We can only do so much on energy efficiency without government intervention

With candidates pledging action as the Tory leadership race pushes on, the opportunity to encourage our country to reach net zero has never been greater. Outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson’s previous pledges created a lack of trust, and many question how we can be part of the net-zero journey without material action. With 64% of voters supporting the country’s transition to net zero by 2050, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are in a position to make a serious impact with more than just words.

Everyone must play their part. To date, businesses around the country have been stepping up and making the changes they can, in order to transition to a net-zero economy. But this only goes so far without government support.

The government needs to ensure it’s introducing appropriate policies, such as the Heat and Buildings Strategy, which outlines the necessity to implement clean heat technology to meet net zero by 2050.

The government should also reform obstacles the sector is facing, like the National Planning Policy Framework, which poses more questions than answers when it comes to planning policies. Without everyone’s efforts, achieving net zero will be impossible.

The housing sector’s sustainability strategy

Take the housing sector. Homes account for around 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Inefficient housing has led around 2.4 million UK households to experience fuel poverty. Unsurprisingly, landlords are being questioned about what they are doing to decrease the sector’s carbon footprint, but also how they plan to help their customers.

The sector is introducing policies to cut business emissions, reduce waste and encourage biodiversity. This is an incredible demonstration of commitment, but tangible difference to our sector’s environmental footprint will only be felt by increasing the energy efficiency of homes.

For housing associations like ours, customers remain at the heart of all decisions. Any sustainability strategy that affects the customer – such as improving the energy efficiency of homes, which will affect bills – must be rooted in whether this will benefit them as well as the planet.

Customers are at the centre of our sustainability strategy

At Vivid, we pose the question: will our sustainability strategy make our homes cheaper to live in, as well as greener?

In the cost-of-living crisis our country is facing, the cost-saving element of living in an energy-efficient home is what’s most appealing to our customers. Data suggests that customers in houses with an energy performance certificate of band C will pay half as much for their energy compared with customers in E-rated homes.

Alongside the savings that energy-efficient homes pass on to our customers, there are also business benefits. Higher energy-rated homes have fewer repair needs, fewer customer contacts, increased customer satisfaction and lower void turnover. This means more time and money can be invested in helping our customers lead greener, more sustainable lives.

We have set aside £700m in our business plan for our sustainable strategy across our portfolio of homes, which we will continue to build on over time. Our first action is to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, meeting the 2030 target and going one step further by spending £90m and building all new homes to a minimum band-B EPC rating. Most of our homes can reach this level with insulation and double glazing. This will make a significant difference to our customers’ energy costs, while simultaneously reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

What we want to see from our new leader

At Vivid, we’re taking sustainability very seriously, but we can only do so much. Through tangible action, the government needs to provide us with a platform we can trust – we don’t need more pledges. The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which has allocated £179m to help retrofit 20,000 social homes to improve their energy efficiency, is a significant starting point, but we know this funding won’t be enough.

Both candidates are keen to talk about cuts, but not cutting the UK’s carbon emissions. Ms Truss has spoken about axing green levies, a tax that helps fund social and environmental policies, while Mr Sunak is keen to scrap VAT on domestic fuel bills. Both policies will do little to cut the UK’s carbon footprint.

We need to see schemes being introduced to help our green ambitions become realities. We want to see more policies like the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework in order to help and not hinder the decarbonisation of homes.

For net zero by 2050 to be achievable, everyone needs to play their part. We’re now waiting on the government to play theirs.