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Sustainability could be 'dragged down by weak political leadership'

Weak political leadership has damaged green energy and sustainable building projects, a panel of experts has warned.

According to Construction News, the panel, speaking at Ecobuild, agreed that the government needed to do more to establish a framework for the use of green energy and sustainable building regulations.

Miles Keeping, a partner at Deloitte Real Estate, said that the government should “set a framework and give us [the industry] a trajectory” for green regulations.

“We need to know what the playing field is going to look like in 10, 20 years’ time,” he said.

But he also called on the industry to “demonstrate leadership” to the government.

“My fear is we are dragged down by weak political leadership”, he added.

The panel was in agreement that no major political party has offered long-term green policies.

Louise Ellison, head of sustainability at Hammerson, said that none of the parties had shown “an understanding of energy security and supply from a business perspective”.

“I don’t see anybody addressing long-term issues like Hinckley,” she said.

“We have a very miserablist approach to windfarms and long-term planning - there’s a complete absence of long-term strategy about energy.”

When looking at ways to improve how green real estate is regulated, Stuart Laidlaw, national technical manager at Capital & Regional, said that there was “far too much legislation and far too many acronyms.”

“Air quality regulation, for example, is something that’s been missed by all political parties,” he added.

The panel also agreed that fracking was not a viable option for Britain’s energy generation needs.

“I struggle to see how fracking is part of a sustainable future,” said Mr Keeping.

Ms Ellison added that “fracking can’t be a viable policy on a local level,” and said that it was “absolutely not part of a long-term, low-carbon future.”

The panel also suggested ways to improve investment in green energy and green real estate.

Phillipa Shire, general counsel at Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), said that BREAAM regulations could be made part of the planning system.

Ms Ellison argued that the UK needed to “shift assets away from fossil fuels” into green energy that “could give higher returns.”

“That would open up more investment into renewables, but there is a concern that it might be short term and investments could be kicked down the road a bit,” she said.

The panel argued that political parties needed to be doing more to work together to bring green building policies to the forefront.

Mr Laidlaw gave the example of Scotland, where a cross-party panel has been working to plan energy benchmarks for the future, but added that legislation is still being missed by the major parties.

“Clean energy generation is still the elephant in the room,” he said.

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