Buyers of poorly-insulated homes may struggle to get a mortgage under government proposals to make the housing stock greener, it was revealed yesterday.
Mortgage lenders would have to disclose the energy performance of properties in their portfolio – and set themselves voluntary targets to improve the insulation of their houses.
Ministers hope that the move would encourage buyers to make their homes more energy efficient. But those that cannot afford to do this could struggle to remortgage or sell.
Buyers of poorly-insulated homes may struggle to get a mortgage under government proposals to make the housing stock greener
The plan states lenders' properties should aim to reach an average energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of band C by 2030. Ministers could make the target mandatory if not enough progress is made, according to the Government's heat and buildings strategy.
Only around two in five homes in the UK currently receive a band C energy rating or higher, according to government figures. Band A is the most efficient and G is the least.
Critics have warned that the plan would hit first-time buyers and families with period properties. Sarah Coles, of investment service Hargreaves Lansdown, said some homeowners would find it 'prohibitively expensive' to make their house more energy efficient.
She added: 'They may not be able to afford to borrow more, or the cost of changes to older properties may be disproportionately high, so they would never recoup the cost of the improvements through a sale.'
Mortgage lenders would have to disclose the energy performance of properties in their portfolio
Miss Coles also said it is 'likely to get much harder to track down a cheap mortgage for an inefficient property, which will make them more difficult to sell, which in turn is likely to bring down their value'.
She added: 'Owners may also struggle to remortgage, so could end up paying over the odds each month. If you're living in an old family home, and you need to trade down to boost your income in retirement, it could have far-reaching consequences for the rest of your life.'
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, a former energy minister, condemned the plans as 'an insult to first-time buyers who have scraped and saved to get on the housing ladder'. He added: 'The Conservatives must cancel this plan. Ministers are attempting to clean up their own mess by forcing innocent first-time buyers to fork out thousands of pounds extra.'
But trade association UK Finance said banks and other lenders are committed to making sure customers receive help. It added: 'Greening our housing stock is vital if we are to meet our climate change obligations and banks and finance providers are committed to helping achieve this goal and making sure consumers are not left behind.'
Ministers hope that the move would encourage buyers to make their homes more energy efficient
The heat and buildings strategy states that the Government 'consulted on proposals to require mortgage lenders to disclose information regarding the EPC rating of their lending portfolios'.
The plan added: 'We also proposed a voluntary target to reach an average of EPC band C across their mortgage portfolio by 2030, with the option of making this target mandatory.'
Downing Street said it was considering the responses to the consultation and 'would only introduce a policy which was guided by fairness for the public'.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the aim of the plan is to 'catalyse the development of a green finance market and make available affordable finance'.
From cars to trees, how it will affect you
Britain plans to build both small and big nuclear power plants to produce clean electricity and help protect against global energy price spikes.
The net zero strategy restated the Government's commitment to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to the point of a final investment decision by the end of the parliament, expected in 2024.
Negotiations are continuing to take forward plans for a new large-scale power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk. Other sites, including Wylfa on Anglesey, North Wales, could be used for future projects.
Ministers are looking at other schemes, including small modular reactors (SMR), which are more flexible and affordable than traditional power stations.
People will not have to give up flying as fuel will be greener in the future, Boris Johnson has promised.
Ministers are aiming for 10 per cent of aviation fuel to come from sustainable sources by 2030, backed with £180million in funding. This sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will be made from materials such as everyday household waste, flue gases from industry, carbon captured from the atmosphere and excess electricity.
SAF produces 70 per cent fewer carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel. The Prime Minister dismissed the idea that 'going green' has to be 'inextricably bound up with a sense that we have to sacrifice the things we love'.
He said that by the middle of the century people will be able to fly 'guilt-free' because 'our planes will be zero emission' thanks to advances in fuel technology.
Ministers have pledged nearly £1billion in support for the move to electric cars. The UK plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. There will be an extra £350million to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains, and another £620million for targeted electric vehicle grants and infrastructure.
