Publication of new industry guidance at COP26 calls for the UK government to go beyond commitments in its latest Heat and Buildings Strategy if it wants to meet 2050 net zero aims

UK authorities are being urged to go beyond commitments set out in the country’s recently published Heat and Buildings Strategy by phasing out the sale of fossil fuel powered boilers by 2030.  The government opted against the introduction of a blanket ban on natural gas boilers and other fossil fuel heating in the strategy published last month. Instead, it favoured a gradual phase out of the installation of fossil fuel heating systems up to 2035 by incentivising adoption of lower carbon alternatives.

The calls for a 2030 sales been have been made as part of new-cross industry guidance from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) that is being released following consultations held with the construction sector sector earlier this year.

The Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment is devised to give a quantified break down of the scale of carbon reduction targets required to be met each year from buildings to meet the country’s targets to become a net zero economy. This includes backing a “transformative shift” in how industries work within the construction sector through measures such as the introduction of a national retrofit programme to ensure buildings can deliver more efficient and affordable low carbon heat.

A response to the UK heat strategy

UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said that the publication of the UK’s Heat and Buildings Strategy last month had included some positive commitments for net zero heat.  However, she argued that the delayed strategy still failed to tackle several priorities that will be essential to fully decarbonise buildings and how they are heated within the next three decades.

Ms Hirigoyen said, “The Life Carbon Roadmap pulls together disparate strands of recent policy and action into one coherent pathway, with clear recommendations for national government and local authorities, as well as the private sector and the wider industry.”

The new roadmap has been published to coincide with the COP26 International Climate Change Conference that has set aside an entire day on 11 November to focus on the built environment in order to identify new policy and support for cleaner heat and more efficient buildings.

A major aim of the roadmap plan is to provide both central and local governments with clearer targets and recommendations to cut carbon from heat demand. The proposals are in line with budgets set out by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Recommendations in the roadmap are described by the UKGBC as going beyond commitments in the Heat and Building Strategy by factoring in both existing domestic and non-domestic buildings, as well as future construction.  It also looks at infrastructure presently linking buildings and industry.

2030 fossil fuel heat sales ban

The introduction of a ‘cut-off date’ to end the sale of gas and oil boilers that operate exclusively on fossil fuels by 2030 was major recommendations in the roadmap.  The UKGBC also called for the immediate introduction of a national retrofit plan for homes.

This ‘fabric first’ retrofit approach should ensure a widescale shift away from UK homes depending on fossil fuel heating to ensure affordable thermal comfort, according to the roadmap.  A new grant system to support retrofit work in low-income homes is also urged by the UKGBC.

The roadmap also calls on the government to remove VAT on energy efficient retrofit work, while reforming the energy performance certificates (EPC) rating scheme to apply to homes at the point of sale by 2028.

Another proposal in the roadmap to transform how heating is supplied includes revising existing building regulations to include Energy Usage Intensity targets within four years.  The UKGBC recommended that demand limits based on kWh/m2/yr should be introduced for space heating alongside the government’s stated intention to require low carbon heating solutions in all new build properties from 2025.

Mandatory in-use energy disclosure for non-domestic buildings is backed in the roadmap along with the expanded use of energy performance ratings in non-domestic buildings.

The document also touches on the issue of addressing carbon emissions across the whole life of a building from the materials used and shipped for construction, through to output from a structure’s operation and demolition.

Recommendations include regulating the inclusion of embodied carbon, a term that relates to both the direct and indirect emissions from the construction of a building and all materials used as part of this process.

The UKGBC said it hoped to see support and finance to cut carbon from across the supply chains of vital construction materials, as well as reforms in planning laws that would prioritise repurposing existing buildings.




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