It said that towns and cities across the region will see a huge increase in carbon dioxide emissions without urgent action. Exeter will see the highest rise, with a 24 per cent increase in domestic carbon emissions, if proposals to build 18,500 homes are delivered to current minimum standards, according to WWF.
In Plymouth the development of 31,500 homes would result in an 18 per cent increase, while in Taunton around 14,000 homes would lead to a 17 per cent rise, it added. This compares to a 12 per cent average increase across the rest of the South West.
But the research shows that if all future developments are built to high environmental standards carbon emissions could be reduced by around 30 per cent. WWF regional development officer Mark Ellis-Jones said: "How we build housing today will shape the way people live and work for many years to come."
The body, which is pushing for sustainability checklists to accompany major planning applications, criticised plans for a major settlement in Cranbrook near Exeter for failing to meet the eco-homes "very good" standard.
Paul Davis of Persimmon Homes, part of the consortium behind the scheme, said he could not comment on the ecological standard of the homes as it has yet to be agreed as part of section 106 negotiations.