It could help us to create high-quality jobs in a healthier, greener, economically just North.
Making homes in the north of England cosier and greener could create thousands of jobs, boost the economy and help the “levelling-up” agenda, a report has said.
Retrofitting northern homes with energy-efficiency measures such as insulation and replacing polluting gas boilers with clean heat pumps and heat networks could create jobs needed for recovery from the pandemic, it said.
The report from think tank IPPR North suggests that the move could create 77,000 additional jobs in the north of England and 111,000 supply chain jobs across the UK by 2035.
It could also bring in a £3.85 billion boost each year to the north, as well as a £5.61 billion boost in supply chains countrywide, and tackle fuel poverty and health problems caused by living in cold, draughty homes, the report argued.
It calls for a rapid retrofit of all social housing within a decade to benefit 1.27 million homes in the north, to “pump-prime” the economy for a larger decarbonisation programme.
It would require an investment of £2.36 billion a year in that time – at least half of which should be grant funded by the Government.
Emissions from homes account for almost a fifth of the UK’s total carbon dioxide pollution, mostly from heating, as well as cooking with gas.
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.
Retrofitting homes is a particular challenge for the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, the IPPR North report warns.
Of 6.8 million homes, almost one in four were built before 1919 and 44% were built before 1944, making retrofitting a bigger job, and 1.35 million fail to meet decent homes standards.
There are also 731,500 fuel poor homes in the North, but action to retrofit homes will reduce bills, making it easier for people to have warm, healthy homes, the report said.
But improving people’s lives, reducing fuel poverty, creating jobs and boosting the economy will help the Government with its stated aim to “level up” the inequalities between the North and South, and tackle climate change, it said.
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.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.