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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Upgrading Our Homes to Fight the Climate Crisis

Friday, 03 September 2021

I wrote in my blog last month that we are now at a critical point in the global fight against human-driven climate change. All the scientific research confirms that the actions we take over the next few decades will decide whether or not much of our planet will remain habitable for life as we know it.
When we talk about issues that are happening on a global scale, it can sometimes be all too easy to be overwhelmed by what needs to be done. Many people I’ve talked to are deeply concerned about climate change, but are sceptical that the actions of individuals, local authorities or even countries will be able to make a difference. Today I want to break down that myth, and talk about some things we could easily do right here and now in the North of England to take the fight to the climate crisis.

One of these focuses on that most crucial of issues, housing. The housing stock in Britain is the oldest in Europe, which often leads to it being cold, leaky and energy inefficient. As a result, no less than a quarter of our countries territorial carbon emissions can be linked directly to energy use in our buildings – electricity as well as gas, oil and other fuels for heat.

The government’s own energy efficiency targets, which call for Britain to become carbon neutral by 2050, requires as many homes as possible to reach Band C on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The EPC is the nationally-recognised metric for grading the energy efficiency of homes, and provides a rating between A (most energy efficient) and G (least energy efficient). At the moment almost two-third of all the homes in the North, over 4 million in total, are below Band C in energy efficiency on this scale.

The only way to bring these homes up to an acceptable level, short of knocking them down and starting again, is to retrofit and upgrade them to be more energy efficient. This can mean a wide variety of things, but usually involves a combination of insulating lofts, filling in cavity walls, replacing old windows with airtight frames and double- or triple-glazing, and replacing old boilers with modern and efficient alternatives. Due to the sheer number of homes that need work, it is estimated that we will need to retrofit 269,175 homes a year in the North from now until 2035 to meet the government’s target. That’s 737.5 homes a day, 30.7 per hour, or 2 a minute.

That might sound like a big ask, and it is, but successfully retrofitting our aging housing stock would have other benefits that go far beyond energy efficiency. A building programme on this kind of scale requires skilled tradesmen and employees to carry it out. Decarbonising the North’s homes by 2035 could create as many as 77,000 direct jobs in the North alone, and 111,000 more jobs indirectly across the UK. The North also accounts for 33% of the total number of households in fuel poverty – those unable to afford proper heating in the winter – in England. The difficulty in keeping our homes warm is also responsible for a number of physical health conditions such as respiratory illnesses and rheumatism, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Retrofitting homes would therefore result in a huge benefit for public health and personal comfort as well.

It’s for these reasons that the Northern Housing Consortium, representing more than 140 councils and housing associations in the North, has called upon the Chancellor to live up to his government’s promises by investing £3.8 billion in retrofitting our social housing, and a further £2.5 billion in Home Upgrade Grants for low-income private renters and owner-occupiers. In Tameside itself, we’re taking action to compel house builders to meet strict energy efficiency standards on new developments such as the Godley Green Garden Village, and working with local landlords to help them access the government’s Green Homes Grant.


Upgrading the North’s housing stock to be fit for purpose for the 21st century is an ambitious but deliverable way to strike a blow against the climate crisis. We have the technology and the knowhow to start it tomorrow. All that is missing is the funding and the political will. Let’s work together to get it done. 

Posted by: Executive Leader

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