Attending a number of fringe events hosted by Climate Clinic at the conservative conference in Blackpool (because of the location not any political alliance) looking for hints as to the future treatment of the built environment left me slightly worried. Cutting through the rhetoric, I found very little conviction that politicians or advisors have a handle on dealing with our sector. There appears to be a blinkered approach with no joined up thinking.
Key themes I took away include
More political focus will be placed on the built environment sector as a tool to reduce overall carbon emissions. However this would seem to lead to more confusion as Merton Rules, Building Regulations, grants and subsides, etc get tampered with.
Mircopower, decentralised power suppliers and feed in tariffs are very popular. Interesting question though is how large scale green power schemes – such as wind and Severn barrier become environmental problems associated with centralised power
The Quality of Life group group paper Blueprint for a Green Economy from authors Goldsmith and Gummer is the mantra of the conservatives, with praise upon praise being heaped on to Zac Goldsmith every time the document was mentioned. Yet, this is a market driven approach, very close to Tory values that may well have contributed to where we are today, (for example ‘Construction companies must take the lead in ensuring new buildings are as green as possible,) and has a few striking omissions, such as biodiversity. Still worth reading …just in case. The highlights relating to buildings include:
- Stamp duty should be abolished on homes which have a very low carbon footprint.
- Local authorities would have the power to reduce council tax bills on low-carbon properties, and homes which reused water efficiently, as incentives to occupants to be greener.
- Public buildings should be forced to adopt the highest possible energy performance standards.
- There should be greater incentives to construct eco-friendly homes.
- Construction companies must take the lead in ensuring new buildings are as green as possible, and to prioritise the environment when considering ways to revamp existing buildings.
- Home Information Packs (Hips) should be abolished by any incoming Conservative government and replaced with National Building Standards, which would ensure all properties reached required standards.
- Walking, cycling and using public transport should be prioritised as part of the planning process for any new neighbourhoods. (source BBC)
Two non political comments I took away, which sums up the problems we face:
From Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor of the Independent…“be clear: this is the ultimate political issue”
and from Sunand Prasad, President of the RIBA, who queried in the Quality of Life question time session whether this issue was too big to be political and requires some form of non, or a – political body to drive, to collect green taxes and make the ‘polluter pay’.
Listening and reading between the lines, and indeed one of the questions at the Quality of Life question time,was the difference between he Goldsmith-Gummer approach and those who feel the environment agenda has gone to far, notably the Redwood degulation camp. The question to the panel was for how long can both remain within a conservative party.
Leaving the event the most striking moment however was the fantastic sunset, in contrast to the high energy usage Blackpool Illuminations, just a reminder that the earth and nature is far superior and will out survive our messing it up, and how important nature and biodiversity etc are in the balance of our approaches. (Ok, a Gaia moment but hey…)
Tony Juniper sums up the conservative environmental approach from a Friends of the Earth view here – A Paler Shade of Green