Ministers have pledged nearly £1billion in support for the move to electric cars
Manufacturers must sell a certain percentage of zero-emission cars and vans from 2024 under the UK's plan to reach net zero. There will be a consultation next year on how many zero-emission vehicles will need to be sold each year and how it will be enforced. Boris Johnson vowed that in the future 'our cars will be electric, gliding silently around our cities'.
TREBLE THE TREES
Britain will plant more trees and restore peatland to capture carbon emissions under the plan. The new green strategy pledges a £124million boost to the £640million Nature for Climate Fund. Ministers have already committed to restoring approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050.
They are also pledging to treble the rate of planting of trees so that at least 30,000 hectares of woodland are created a year across the UK by the end of this parliament. It follows the Daily Mail's Be A Tree Angel campaign to help plant trees.
EAT LESS MEAT
The UK wants to become a world leader in the production of 'alternative proteins' as part of a global push to eat less meat, the strategy says.
While the document did not contain proposals for a 'meat tax', there was a prediction that people will naturally cut down.
The strategy suggests non-meat products could soon be a boom industry. While this will take time, it will 'align with consumer dietary trends'.
It also predicts that this increase could then grow 'to become another great British food export that competes internationally'.
ALEX BRUMMER: No wonder Rishi Sunak's on red alert for Boris Johnson's new green nirvana
Amid mounting apprehension about the terrifying cost of hitting the Government's net zero carbon target and replacing our gas boilers with eco-friendly heat pumps, Boris Johnson is doing his utmost to reassure us.
In typically florid language, the Prime Minister insists that 'the Boiler Police are not going to kick your door in with their sandal-clad feet and seize – at carrot point – your trusty old combi'.
Yet he is undoubtedly on a mission ahead of next week's Cop26 summit – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak's attempt to inject an air of economic reality into the hugely ambitious climate change programme is hitting an immovable force. Sound financial sense is being swept aside.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak's attempt to inject an air of economic reality into the hugely ambitious climate change programme is hitting an immovable force
In his rush to decarbonise, Johnson appears to be unmoved by the essential needs of manufacturing and households for secure energy supplies. Wilfully ignored is the fact that much of the technology and infrastructure required for a carbon-free Britain isn't up to the job, is untested or has yet to be developed.
What is more, at a time when global markets for energy sources such as gas and oil are in turmoil, a Treasury study has revealed, incredibly, that the investment required to decarbonise Britain has never fully been costed.
Little wonder Rishi Sunak is so fearful. The Treasury warns bluntly that Britain's race to net zero ahead of rival countries could make us increasingly uncompetitive.
And however Bunterish Boris Johnson might be, costs will increase because of the Government's eco-policies – a fact missing from the script yesterday as he sought to whip up excitement among potential investors at a global summit in London.
The Prime Minister admitted this week that 'the UK is deciding to make a big bet on green technology'. But the gamble is in danger of going horribly wrong.
In all manner of areas, red warning lights are flashing. Take the plan to ban all new gas boilers by 2035. Householders are offered grants of £5,000 each over the next three years to rip out gas boilers and install heat pumps.
Yet not only is this sum a fraction of the cost which is nearer £20,000, the total grant money covers just 90,000 of Britain's 25million households – and heat pumps don't work in many homes anyway.
Johnson appears to be unmoved by the essential needs of manufacturing and households for secure energy supplies
Likewise, by banning new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the UK will need more than ten times the 25,000 existing charging points according to the Competition and Markets Authority.
It is an extraordinary, difficult and ambitious target to meet. And, in the meantime, battery range is a genuine problem for vast numbers of drivers while the Treasury faces a £40billion black hole from the loss of vehicle tax once we are finally all electric.
Of course the world needs to change to counter global warming, and Rishi Sunak is fully aware of the fact. Nor is it true that he lacks the ability to back bold, visionary ideas – he is behind the freeport development on Teesside, for instance, where international businesses will be encouraged to invest through tax breaks.
But the Chancellor recognises only too well that reaching the green nirvana imagined by Johnson at such breakneck speed could have terrible consequences. For the journey risks being interrupted by power blackouts, the elderly freezing in their homes and budgetary mayhem.
