UK PM abandons new energy efficiency targets on homes

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has scraped plans to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties, opting instead to encourage households to take such actions voluntarily.

Under the earlier policy framework, slated to commence in 2025, newly leased properties would have been required to possess an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or higher, with this obligation extending to existing leases from 2028. In a speech that deviated from the original plan, Rishi Sunak affirmed the cancellation of both of these mandates.

Mr. Sunak clarified that the government remains committed to providing financial support for energy efficiency measures but will refrain from imposing them on households against their will.

Sunak has extended the transition period for heat pumps for landlords and homeowners. Now, the switch to heat pumps will only be mandated when changing a boiler and not until 2035. Immediate replacement of gas boilers to meet targets is no longer required. Sunak emphasised the necessity of making heat pumps more economically accessible and introduced exemptions for select households. Furthermore, the boiler upgrade scheme will see a 50% increase to £7,500.

Additionally, Mr. Sunak confirmed that the government has postponed the deadline for phasing out the purchase of diesel and petrol-powered vehicles from 2030 to 2035, aligning it with the EU’s timeline.

However, the commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050 remains, with a promise of a more pragmatic and transparent approach to managing its impact on the public. He said: “The risk here to those of us who care about reaching net zero, as I do, is simple: if we continue down this path, we risk losing the consent of the British people.

And the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies but against the wider mission itself meaning we might never achieve our goal.

That’s why we have to do things differently.”

Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), expressed support for energy-efficient properties but highlighted the damaging uncertainty surrounding energy efficiency policy, which has hindered the rental property supply.

Beadle urged the government to develop a comprehensive plan, including financial support and tax reform, to encourage energy efficiency measures within the rental market.

However, the decision to abandon EPC ratings for rented homes received criticism from Dan Wilson Craw, the deputy chief executive of Generation Rent. He argued that cancelling higher standards for rented homes worsens the cost-of-living crisis and harms renters’ health.

Baroness Parminter, Chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, responded to the Net Zero Speech:

“The Prime Minister’s change of direction and delaying targets for EVs and heat pumps mean that the Government will not provide the leadership, certainty or consistency needed. He has chosen to kick the can down the road, rather than pick it up and put it in the recycling bin.

We welcome the incentive to encourage people to buy heat pumps by increasing the size of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. We need incentives in other policy areas like EVs, so our enquiry into Electric Vehicles will continue and our recommendations will take stock both of these disappointing developments today and the need to address barriers to their uptake.”

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