Rishi Sunak green policy

Rishi Sunak’s green policy challenges as Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak faces green policy challenges in his new role as Prime Minister.

Read edie’s round-up of his key priorities that impact on the construction industry, originally reported by edie on 27th October 2022.

Confirming Environment Bill targets

The Bill went through a two-year passage in Parliament but ultimately passed into law last November, paving the way for a post-Brexit environmental watchdog in the UK, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

Another key inclusion in the Bill is the creation and implementation of legally binding targets on biodiversity, water quality, air quality and other key topics. The targets should mirror legally binding targets on emissions. Targets were proposed in spring but swiftly criticized for lacking ambition, considering that the UK is not on track to deliver the 25-Year Environment Plan’s vision of improving nature within a generation. The OEP itself said the targets were not science-based, comprehensive or ambitious.

Defra was due to provide an update on the targets by the end of October 2022 at the latest. This will now be down to the Department’s new Secretary, Therese Coffey, for more news.

Avoiding a ‘race to the bottom’ on post-Brexit standards

Currently, there is much regulation on the metaphorical chopping block due to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

This Bill is intended to remove many EU laws that were transcribed into UK law by the end of 2023, with the remainder to be phased out through to 2026.Green Alliance has argued that the Bill would “sweep away more than 2,000 laws that protect the environment and safeguard workers’ rights, consumer safety and animal welfare”. Charities and trade unions have also called for the Bill to be shelved, amended or simply scrapped.

Sunak, like Truss, advocated for the removal of EU laws post-Brexit but seems to be less in favour of widespread deregulation.

 Prioritising energy efficiency

One of the key green policy pledges in the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto was £9bn+ of public funding for improving energy efficiency. This is an area which, since David Cameron took over from Gordon Brown in 2010, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has been highlighting as one with significant policy gaps, with the UK playing host to some of the leakiest buildings in the Global North. The pledge was, therefore, welcomed.

Johnson and Truss have been repeatedly criticised for failing to bring forth a new national home insulation plan to replace the Green Deal and then the Green Homes Grant. While the Conservatives have, since 2019, increased retrofit funding for social homes and the public sector, many want this extended to all homes, coupled with specific support for businesses.

The Conservative Party is aiming for all UK homes to have an EPC rating of ‘C’ or higher by 2035. Sunak is being called upon to help get the UK on track to meeting this goal, recognising the climate and social benefits that it could bring.

Making the Net-Zero strategy ‘lawful’

The High Court ruled in July that the UK Government’s Net-Zero Strategy was unlawful. The ruling, which came after legal challenges from Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth, accounted for the fact that the Strategy contains no time-bound, sector-specific emissions cuts, and details policies which would not deliver the levels of decarbonisation necessary for the UK to meet its long-term climate goal and interim carbon budgets.

Under Truss, BEIS confirmed that it would not challenge the High Court’s ruling.

The High Court gave the Government nine months to update the Strategy, bringing us through to April 2023. Sunak’s new top team will need to get to work quickly to deliver the update on time while raising levels of detail and ambition to the levels needed for the Strategy to be lawful.

Read the story in full here.