Labour urges UK to “rapidly invest in wide-scale retrofitting” of homes

Elliot Chappell

Ed Miliband has urged the Tories to commit to “rapidly invest in wide-scale retrofitting” after a new report called on the government to retrofit 2.7 million homes across the North of England within the decade.

Responding to a paper published by the Institute for Public Policy (IPPR) North, the Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary stressed the benefits for both the environment and jobs in the country’s Covid recovery.

On the fresh research released by the think tank, Miliband argued: “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.”

Labour published its green economic recovery plan last week, developed following a consultation on a green new deal launched by the Shadow Business and Energy Secretary in June earlier this year.

Miliband added: “Labour has called for ministers to bring forward £30bn in capital investment in a green economic recovery to help create hundreds of thousands of low-carbon jobs in the next 18 months.”

The report put forward by IPPR North today states that retrofitting homes across the North of England could create 77,000 new jobs in the region as well as 111,000 supply chain jobs across the UK by 2035.

The retrofitting measures specified include fitting insulation and removing gas boilers, which are a key contributor to household emissions, from people’s homes and replacing them with heat pumps and heat networks.

The think tank also highlighted that doing so could produce a £3.85bn gross value added (GVA) boost each year for the North and £5.61m GVA boost every year in supply chains across the UK.

The report shows that of the 6.8 million homes in the region, almost one in four were built before 1919 and 44% were built before 1944. 1.35 million fail to meet decent home standards, which can be dangerous.

IPPR North’s Marcus Johns said: “64 councils and combined authorities in the North have declared a climate emergency, but the nation isn’t doing enough… If everyone in the world lived like the average UK citizen, we would need 2.5 planets’ worth of resources.

“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.”

The research organisation explained that the rapid retrofit of the 2.7 million homes would require an investment of £2.36bn a year over this decade, at least half of which – £1.18bn – it has said must be grant funded by government.

Miliband and Anneliese Dodds challenged the Conservative administration last week to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 new jobs as part of a green economic recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Shadow Business and Energy Secretary Miliband argued that “we get bang for our buck if we invest in green”, urging the government to seize the opportunity to both provide jobs for the UK and help combat the climate emergency.

Commenting on Monday ahead of an expected announcement from Boris Johnson of a ‘ten-point plan’ to tackle climate change, Miliband emphasised the need to ensure that the coming proposal “meets the scale of the challenge”.

The unveiling of the Prime Minister’s plan has been repeatedly delayed, with reports of a clash between Downing Street and the Treasury, but Johnson tweeted last week that he is “looking forward to shortly setting out my ten-point plan”.

Labour sources have suggested to LabourList that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could be behind the delay in the release of the low-carbon industrial revolution plan that was first trailed in Johnson’s 2020 Tory conference speech.

The plan is expected to include commitments on energy efficiency; offshore wind; the power system; nuclear; carbon capture; hydrogen; innovation funding for net-zero; transport; green financing; and natural environment investment.

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