"Can the UK come back and take the lead over Germany in the fight against climate change?"

Well, it is not only football where we seem to get beaten in extra time by the Germans, I have just been wading my way through a comprehensive pack of measures launched over the last couple of years, enabling ordinary German citizens along with businesses and communities to modernise their housing, particularly delivering on energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions from buildings. 

Just to give you some sort of sense of scale, in 2007, about 80,000 low interest loans totalling €5 billion (yes €5 billion) were granted under the Reducing CO2 emissions from Buildings programme in Germany.  This went towards establishing energy efficiency in over 200,000 existing or newly built homes.  In addition €600 million went towards modernising 600 schools and 1,200 day care centres for children with significant increases in the energy efficiency of both new and existing buildings.

The good news for the German economy does not just stop there however. It is also estimated by the Bremmer Energy Institute that these “investments” helped to secure existing jobs and will create around 220,000 new jobs every year in German small and medium size construction companies.   In total from 2006 to 2009 the Federal Government will make about €4 billion available to reduce CO2 emissions from buildings, which it has already announced will continue until 2011.  I could go on.

These financing packages are not only generous, they are also sensibly constructed, capped at a level that gives a decent incentive for consumers and developers alike to carry out the necessary investment in family houses, apartments and public buildings.  Not only that, if the measures that are carried out they deliver a 30 per cent reduction against existing housing standards the owner receives a grant of up to 20 per cent of those investment costs, so there is a double incentive to do the right thing.  If you get the message we are already 3-0 down and it’s not even half time yet!  The way in which these schemes are incentivised and structured makes them even more compelling proposition, with some schemes offering repayment free start up years and then repayment periods running from 5 to 30 years with a fixed interest rate for the first five or ten years.  Well – the games up, I think it is about time that we started getting serious in the UK in regards to what is necessary to deliver a decent housing standard for the lamentable housing that still exists in all four countries that make up the Union.

The good news, however, is that we have not yet reached full time and if we are quick about it, and I can’t say I am entirely confident, there is still an opportunity for a late equaliser or dream of dreams a winner in extra time.  If we don’t then Euro 2008 won’t be the only competition we fail to qualify for!