The radical plan touted at Labour’s party conference to become net zero by 2030 is absent from the manifesto’s climate policy narrative. In its place is a commitment to a more moderate Green New Deal which plans for nearly 90 per cent of electricity and 50 per cent of heat to be delivered using renewable and low carbon sources by 2030.
Labour pledges to ‘upgrade almost all of the UK’s 27m homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards, reducing the average household energy bill by £417 per household per year by 2030 and eliminating fuel poverty.’ Prior to the manifesto launch, Labour had announced a ‘Warm Homes for All’ objective which laid out some of the policies that will facilitate this shift in energy production. The party intends to fund upgrades for low income households through provision of grants, while ‘Wealthier households will be offered interest free loans to improve their homes and lower their energy bills. Landlords will be regulated to ensure their properties are warm and energy efficient.’
While RICS supports measures that encourage and support the improvement of existing homes across the housing sector to achieve higher energy efficiency, there will inevitably be an upfront cost that precedes energy savings in the short term. We believe that Labour must show robust finance costing and have clear implementation timelines that are aligned to the net zero target. Labour’s plans are undoubtedly ambitious, and we look forward to seeing more on the proposal.
A critical barrier to Labour’s energy efficiency ambitions lies in the construction industry’s current skills gap, which will prevent the large scale retrofit of the UK’s housing stock if left unaddressed. The next government must support the built environment industry in our shared ambition to develop the country’s skills base and talent pipeline.
Labour's plan to reform the apprenticeship levy programme is clearly needed to support upskilling the workforce. Labour will allow employers to spend their levy on a wider range of courses and enable the transfer of up to 50 per cent to smaller, non-levy-paying employers, as an increasing number of SMEs are employing apprentices. However, even with these changes, additional investment will be required; there is evidence that the existing levy pot could be exhausted by 2021 if apprenticeship growth continues at the current rate.
RICS welcomes Labour's pledge to launch a climate apprenticeship programme. This interdisciplinary approach would benefit RICS members as the surveying technician and chartered surveyor degree apprenticeships would sit firmly within this climate apprenticeship programme, as would other apprenticeships that offer a route to RICS membership. These eco-apprenticeships will complement the work we are already doing through our Value the Planet campaign to encourage and support employers in reducing the impact of their operations on the environment.
Chartered surveyors and built environment professionals are integral to the refurbishment and retrofit sector, ranging from assessing if homes are fit to live in, to the identification, specification and evaluation of energy efficiency measures. As part of our commitment to promoting and enforcing the highest standards in the residential sector, RICS have recently launched our Home Survey Standard which will become the best practice benchmark and contribute to delivering trust in the home survey market across the UK. This standard will become effective and mandatory for all RICS professionals in June 2020.
‘Chartered surveyors and built environment professionals are integral to the refurbishment and retrofit sector, ranging from assessing if homes are fit to live in, to the identification, specification and evaluation of energy efficiency measures.'
Labour also pledge to introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill which sets out 'robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection'. Though supportive of Labour's aim to repurpose agricultural and rural structural funds to support environmental land management, RICS would advise a greater focus on natural capital and the development of active ecosystem services markets, which can assist in alleviating the impacts of climate change.
RICS believes that new approaches to the valuation, appraisal and management of natural capital and ecosystem services can transform the way land is managed, how development is undertaken, and how assets are appraised, valued and ultimately paid for.
Dr Patrice Cairns
Policy Manager, Northern Ireland
Dr Cairns is a policy manager within the RICS UK Government Relations team. In addition to developing UK policy and promoting RICS thought leadership, Dr Cairns is responsible for leading RICS public policy work in Northern Ireland across all priority issues and key sectors. She works to build RICS' influence, credibility and profile.