A parliamentary inquiry has been launched today into what ministers, property owners, city leaders and occupiers need to do ‘to green’ the country’s offices, shops and factories.

The All Party Urban Development Group, a cross-party committee of MPs and peers focused on regeneration policy, is holding the enquiry, calling for submissions from central government, and the public and private sectors, on the reforms needed to reduce the environmental footprint of existing buildings.

Buildings contribute just under half of all carbon emissions and so moves to increase their efficiency are crucial to curbing such emissions. However new buildings represent 1% to 2% of the total stock and commentators say tackling existing buildings should be seen as a priority.

The inquiry will look into:

• improving energy efficiency of existing buildings;

• barriers to reducing emissions; and

• regulation, fiscal incentives, penalties and educational campaigns needed to address these barriers effectively.

Urban Development Group chairman, Clive Betts MP, said: ‘There is no doubt at all about the urgency of responding to the threat of climate change. The Stern Review made a compelling case about the economic costs and risks of inaction. The built environment accounts for 50pc of the UK’s carbon emissions, and while debate has so far largely focused on the carbon footprint of people’s homes, less attention has been paid to the energy efficiency of commercial buildings – which accounts for half of this figure.'