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Monday, 7th January 2019

Manchester commits to making all new buildings 'net-zero' by 2028

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has pledged to ensure that all new buildings erected in the city region will be 'net-zero' carbon by 2028.

The commitment builds on Manchester's vision of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2038

The commitment builds on Manchester's vision of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2038

The local authority has today (7 January) published its draft Greater Manchester Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment, outlining plans to decouple emissions from economic growth as the region’s economy and population expand over the coming 20 years.

A headline aim of the policy framework is for all new buildings and other infrastructure built within the region to be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028 – a move the local authority has said is “key” to achieving its overarching pledge to become a carbon-neutral city region by 2038.

Under the new policy, buildings will be required to produce no operational carbon emissions. The GMCA has not yet confirmed whether its definition of ‘net-zero’ will also require carbon-neutral construction and supply chains.

Any proposed fracking projects will be rejected under the plan, as these will not be classed as ‘net-zero’ developments.

“The need to decarbonise our economy means we need to look at low carbon energy generation and storage, retrofitting of buildings, and low-carbon transport,” Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said.

“Future climate change pressures will also require the city-region to adapt to bigger shocks and stresses, such as increased heat, drought and flood risk, which may require new sources of funding to be identified.”

The launch of the draft plan has been welcomed by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), which is now encouraging other local authorities to follow the GMCA’s lead.

“Today’s announcement shows Greater Manchester to be a national - if not international - leader in net-zero carbon policy and is a typically forthright challenge to central Government, which has dragged its heels on zero-carbon buildings for most of the last decade,” UKGBC’s director of policy and places John Alker said.

“As ever, the devil is in the detail, but this leaves no doubt about the direction of travel. This is a challenge that the industry can and should embrace, leading to better buildings for both people and planet.”

Building a low-carbon future

The UK’s built environment sector is no small contributor to national emissions, with heat and power for buildings currently accounting for 40% of national energy usage.

In response to the issue, Prime Minister Theresa May last year vowed to halve the energy use from new buildings by 2030 and to halve the energy costs from the existing building stock - both domestically and commercially – within the same timeframe.

More recently, the Government published its £420m construction sector deal, outlining a course for halving building energy use and emissions by 2030. 

Nonetheless, several industry bodies and corporates have argued that wider progress towards low-carbon infrastructure has been too slow – particularly in light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) landmark report into global warming, which concludes that the world must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 if “catastrophic” climate change is to be prevented.

The World Green Building Council (WGBC), for example, is lobbying for the global construction sector to achieve net-zero status by 2030, while more than 50 UK businesses are calling for national policies to achieve a carbon-neutral sector in the UK.

Indeed, the drive for green buildings is arguably being driven by businesses, investors and local authorities rather than the national Government. edie’s own Sector Insight report concluded that almost two-thirds of businesses operating in the construction industry are now more committed to taking action on sustainability than they were 12 months ago.

Sarah George