Housebuilders will be forced to build “zero carbon” homes within 10 years, under an ambitious scheme to tackle climate change announced by the chancellor today.
Under the plans, all new homes will have to generate enough energy through devices like wind turbines and solar panels to cancel out their overall emission of greenhouse gases.
Currently, only a handful of the 150,000 homes built each year qualify as zero carbon. Some pioneering developments, such as the high profile BedZED housing estate in Sutton, have also run into technical difficulties that have thwarted the original green ambitions of developers.
Details of the new scheme will be set out next week by the communities secretary Ruth Kelly.
Announcing the plan in his pre-budget report, Gordon Brown pledged “to ensure that within 10 years every new home will be a zero carbon home.” He added: “We will be the first country ever to make this commitment.”
In the meantime, he promised a tax break to encourage the development of more environmentally friendly homes.
“To accelerate the building of zero carbon homes for a time limited period the vast majority of new zero carbon homes will be exempted from stamp duty,” he said.
He added: “For existing homes I will consult on a new facility to undertake energy audits and offer low loans that will, in time, because of low energy bills, pay for themselves.”
Environmental campaigners expressed their delight at the plans.
Paul King, director of campaigns for WWF, said: “This is a great breakthrough. For the first time Gordon Brown has shown he really backs green housing development.
“It is also a victory for WWF, which has been campaigning for many years to bring green homes from the fringes to the mainstream.
“The introduction of stamp duty exemptions for sustainable homes sends a clear signal to the house building industry and homebuyers that energy efficient homes are a great investment – both in terms of up-front savings and long-term reduced running costs.”
He pointed out that housing generated 27% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Today’s announcement marks a major shift in the government’s attitude to green housing. Last year, the WWF resigned in disgust from a government steering group responsible for drawing up a code for sustainable homes. It was concerned the code did not go far enough and was only a voluntary scheme.
At the time it was feared the government had bowed to pressure from the house building industry, which has strongly resisted the imposition of any compulsory environmental targets.
The new scheme will be phased in over 10 years to allow the industry to adapt. Tougher standards will first be applied to all government-funded housing schemes.