I’ve come to the conclusion that of all the Enemies of Sustainability in this wretched Government, Eric Pickles may well be the worst of the lot. I’ve been tracking his increasingly hostile, irrational interventions over a number of years, and I’m forced to conclude that our Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government consciously sets out to damage the cause of the environment at every available opportunity.

Courtesy of the indefatigable Andrew Warren, Honorary President of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, let me just share with you the two latest examples.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Pickles announced that he intends to get rid of what are called ‘Display Energy Certificates’. These Certificates (showing actual energy consumption) are required for all public buildings over 1,000m2 – all 54,000 of them in England and Wales.

The good thing is that we know this simple mandate actually works. Between 2008 and 2009, just after the DEC system was introduced, public buildings reduced energy consumption by 2% more than their private sector counterparts – a piece of evidence that persuaded David Cameron, in opposition, to promise that he would extend this mandate for DECs to all private, commercial buildings of the same size.

Once elected, Cameron promptly shed his opportunistically acquired green skin, and has proved to be so pathetically weak on this agenda that this simple step hasn’t happened.

Worse yet, he seems indifferent to the crusade of his Community Secretary against all things green, and is therefore very unlikely to intervene to stop him getting rid of DECs in the public sector.

Pickles’ ‘rationale’ (I use that word somewhat sceptically) for ditching the DEC is that it costs too much for public bodies to do the annual survey required to analyse actual energy consumption. The total sum involved is around £750,000 every year.

But when you set that against the full amount of money saved through the improved energy efficiency in those buildings, you begin to wonder what is going on here. Andrew Warren politely reveals how insane this decision looks:
“When the Department of Energy and Climate Change moved into its HQ at 3 Whitehall Place, its DEC had a rating of G. That caught my attention, and the attention of countless others who visited the building, and could see the DEC hung up in the foyer. The unflattering spotlight being shone on the Department played its part in stinging the Department into action. Subsequently, it has improved its building’s energy consumption to a rating of C, saving £156,000 annually on fuel bills in the process. Those are the savings already achieved in just one building. One building out of 54,000.”

My second example: in another corner of the environment-free zone that DCLG has become, Pickles has instructed his officials to work out how best to unpick the long-standing agreement amongst the major parties that all new homes built after 2016 should be zero carbon. This is an objective that will become legally binding in 2019.

One idea those civil servants have come up with is to exempt smaller builders (with developments of ten or fewer homes) from this requirement – in other words, ensure that anyone who buys a new home from one of those smaller builders will end up with a house with higher energy bills and lower comfort levels – with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere that would otherwise have been avoided.

Unless Pickles finds a way of slipping this crazy policy under the wire, he may not get away with it on this occasion. For once, the Committee on Climate Change would seem to be on his case:
“No rationale has been provided for the exemption for small developments. It is not clear why the economics of efficiency measures or low-carbon heating should significantly differ from large developments. This proposal should, therefore, be dropped, unless the Government can show clear evidence of its value.”

This week sees the annual Ecobuild event at ExCeL in Docklands. Sadly, I won’t be there this year, as I just love sharing Ecobuild’s celebration of smart companies and entrepreneurs who years ago embraced the whole green building imperative.

I can only hope that some of the more radical exhibitors will take time out to burn an appropriately sized effigy of Secretary of State Pickles. I know he’d actually love such a moment of notoriety, but so would a lot of other people.

This arch enemy of sustainability has to be confronted at every turn.