What is in the election manifestos for Green Building?
Last week we issued a manifesto to all political parties in which we set out key actions to implement in Government in the next 5 years. This included the importance of strengthening the planning system and moving beyond energy efficiency to regulate or incentivise a truly sustainable built environment.
We reviewed all the election manifestos to see what the political parties are committing to, if elected. We focused on overall targets, new build, retrofit and sustainable planning.
The good news is that nearly all the manifestos of the parties we have reviewed, have better policies on climate change. However, there is considerable variation in overall ambition.
Most commit to deep renovation of existing homes as set out in the climate action plan though in slightly different ways. There is also more emphasis on prioritising investment in cycling and public transport. The larger parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael however remain committed to major new road infrastructure and this raises concern over which would retain priority in the event of an economic downturn. There is a welcome emphasis on regeneration of the centres of existing villages, towns and cities with measures to make this easier in nearly all the manifestos.
All the political parties propose very large house building programmes adding 30% to our current housing stock over the next 20 years plus attendant non residential buildings and infrastructure. However few parties appear to link the programme to their climate policies and have set out measures or regulations on mitigating the carbon and other environmental impacts of this vast construction programme that would go beyond what is already in the current building regulations. This is a very big missed opportunity.
A couple of manifestos mention the nearly Zero Energy Standard (nZEB) even though this is already required. There is no acknowledgement of the other potential serious environmental impacts beyond operational energy. These impacts include the enormous upfront carbon emissions associated with the mining, quarrying, transport of materials, and the construction process itself, biodiversity loss, land use change, all of which will add to Ireland’s overall carbon emissions. For example embodied carbon accounts for 11% of global emissions.
Only the Green Party, commit to measures for new construction that would be compatible with the COP 21 agreement to limit global warming to below 1.5c. This may be because most parties are sticking closely to the climate action plan which sets out few actions for new construction.
In particular, we are concerned by Fianna Fail’s commitment on rural one-off housing as it appears to weaken already weak restrictions. This could undermine proposals for regeneration of towns and villages as well as well as undermine other areas of climate action due to the outsize environmental impacts of poorly planned disperse homes. On the other hand we welcome the Labour and Green Party’s commitment to climate proof all planning.
A brief summary of some of what is in the manifestos of the main political parties in relation to a sustainable built environment is available below. – Parties are listed in alphabetical order.
What is in each party’s manifesto GE 2020?
No set target on Climate emissions
New Building – Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Retrofit – No specific actions though it does propose the creation of a publicly-owned Irish Green Bank to ensure families, communities and small businesses can access the necessary financial supports as part of a just transition to a green economy.
No declared carbon reduction target by 2030
New building – Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Existing buildings – Propose changing the role of the SEAI slightly to create a Green Homes Agency who will be tasked with accessing European Green Deal financing, starting initially with €200 million seed financing. Propose creating one stop shops in every local authority.
Planning – Propose to incentivise regeneration of existing towns and villages with a one stop shop for planning and regulation and other measures to drive regeneration.
However, elsewhere it is proposed to continue to support disperse rural one off housing in the context of European Court ruling on local need housing. This would seem to indicate no attempt to further regulate one off housing which may undermine policy on regeneration and other carbon mitigation measures*
*Disperse one off car dependent housing tend to be larger than the average home (242sqm average for detached home – CSO figures 2016) and are likely to be responsible for four times or more carbon emissions over their lifetimes when compared with compact homes in well planned non car dependent communities, when upfront embodied carbon and higher energy use related to larger size, together with carbon from increased transport and car dependent infrastructure is taken into account.
Other – Will extend smokey coal ban nationwide.
Propose to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.
New Building – Will build 60,000 homes over the next five years. Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Retrofit – Will implement the climate action plan increasing the level of retrofitting by 10 times. Propose pay as you save models, easy access to advice and commit 3 billion to renovation up to 2027 under the Ireland 2040 plan.
Other – Will extend the existing smoky coal ban to towns impacted by poor air quality. Propose to establish a new microgeneration scheme to allow homeowners, schools, farmers and communities that generate renewable electricity to sell back to the grid.
Propose a 50- 55% decrease in emissions by 2030.
New Build – Provides a comprehensive list of actions that go beyond existing regulations for carbon mitigation and other environmental impacts from the construction of new buildings and homes.
This includes proposals that all public housing are certified to the Home Performance Index or equivalent standard. They propose to update the building regulations to a Zero carbon standard by 2022. They will introduce regulations for calculation of upfront embodied carbon in buildings. They will require rain water harvesting in new buildings. They also propose a range of measures around creating healthier buildings.
Retrofit – Propose to progressively tighten minimum BER standards for the vast majority of rental properties. Deliver the deep retrofitting of 75,000 houses per annum. Will train an estimated 20,000 workers that are required to deliver this.
Planning – Proposes strengthening planning and building regulations to ensure that new developments – from one-off houses to new towns – are planned, designed and built with climate change mitigation and adaptation as a central concern. This includes flood risk, overheating, impact of increasing rainfall etc.
Other – In addition, it proposes to give homeowners more information on their homes. 700,000 rooftop solar PV systems in Irish homes and on 55,000 commercial premises by 2030. Immediately implement a nationwide ban on smoky coal in order to address risk to health.
Propose 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
New Build – will build 80,000 houses over 5 years –Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Retrofit – will provide funding for local government to deliver an ambitious home insulation scheme, building up capacity to reach the target of 100,000 homes per year. This will be rolled out to all council-owned properties, and will be available on a street-by-street basis for homeowners to avail of subsidised home insulation. Grants, low-cost credit and repayment as part of lower energy bills will also be available.
Propose to roll out a scheme to provide all schools and colleges with solar panels.
Planning – Propose to design and implement a new process of Climate Proofing within planning, where every planning decision will have to consider the impact upon Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions and how best to minimise these.
People before profit
Propose to be a carbon-neutral economy by 2030.
New Build – would build 20,000 new public homes each year. Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Retrofit – Set up a national construction agency to retrofit homes to the highest energy efficiency standards. Provide accredited training to retrofitting workers.Propose making available interest free loans of EU30,000.
Planning – Begin immediate monitoring of air quality in cities. Free public transport.
No target on CO2 emissions set out in manifesto.
New Build – 20,000 public houses a year
Propose increasing the number of nearly Zero Energy buildings(nZEB) and strengthening nZEB regulations and methodology ensuring compliance. There are no further proposals for improved environmental or carbon mitigation measures for new homes or buildings.They do propose changes to current system of BC(A)R with shift away from self-certification. They also propose that 7% of all homes are designed for disability and introduce regulations on universal design.
Planning – Propose to return all planinng decisions to local authorities and repeal ministerial planning guidelines.
Other – Propose micro generation feed in tariff.
No target set out in manifesto.
New Build – Do not propose any further environmental regulations or carbon mitigation measures to offset the construction of new homes and buildings.
Retrofit – Emphasis on getting better value for money for energy through community switching of suppliers rather than retrofit. Propose establishment of an energy unit in multiple Local Authorities on a regional basis and pay as you save model. Promote repopulation of urban centres. Would end rate rebate on vacant properties in town centres to encourage this.
Planning – Strong emphasis on sustainable planning including requirement to ensure proper social infrastructure in place as part of building housing.