Most local communities want affordable housing for their children, and lower carbon emissions; and it is easy to imagine a way of consulting over the location for new 'eco' development that would be vastly less contentious than getting developers to submit bids to central government. It is damaging to genuine efforts towards a lower carbon footprint that unsustainable projects such as some of the 'eco-town' sites are badged with the 'eco' label. Cynicism about the impact of low-carbon policies on everyday life is already increasing, and if popular suspicion reads every government 'green' initiative as a covert way of doing something unpopular, support for measures that might genuinely do good may well wither away.
The same goes for products that are dubiously badged 'eco'. Like the rest of the world, I was at Ecobuild for a few hours this week and left dispirited at the crude rebranding of plastic and aluminium windows, timber products shipped across the Atlantic, and unrecyclable insulation as 'green'. Prize for the most absurd 'green' product probably goes to the "basalt fibre reinforced polymer" wall-tie which is supposedly better than the steel one because it minimises thermal conductivity; this may never take off in the building industry but some of the more serious products are equally contradictory.
One problem is that the word 'sustainable' is so fuzzy that terms such as 'eco' and 'zero-carbon' have been seized upon as substitutes, although they tend to narrow the debate to something purely technical. There is a need to reclaim the debate from the point-scoring of codes and percentages, however difficult it is to do so in language that is clear and unambiguous. Otherwise there is no way that our carbon emissions are really going to reduce - we need to address the system, not just the symptoms.