Embrace local solutions to meet UK net-zero targets, urge the APPG on the Green New Deal
Cross-party group recommends policies such as mortgage penalty for landlords of energy-inefficient homes
The UK will need to embrace innovative, community-based solutions to environmental and energy problems if it is to have any hope of meeting looming net-zero deadlines, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has recommended.
A report by the all-party group on a green new deal argues for a combination of robust, top-down policies on green issues including localised power generation, food and transport schemes. Recommendations include a mortgage penalty for landlords who let energy-inefficient homes, and also real community decision-making, notably on power schemes.
Highlighting projects such as one in Gwynedd, north Wales, in which locals buy electricity from a community hydroplant at below grid prices, with a further discount for off-peak use, they recommend changes to regulations to incentivise such schemes.
As part of the “energy club” in Bethesda, homes pay as little as 8p per kW/h overnight, with bills staying lower than grid prices if they do not cumulatively use more energy than the local plant produces, with savings from power being generated nearby.
One of the report’s recommendations is for a so-called right of local supply, as seen in some other European countries, which would incentivise such systems through improved access to the grid, and assistance with providing power to local people.
Such changes are vital, the report said, if the UK is to meet the first of its major net zero targets, to reduce carbon emissions by 68% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The report, based on a series of evidence sessions, including with academics, energy experts and devolved mayors, calls for ambitious centralised targets and incentives alongside localism, citing rules such as those in France obliging new buildings to have solar or natural roofs, and in Denmark and Netherlands where new developments are barred from being connected to the gas grid.
More generally, the report says, the 2030 target should become a binding obligation for all projects planned by public sector organisations and agencies.
Among ideas to improve home energy efficiency, the report says any buy-to-let rental properties with an energy performance certificate below C should face a 1% levy on mortgage interest – which would be fully refunded if the band was attained within three years.
Another proposed boost for localism would be a 50% business rate reduction for food outlets that can show at least half their produce is grown within 50 miles.
Another call for devolved control comes in transport, with the report calling for local authorities to get powers to provide integrated public transit services, with funding for free or low cost fares, and money for schemes like that in Barcelona, where people who get rid of their car are given three years of free local travel.
Another example the report calls on to be expanded is a levy on workplace parking introduced in Nottingham, used to help fund the city’s tram system.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP who co-chairs the group, said: “We know that every home can be its own power station. But now we need national government to power up communities with the finance, resources and regulatory frameworks to help them scale up and thrive.”
The other co-chair, the Labour MP Clive Lewis, said: “The greenest shoots of the economic transition demanded by the climate emergency are found in the transformatory and locally led initiatives we see up and down the UK.
“Central government needs to step up and let local people lead, by equitably distributing resources and decentralising decision-making power.”