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Improve household energy efficiency to ‘level up’ Northern England - report

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A programme of insulating old homes and connecting them up to heat networks in the North of England would help to lower the UK’s carbon footprint and provide an economic boost to an area struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report from think tank IPPR North said the recommendations should be a key part of the Government’s efforts to ‘level up’ the North’s economy in a time of pandemic.

Currently, direct emissions from housing need to be reduced by 24 per cent by 2030 to meet the UK’s Paris Agreement commitments, and further impetus is required to meet the legally binding net zero 2050 target, let alone the 2030-2040 targets of many of the North’s local authorities.

IPPR said many northerners have been “left behind” with regional inequalities set to worsen in the context of the pandemic.

It recommends a policy of retrofitting to improve energy efficiency in over 5 million northern households as well as replacing polluting heating systems with heat pumps in 4.6 million homes. The plan recommends linking an additional 1.1 million northern homes to heat networks.

The report finds that the measures would create 77,000 direct jobs in the North and 111,000 indirect jobs across the UK by 2035 with a lifetime investment in the programme of £143bn required.

Social housing providers were singled out as the “key players” as they can institute large scale home improvement projects that should drive supply chain development.

The Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change has warned rapid action is needed to reduce the amount of energy homes are using in the first place by making them more efficient and for gas boilers to be replaced by clean technology such as heat pumps, to meet goals to tackle global warming.

A study in June suggested that a broad programme of home energy efficiency improvements could go a long way to dragging the UK’s flailing economy out of the pandemic.

Marcus Johns, research fellow at IPPR North and report author, said: “Decarbonisation isn’t an option – it’s vital for our region, our country and our planet.

“Not only will it make a difference to the world we live in, but it could also help us to create high-quality jobs in a healthier, greener, economically just North.

“As we approach an incredibly tough winter, during which time people living in fuel poverty and non-decent homes will be disproportionately affected, the time for Government invest in a green stimulus into the North is now.

“But make no mistake, failing to do so will result in further ‘levelling down’ of northern housing.”

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The UK’s homes are some of the worst insulated and least energy-efficient in Europe, and improving UK housing is crucial to meeting climate objectives.

“The Government must rapidly invest in wide-scale retrofitting which would support the creation of jobs, tackling rising unemployment and the climate emergency at the same time.

“IPPR North’s research provides yet more evidence this is the right thing to do and could create jobs right across the north of England.”

A Business Department spokesperson said: “We completely agree that retrofitting homes can have a positive impact on both jobs and the climate. So that’s exactly why we are investing £2 billion in the Green Homes Grant scheme, helping with the costs of energy-efficiency upgrades in 600,000 English homes so households can cut their bills and emissions.

“The scheme will support 100,000 jobs as we build back greener and we encourage tradespeople in the North to become accredited and registered to take part in the scheme.”

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