Press Releases

24 Apr 2024

Time for action on MEES

Melanie Leech, CEO of the British Property Federation

The importance of reaching net zero cannot be over-stated. Climate change is already impacting us here in the UK and around the world, giving us a foretaste of the potentially disastrous consequences for the planet if global temperatures continue to rise.

As an industry we understand the role we have to play in achieving net zero. Around 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from buildings. I am hugely impressed by our members’ commitment to sustainability and the exciting, innovative work that is being done across energy efficiency, embodied carbon, onsite renewables and the circular economy.

But I cannot help feeling deeply frustrated by the regulatory blockers on getting the whole sector – not just the biggest firms with premium assets – to net zero. 2050 may feel like a long time away, but the country will simply not be able to hit its net zero target unless we accelerate the decarbonisation of the built environment.

Yet the Government has still not published a response to the 2021 consultation on MEES - future minimum energy efficiency standards for the non-domestic private rented sector in England.

Members of the  Green Property Alliance, a coalition of industry organisations including the British Property Federation, have therefore written to the Secretary of State for Energy calling for the Government to publish its plans in full.

The industry needs detail on EPC targets and timelines, as well as clarity on the rules around exemptions and enforcement. This is the certainty that investors need to commit their capital to making the improvements that are necessary to reach net zero.

Without it, there is little wonder that 9 out of 10 senior property leaders do not believe current Government policy will deliver a net zero property sector by 2050, according to BPF research.

This isn’t just about setting targets - whichever date the Government sets, what is paramount is that  they then stick to it. All political parties should embrace the principle of policy and regulatory certainty as good for business, good for the economy, and good for the planet.

And there are other priorities – which may be politically more challenging but are equally necessary – that whichever party wins the general election must do to get the industry back on track to hit net zero by 2050:

  1. Targeted financial incentives – The cost of retrofitting homes and buildings is huge. The reality is that for many buildings it is simply not viable for them to be retrofitted to the standard required, without new incentives. Zero rating VAT on all repairs and maintenance for residential buildings would be a good start to encourage investment.  
  2. Improve access to data – This is one of the major challenges that our members have identified in their efforts to move to net zero. It should become standard practice for energy consumption data to be shared between owners and occupiers and this is something Government should facilitate.
  3. Planning reform – There are, of course, many issues with the planning system, not least the shortage of planners. New environmental obligations such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) are in principle a good thing, but they have fallen at the door of already chronically under-resourced local authority planning departments. The next Government should use planning reform as an opportunity to invest in the planning system and speed up planning decisions, including on retrofitting our listed and heritage buildings.
  4. Invest in the national grid – Electricity demand is expected to rise by 2035 and could double by 2050, but for many of our members it is increasingly difficult to connect to the grid. This not only makes it difficult to power the all-electric buildings we need but is also a barrier to generating electricity on site through renewables such as solar panels, which we can then export back into the grid. UK warehouses have enough roof space to provide up to 15 GW of new solar power, which could double the UK’s solar capacity and reduce carbon emissions by up to 2 million tonnes a year.

Decarbonising real estate is just one of the pressing political and economic challenges the Government faces. But action can’t wait. MEES is just a first step and one that the industry is ready to get on with delivering.

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