The road to recovery

As the lockdown eases, Julie Godefroy outlines some of the key policy activity focused on supporting the transition to a zero carbon economy

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t diminished attention on carbon and environmental issues, with plenty of policy activity recently.

CIBSE has produced a ‘green recovery’ briefing to articulate our recommendations on the post-pandemic recovery plans, with priority areas being:

Developing skills and competence to support a zero carbon economy, especially retrofit and low carbon heat

Supporting retrofit, nature-based solutions, and clean energy and transport infrastructure, to benefit the climate and contribute to job creation and long-term economic benefits

Making the most of the current period to prepare the low carbon transition – for example, training programmes, and implementing walking and cycling routes to pre-empt a rush to private cars as the economy restarts

A review of financial incentives. Some are not aligned with carbon and environmental objectives, and – intentionally or not – support inefficiency and the continuing use of fossil fuels. Better long-term outcomes could be achieved with the same funds.

[QUOTEBLOCK] We recommended a significant ramping up of retrofit policies [/QUOTEBLOCK]

We hosted a green recovery webinar, with speakers from Architects Declare, the Landscape Institute and the Royal Town Planning Institute presenting their ideas for how buildings and cities can contribute. This highlighted joint recommendations on health, green infrastructure, and planning for clean energy and transport. We intend to respond to a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee inquiry on the issue. The deadline to contribute to the CIBSE response is 7 July.

Part L: any update?

Unfortunately, no update is available on the government’s analysis of the responses to Part L and the Future Homes Standard, or on the upcoming consultations on non-domestic and existing buildings.


We contributed to an Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) inquiry on the energy efficiency of existing homes. EAC asked whether the government’s current targets, policies and support measures are sufficient to improve existing homes and achieve the net-zero target. We recommended significant ramping up, including:

Developing skills and competence

Improving the regulatory framework, targeting all opportunity points (at the very least works subject to Building Regulations or planning, sales and new leases) with tighter requirements, a whole-house rather than elemental approach, and more attention to actual in-use performance 

Creating a system of monitoring, data gathering and analysis to improve technical solutions, regulations and supply chains

The introduction of building passports, including a record of the building and its performance, a log of works carried out, a route to net-zero carbon (as a single package or step by step), and links to supply chain accreditation schemes

More incentives and better alignment with energy and carbon goals. Examples include the discrepancy between the VAT rate applied to new build and retrofit, and permitted development rights for conversions of buildings into dwellings that are allowed minimum regulatory compliance and a fast-tracked planning process. Support should instead be provided to projects that most contribute to policy objectives. 

The submission is not publicly available yet, but you can read our earlier briefing to the EAC for a summary on similar points.


CIBSE responded to a consultation on the regulation of the heat market. We were broadly supportive, as heat needs to be regulated for consumer protection. In addition, we recommended that support to heat networks should be conditional on energy and carbon performance, and that this should also apply to existing networks, to trigger real, robust transition plans away from fossil fuels.

We are also shortly due to respond to two consultations on the future support for low-carbon heat.

Net zero

We have created a web page summarising CIBSE recommendations towards operational net-zero carbon buildings, and how they relate to the Leti one-pager.

In 2019, we published our first Climate Action Plan, which summarises existing and planned actions in areas such as education, research, training, technical guidance and policy, as well as how we operate as an institution. A webinar is also available. The plan is due for its first annual update – send your suggestions by 10 July. 

About the author 
Julie Godefroy is a technical manager at CIBSE. Email to comment or contribute.