CIBSE updates member on legislation in the construction sector beyond Brexit
The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) invited members to its annual CIBSE Patrons Policy Briefing in London at the Royal Airforce Club on 6th February. Hywel Davies, Technical Director at CIBSE, gave an insight into the future of policies in the years ahead. Hamworthy Heating’s Marketing Communications Executive Julia Maul reports.
The uncertainties of Brexit dominated CIBSE’s policy update. Mr Davies, however, underlined that there is less uncertainty than typically presented in the media. One of the reasons for this is the strong interconnection between EU and UK legislation. An example named was the Climate Change Act 2008 which is UK legislation and commits the UK to an 80% reduction of carbon emissions to the 1990 baseline by 2050. However, a lot of measures to achieve the proposed carbon savings depend on policy originating in Brussels, such as EPC ratings (EU legislation) which are used for the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES, UK legislation). Some, however, are completely independent of the EU such as the Paris Agreement signed in April 2016 committing countries to keep the global average temperature rise significantly below 2°C (ideally 1.5 °C) compared to pre-industrial levels.
Progress on carbon savings – the Climate Change Committee report
Mr Davies summarised the findings of the 2017 report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – an independent statutory body advising Government on and monitoring progress of the carbon budget process. The UK has made significant progress on carbon emissions which have fallen by 42% from 1990 to 2016. Interestingly, we have also seen energy demand growth break away from growth in GDP (energy demand usually increases with GDP). However, it is currently not set to meet the fourth (2023-27) and fifth (2028-32) carbon budget even with all EU legislation considered.
Mr Davies made it clear scrapping EU legislation to combat climate change would not contribute to the cause but rather “dig a deeper hole”. He also underlined that the UK cannot diverge from its carbon saving plans: “We are committed to delivering emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement. Whether we’re in the EU or not - what we have to deliver may change slightly. What the arrangements are will change, but we’re signed up to it. The Climate Change Act ties us into some challenging targets which we were already not on track to meet before we start doing anything tangible as a result of leaving the EU.”
The Clean Growth Strategy
The CCC advises the Government on what the carbon budget should be while the Government sets out plans how to achieve it. For this purpose, the Clean Growth Strategy was published in October last year.
In January, the CCC published an analysis of the Clean Growth Strategy which calls for firming up policies and proposals, along with more details to close the “emissions gap” to the fourth and fifth carbon budget. While there is a strong commitment to climate change targets, there is a real risk of underdelivery. Given that the fourth carbon budget is merely 5 years away, this is a reason for concern.
The commitment to MEES has been very clearly restated in the Clean Growth Strategy. Mr Davies added, “they are here to stay”, similarly as the CCC underlines their importance in delivering carbon savings. They are enforced on 1st April this year and make it unlawful to let a non-domestic property with substandard energy rating (EPC band of F or G) to new and existing tenants (renewal or extensions). From 1st April 2023, this will be extended to all remaining leases (from 1st April 2020 for domestic properties).
The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), an energy assessment scheme for organisations in the UK meeting certain criteria, originating from the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, is another piece of legislation which is unlikely to be scrapped. Although Mr Davies said there is a trend towards the ISO 50001 certification which companies can use instead of an ESOS audit.
Other topics mentioned were the Carbon Reduction Commitment (reporting of emissions from electricity and gas supply not already covered by Climate Change Agreements and the EU Emissions Trading System) ending in April 2019 and a consultation by the Government with the industry that resulted in a request for a common reporting framework to cover emissions.
The Withdrawal Bill and potential issues
A white paper published in March 2017 set out how the UK plans to leave the EU. The objective is to incorporate all currently applicable EU law into UK law, including directives and regulations. The former means the EU sets out a goal and the member states have to implement their own laws to achieve it. The latter is law directly applicable in all member states. A concern raised by Mr Davies is the non-transfer of fundamental principles such as “polluter pays” as set out in treaties and so-called “recitals”, the numbered paragraphs at the start before the articles in directives and regulations. Henry VIIIs clauses have also been added to the bill which effectively enables ministers to amend legislation without any consultation or scrutiny by Parliament once it has been transferred. He warns there is not only “a fundamental democratic principle at stake” but also that “there is some uncertainty over what happens once legislation has transferred across”. An example would be impact assessments on e. g. businesses which are usually supposed to be carried out when the Government can change legislation. He concludes that “whether any of that’s going to happen, is questionable.”
It is also uncertain how EU legislation will be dealt with which only comes into full effect after the UK has left the EU. An example is an update to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to promote the use of smart technology and building renovation. One aspect highlighted by Mr Davies is the requirement for properties over a certain energy use per year to have a form of automated control of energy use. However, a) he doubts whether there is the capacity to implement these systems across the building stock within the timetable set out and b) other EU laws clashing with these plans e. g. in multi-tenanted buildings. Tenants can make their own energy arrangements and are not obliged to tell the landlord how much energy they are using. This means landlords can legally say they don’t know if their building is over the threshold and they have no legal way to find out.
The UK is on the right track, but there is more to do
To sum up Mr Davies’ point: There are some uncertainties, but there is no rational argument to abandon plans the UK has already made to achieve the carbon savings it has committed to. The words of warning by the CCC about the UK not meeting future carbon budgets with all currently planned actions considered should ring alarm bells. Scrapping existing laws would do the exact opposite. Given that EU and UK legislation are intertwined in many respects, it would not make much sense to, either. On the contrary, further measures to be able to achieve the carbon budgets are necessary. The uncertainties that do exist stem from how EU legislation which will come into effect after the UK has left the EU will be handled, and how ministers might apply the Henry VIII’s clauses once EU legislation has been written into UK law.