Britain's New Green Deal

The British coalition government has announced plans to retrofit the country's 26 million famously drafty homes (if you've spent any time in the UK, you know what I am talking about). Yale's environment 360 is running an interview with UK Energy and Climate Minister Greg Barker where he explains how the new "Green Deal" is going to work. I've posted a few excerpts below.

Writing from North America -- where a similar US program is under fire, and the Conservative Canadian government is irrationally opposed to any form of climate action -- it is particularly interesting to see how climate policy in the UK seems to have become a non-partisan issue.

Barker speaks with all the verve for the power of the market that you would expect from a Conservative. But then he quotes ground breaking environmental economist Herman Daly's famous zinger that the economy is "a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." Barker's  main argument is that the government needs to make judicious and dependable interventions into how energy efficiency is financed, and then let the market do the rest of the work. He also pushes the idea that the UK needs to develop a full renewable energy supply chain to establish its leadership in the sector.

I'm not convinced that the type of dramatic shift we are aiming for can be brought about entirely by intelligent market regulation. If we are going to get to zero carbon, or anywhere close, more direct government intervention is going to be necessary. Carbon based fuels have dominated our energy systems and economies for 300 years, they aren't going to give it up easily. 

But smart dependable economic policies are a good way to start. And, crucially, they also seem to be something that both the centre-left and center-right can agree on. [For a surprising quote from the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, be sure to scroll down on e360 and watch the first few minutes of the video].

From the Interview:

"What we’re going to do is go away from the stop-go, government-funded programs, and through using smart regulation, open up this market to the private sector. We believe we can create a market that will bring in billions of pounds of investment into energy efficiency for homes and businesses. We’re going to create a mechanism whereby the cost of making these [energy-efficiency] measures can all be financed through pay-as-you-save models, with the finance being repaid over a period of 20 years through the bill on each individual property.

Now, that’s a big change. To date it had to be paid upfront, either by the individual homeowner or through a grant. By pinning the repayments to the bill of the property, it means it’s not a debt. It’s not even a mortgage. It doesn’t need to be credit-scored, because if the individual living in that particular home moves, dies, ownership changes, or they cease to rent, it stays on the bill of that property, just like the conventional energy bill."

"There are three things to business, which we think are absolutely essential ingredients for long-term success of the transition to a low-carbon economy. We think business needs these three things in government policy: transparency, longevity, and certainty — TLC, if you like. And too often in the past, the short-term measures have been tinkering with policy, which has sent confused and mixed messages to the investment community. What we need to see is actually fewer interventions in the market. But when we do intervene, we need to do so in a very robust fashion that is transparent, clear, and gives real long-term certainty to business."


3 Responses to "Britain's New Green Deal"

Elaine said... 15 November 2010 at 10:35


I am trying to contact you via email but my computer will not let me click the "contact me" link. Can you please provide your email in a post/comment?

Alex Aylett said... 15 November 2010 at 11:55

Hi Elaine,
you can reach me at

Blogger said... 26 January 2017 at 02:59

You might qualify for a new solar rebate program.
Click here to discover if you're eligble now!


This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.