I spent the day at the BRE in Watford attending their Insite 09 exhibition. I went today (Tuesday) because there was a conference on the Existing Stock and, in particular, how to reduce the carbon emissions created by it. This is a debate I want to be part of.
As I pulled up at the entrance gate, I was handed a leaflet explaining where I should park. It told me I wasn’t allowed to do more than 20mph on site, that I musn’t smoke, nor should I attempt to use a mobile phone whilst driving the quarter mile through the site. It also told me not to park on the cross-hatched areas, nor the double yellow lines. And finally it warned me that if I broke any of these rules I would be asked to leave the site and my behaviour would be reported to my employers. All to get from the entrance gate to the car park at the back of the site. Welcome to the BRE.
The conference speakers were thoughtful and articulate, but I couldn’t help feeling that the suggestions being put forward were not really going to get to the root of the problem. Nick Raynsford, the Construction Industries’ pet MP, expressed his frustration with the Treasury which repeatedly refuses to pursue a more progressive taxation regime which might encourage green refurbishment.
In the Q&A I asked him if it was not now time to introduce a carbon tax on domestic energy bills: whilst the cost of petrol at the pump is nearly 70% tax, domestic fuel has just 5% added to it in VAT. His answer was informative: he suggested that the Fuel Cost Escalator had not been popular, especially when oil prices went through the roof last year, and that the government would risk facing “a huge surge of anger” if it brought in something similar on gas and electricity bills. I wouldn’t have thought that bothered the government too much. Afterall, it didn’t stop them going to war in Iraq? Or for that matter fiddling their expenses? So what’s their problem?