'Zero-carbon' homes can still emit CO2

 

A A A

Newly built houses will be allowed to emit tons of CO2 every year and still be called "zero carbon" under new rules being considered by ministers.

In five years time, all new homes built in the UK were expected to be carbon neutral, using technology such as wind turbines, solar panels and ground-source heat pumps. But guidance drawn up for the Housing minister, Grant Shapps, now suggests that some developments will only have to achieve 50 per cent carbon reductions from present rules to qualify.

Developers would then be expected to pay to "offset" the additional carbon emissions – although there is no agreed mechanism to do that yet. The idea of zero-carbon homes was first proposed by Gordon Brown and the then housing minister, Yvette Cooper, in 2006. They announced that all new homes would have to be zero carbon by 2016, but failed to explain how it could be done.

A taskforce was set up to examine how the target could be achieved, and in 2009 it recommended that all new homes would have to reduce their carbon emissions by 70 per cent from 2006 levels in order to be classed as "zero carbon".

But this has been reduced still further in a final report sent this week to Mr Shapps, who is expected to endorse its findings shortly. It will form the basis of new building regulations to be introduced from 2016.

The report's authors conclude that the 70 per cent target "may not be achievable" and suggest that new detached houses should instead reduce emissions by 60 per cent, other houses by 56 per cent and new-build, low-rise apartment blocks by just 44 per cent.

In practical terms it means that a new three-bedroom, semi-detached house will be allowed to emit 2.3 tons of carbon a year compared to seven tons at the moment. Last night critics said while they welcomed the fact that existing regulations would be tightened, it was still a long way from the promise of new homes being zero carbon.

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said: "Let's stop calling these houses zero carbon when they clearly will not be zero carbon. Zero-carbon housing has been a long standing political pledge and an acid test of the ability of the construction industry to deliver. They have had as long to do this as they have had to prepare for the Olympics, but we are still not there, and they should admit that."

Phil Thornhill, national co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Climate Change, added: "They have just tinkered with the definition of zero carbon. It shows a lack of ambition on behalf of the industry and government and is unfortunately another example of where the politics has not caught up with the science of climate change."

David Adams, director of the Zero Carbon Hub, a partnership of industry and charities tasked with drawing up the new guidelines, chaired the task force. He said the standards were very challenging to the industry.

"It is important to remember that this taskforce was not just an industry body, but had representatives from charities involved in campaigning against climate change on it as well. I think everyone recognised that what we have come up with is a very challenging set of minimum standards, but they are deliverable – which was a very serious concern with the previous target," he said.

"It is important to remember that when the proposal for zero-carbon homes were first introduced in 2006, there were no details at all, and the house-building industry was in much better shape than it is today.

"I would say it is entirely wrong to suggest that this report is watered down. I believe it represents an extremely tough challenge."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable