Regime change

In his first column of the reign of Charles III, Hywel Davies considers the range of problems and challenges that face His Majesty’s government under new leader Liz Truss

The death of Queen Elizabeth II after an unparalleled 70 years of faithful Christian service is truly the end of an era. Every Sunday, the Church of England prays for the Sovereign, and that their counsellors may be given wisdom.

So, what wisdom might we pray for the new Prime Minister and her newly appointed ministers of the Crown as they seek to address the challenges they have inherited?

We heard a great deal of campaign talk in August, but the constraints of government now come to bear on the new administration. We have already seen significant changes – the cap on energy bills, the end of the moratorium on ‘fracking’, and tax reforms ‘to stimulate growth’.

Some commentators have suggested that this is the first truly Conservative government since 1990, with a clear commitment to deregulation and free-market solutions. There are clear indications of intent to build more homes and many suggestions of a changed approach to net zero carbon ambitions. This is clearly a significant topic for readers.

Will we see government easing off the push to achieve the 2050 zero carbon target? Will we see a change to the commitment to end the connection of new homes to the gas grid in 2025 – and will there be a Future Homes and Buildings Standard?

With the commitment to net zero, we have a huge task ahead. There are 28-30 million existing buildings in the UK, all but two million of them our homes. Most will still be standing in 2050. Net zero by 2050 is simply impossible without embarking on a massive national programme that has the capacity to deliver a million refurbished homes a year, each and every year, from now until 2050.

While it will be easy for government and the media to focus on the very real and urgent problems facing millions of people struggling to pay their energy bills this winter, we must not allow genuine concern for their plight to distract us from the significant long-term demands of climate change.

Our current energy supply problems date back decades and are squarely down to governments of all persuasions ducking difficult decisions. As we now regret that failure of wise
leadership – the fiasco of the Green Deal and the failure to address the energy performance of public building stock when the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive landed in 2004 – it is vital not to make similar mistakes now.

Our current energy supply problems date back decades and are down to governments of all persuasions ducking difficult decisions

Industry must do what it can to prepare for the future. Last month, the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard (NZCBS) partnership announced the appointment of David Partridge to chair its governance board. This initiative brings together nine organisations from across the construction and property sectors to develop a clear standard that identifies a net zero carbon building and allows its owner or operator to demonstrate the truthfulness and accuracy of that claim.

Partridge has been appointed to oversee the initiative and to take it to clients, developers and financiers who are already crying out for it.

Anyone not familiar with his track record of delivering an ambitious, challenging, long-term project need look no further than the area around London’s King’s Cross and St Pancras. The transformation of that district over the past two decades is a testament to Partridge’s capacity to drive and deliver real change.

He will need all the wealth of experience, commitment and determination he brings to the NZCBS work to drive it forward to deliver an agreed and widely accepted industry standard.

CIBSE is fully committed to the technical steering group and the detailed development of the standard through a number of our members. The most exciting aspect of the scheme is that it is being developed by the industry for the industry.

When complete, NZCBS will give government an industry solution to the problem of recognising net zero buildings. It will provide a solution, not a problem. We think it would be wise to adopt it.