented homes is also environmentally reckless and economically damaging. The last time the government went down the path of slashing green measures it added billions to people’s energy bills.”


"We Need a Coherent Approach Across Political Divides"


Julia Evans, The Building Services Research and Information Association CEO and Chair of the Actuate UK Net Zero Group said:

“The Prime Minister’s latest policy announcement will undoubtedly shake the confidence and plans of many businesses and consumers alike.

"Changes in the timescale and any dilution of government’s net-zero policy risk damaging the strategic direction and investment already made by both large companies and by the hundreds of SMEs in our sector that have already created their business plans based on the 2030 target. We need a coherent approach across political divides, if we are to achieve economic growth and global competitiveness in this area.”


“What it Most Definitely Does do is Confuse Industry Across the Board"


Simon Harris, CEO of Avrenim, the facilities management business said: “What it most definitely does do is confuse industry across the board. Motor manufacturers have invested vast sums in new plants and technology to support the government policy which has now been extended.



Picture: a photograph of Simon Harris. Image Credit: Avrenim


"Those of us that operate within the renewables sector have to unravel the mixed message of we won't force you to do anything but here is a 50% uplift in support to do the same thing.”

Picture: a graphic showing a blue sky with clouds in the shape of the word "CO2". Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 September 2023


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