Experts in green finance gave a broad welcome to prime minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan to create a green industrial revolution – but warned that they lack the government cash required and a supply side that is capable of pushing the measures through.
The group, headed by Green Finance Institute director Emma Harvey, were speaking at ‘Retrofitting London’s homes; case studies of green finance solutions’, a webinar this week that aimed to show practical case studies financing solutions to retrofit residential stocks and as a response to last week’s NLA Zero Carbon London report.
Harvey said it was ‘fantastic’ to see government taking a ‘strong and ambitious approach on climate change’, captured by the 10-point plan, especially the extension of the Green Homes Grant for a year as an important boon to retrofitting homes. Louise Wilson of Abundance Investment added that although she felt that the plan was a ‘ragbag mix of things’ it was under-resourced and that perhaps it was time to petition for sustainability to be a statutory responsibility for local authorities. ‘There’s nothing inconsistent between coming out of a pandemic economic fallout and going green, transitioning to low carbon’, she said. ‘Let’s put the two together and make it beneficial overall’.
Sarah Fletcher, Principal Policy & Programme Officer, Greater London Authority said she also welcomed the plan and particularly its focus on homes and public buildings because retrofit often tends to lose out. ‘It’s just absolutely nowhere near enough there in terms of the levels of funding that are required. It’s £12 billion of funding but on the estimates that we’ve done, London would need £60bn alone. So there’s quite a gap’.
Cllr Rishi Madlani, LB Camden and Head of Sustainable Finance & Just Transition | Sustainable Banking, Natwest said it was in a sense ‘too little, too late’ with a lot more detail needed. But the resources question was also a glaring one when compared to investment on the continent, for example in places like France and Germany with their E30-E40 billion recovery plans.
Derek Wilson, Senior Sustainable Development Manager, TfL, said that the welcome push by government on this issue was not a concern in terms of its scale of ambition but on the ‘disconnect’ between policy and the supply chain. ‘The supply chain is just not tooled up to be delivering what policy calls for’, he said. ‘Until we get that guidance and upskill the entire sector to be able to deliver against those targets, it's not going to be particularly effective - and we don't have a lot of time’.
The session had earlier looked at issues including the launch of the Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Building, and what Harvey said was the need for action to move ‘beyond just policy and activism’. ‘What we actually need is for the markets to come behind this agenda’, she said. There were also new initiatives to allow people to invest as little as £5 into business, projects and even local authorities undertaking initiatives to address the climate emergency; the creation of Building Renovation Passports to help ‘scale up retrofit’ and form a renovation plan; and green rental agreements. With roughly one million homes needed to be retrofitted in the UK each year to meet net zero targets by 2050, landlords need incentives, which is where green leases come in, where savings are split between landlord and tenant. Ultimately, said Wilson, if companies want to deliver ‘robust financial returns’, in ann age of a new awareness of climate change issues, it is simple. ‘If you don’t have a sustainable building, your rents are going to be discounted’, he said.