Speaking to UK Green Building Council members as part of World Green Building Week, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister for Business, Energy & Clean Growth, set out the importance of decarbonising the built environment in delivering the UK's commitment to achieve net zero by 2050.  Through Burges Salmon's membership of UKGBC I was able to watch the speech and participate in the Q&A.  These are my takeaways and points to watch:

  • UK government is working hard on a pathway to net zero for buildings.  There is no simple solution: it requires a number of levers from government alongside the private sector and indeed the population at large.
  • Net zero "still feels like a minority conversation: more work is needed to bring a wider section of the population with us" on the journey.  This is an interesting observation from a senior politician and a reminder for those of us in the sector that, despite an amplification of environmental issues in society through the likes of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg and activists such as Extinction Rebellion, the conversation might not yet be mainstream. 
  • The Minister is closely involved in the heat and building strategy, due out later this year, noting that a significant amount of important work is underway to deliver this: clearly this is something to watch closely.
  • Making carbon disclosures mandatory is "coming down the track": the Minister admitted that we may be in a world of mandatory carbon disclosures in the near future, but would not be drawn on precise timescales. 
  • Jobs and skills for a green recovery is a central plank of the green recovery: the Green Jobs Task Force is working hard on this agenda and its output is worth monitoring closely. 
  • Government can "legislate more easily" for existing stock commercial buildings than they can for existing homes, so expect tightening standards (watch this space), but it is important that decarbonising homes remains a priority, notwithstanding the political and practical difficulties.
  • The built environment and construction sector will certainly be an integral part of COP-26 and dialogue is encouraged between now and November 2021 so that the built environment remains a central consideration in COP-26 preparations.