A report on UK housing published by the Committee on Climate Change provided a damning outlook. The CCC, an official advisory panel to the Government, extensively criticised the UK’s approach to tackling climate change in its housing stock. Numerous problems with funding, policies and targets were called out, building a picture the country is as far from its commitments as it could be.
One comment that stood out, but which drew little attention, was around standards. The Commission pointed to the various rules and regulations successive Governments had introduced, all of which were laudable on their own. However, it also observed enforcement was patchy and that while a house may be designed to meet regulations, what gets built could be an entirely different matter.
Lack of enforcement was not a surprise
Problems with house building in the UK shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Countless stories have appeared over recent months where a family buys a newly built home, only to find it almost uninhabitable. Invariably the stories tell of a surveyor being called in who finds substantial faults and questions asked about how it got through building control.
Poor enforcement of regulation isn’t a problem limited to the UK. In Osaka in 2018, what should have been an earthquake proof wall collapsed on a schoolgirl and killed her. The investigation that followed uncovered other examples of poor workmanship being signed off as acceptable under the city’s strict earthquake proofing codes. Other examples can be found across the globe, often only uncovered when disaster strikes, or an independent commission asks questions.
Can we deliver the Paris Agreement if regulations aren’t enforced?
Almost every country has signed up to the Paris Agreement, committing them to substantial reductions in CO2 and other emissions. To achieve these targets, laws, regulations and codes are being introduced at breakneck speed. Governments and activities cheer these moves as “progressive” and positive steps in tackling the issues of climate change.
Yet rules are nothing unless they are enforced and those who bypass them punished. As telling as an announcement about additional laws should be the investment put into ensuring an appropriate inspection regime is in place. When those who flout or bypass the rules, the determination with which they are investigated, prosecuted and punished is as important as the rules themselves.
As a former colleague from my days of financial services compliance observed, without enforcement, all rules are is PR.
Image courtesy of West Midlands Police