This rush towards decarbonising Britain could not come at a worse moment given current global circumstances. Since May, the price of traditional energy resources has soared by 95 per cent.
Britain has come so close to running out of power that the National Grid – responsible for making sure the nation has adequate energy – invited the biggest electricity supplier EDF to switch back on its coal generator at West Burton in Nottinghamshire where it is almost certainly burning German or Russian-imported coal.
Elsewhere in the world the US, which has abundant oil and gas resources and reserves, has seen petrol prices surge to $3 (£2.18) an American gallon – the highest level for several years.
Blackouts have hit the two biggest emerging market nations, India and China, while much of continental Europe has been reminded sharply how dependent it is on remaining friends with Vladimir Putin in order to keep Russian exports of natural gas to the continent flowing.
Normally, as the northern hemisphere heads into winter, oil, gas and coal stocks are at record levels. But this year, they have fallen way below where they should be, while coal stocks in India and China – huge consumers of the black stuff – are also right down.
Compared to so many other countries, Britain is doubly disadvantaged by its headlong rush to decarbonise. The UK floats on a sea of undeveloped fossil fuel resources, from clean coal in Cumbria to the Jackdaw oil and gas field more than 150 miles east of Aberdeen, and huge shale gas reserves around Blackpool.
But, as we relentlessly pursue the target of a carbon-free Britain by 2050, these resources are firmly locked up even though the country has virtually no natural gas storage capacity.
In a foreword, to the government document - titled Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener - Boris Johnson said the UK would 'lead the charge'
In seeking to claim the ethical high ground, the UK is placing its whole economy at risk while our competitors adopt a much more realistic approach.
To take one example, in this country less than 2 per cent of our energy was sourced from coal last year. Compare that with Germany where the figure was nearer 25 per cent.
It's true that President Joe Biden is adopting bolder carbon emission standards. But, from the coalfields of West Virginia to fracking operations in West Texas, fossil fuels are still the main driving force of American power production.
As inspiring as it may be that, when the wind blows, more than 50 per cent of Britain's energy is now provided by offshore windfarms, we shouldn't kid ourselves that this places us at the forefront of this technology.
Many of the pylons are fabricated in China and some of the more sophisticated technologies provided by Denmark. We are still waiting for the UK's manufacturing revolution for clean energy to emerge. And we are already well behind on car-battery factories – Germany has six or so under construction against one gigaplant in the UK.
There was great excitement when British industrial giant Ineos, founded and run by billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, announced he was getting full-square behind the hydrogen-fuel revolution, believing it to be the power source of the future for heavy trucks and perhaps locomotives.
The only problem is that he has chosen to build the first multi-billion hydrogen plants in Germany, Norway and Belgium rather than the UK.
While garage forecourts in London and other big cities are seeking to address the switch to electrified vehicles by removing traditional fuel pumps and replacing them with charging stations, this is leading to its own short-term problem.
With each petrol pump removed, petrol and diesel storage capacity is also diminished – and we saw recently what happens when we don't have enough fuel available at petrol stations.
recently, my own household experienced an example of how ill-thought-out green policies cause economic harm. The repair firm which has kept our German-built washer and dryer running for 14 years arrived for a regular service call.
The engineer advised us to buy new machines, saying his firm would no longer be able to operate in London because its diesel vehicles and the new £12.50 low-emissions charging zone made it financially unworkable.
The mission to decarbonise Britain and place climate change at the heart of the nation's agenda is certainly a noble cause. But Boris Johnson has to balance his thinking with realpolitik.
Other advanced nations want to decarbonise too but recognise that, during the transformation, it is critical to ensure that there is no interruption to supplies which would harm economic security.
Sunak and the Treasury are absolutely right to draw attention to the potential costs of pursuing the Prime Minister's green agenda. The transition to mass market eco-technologies is fantastically complicated and many of the proposed solutions are far from ready.
In rushing the fences, Britain is in danger of recklessly compromising this country's growth and financial stability.