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Published yesterday, the “Creating Warmer Homes” policy briefing comes from the London-based climate solutions charity Ashden and offers inspiration and practical retrofit advice for both local authorities and the national government. Report author Cara Jenkinson said that homes are responsible for 35 percent of the UK’s energy use and generate 20 percent of UK carbon dioxide emissions. Ms Jenkinson said: “We can’t create a low-carbon UK without drastic action to make [homes] more efficient. Furthermore, cold, damp and inefficient homes are unhealthy to live in and bring misery to residents.”

According to Ashden, with 80–85 percent of UK homes likely to still be standing in 2050 and our housing stock still among the most energy inefficient in Europe, a national programme of upgrades needs to be undertaken at lightning speed.

Ms Jenkinson added: “Retrofit of homes is too slow due to a lack of skilled installers and policy uncertainty.

“The country needs to learn from those local authorities that are leading the way.

“A rapid retrofit response by councils, supported by long-term funding, clearer regulation and a substantial investment in retrofit skills would kickstart a retrofit revolution country-wide.”

The “Creating Warmer Homes” briefing outlines how retrofitting homes might play a major role in the Government’s ambitious target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 78 percent by 2035, catalyse the “Levelling Up” agenda and help tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

The report draws on both 40 case studies of council climate actions prepared with Friends of the Earth as well as insights from Ashden’s awards process, which seeks out pioneering climate innovation to highlight.

Ashden also incorporated the experiences and views of the councils in the charity’s regional local authority learning networks and the outcomes of partnership work with organisations including the London South Bank University, the Nationwide Building Society and the UK Green Building Council.

Action is urgently needed amid the present cost-of-living crisis, Ms Jenkinson noted.

She said: “Up to 12 million people could face fuel poverty by October, with half living in homes that don’t meet the government’s recommended energy efficiency standards.”

Central to Ashden’s recommendations and supported by many in the building sector is the introduction of a National Retrofit Strategy.

This would include the reformation of the apprenticeship system to help colleges, businesses, trainers and those looking for stable and future-proof jobs.

In fact, the report notes, retrofitting just one-fifth of Greater Manchester’s 1.2 million homes, for example, would generate £3–5.4billion of economic activity.

According to Government statistics, 48 percent of fuel-poor homes fall below the Government’s energy performance certificate (EPC) “C” rating.

Moreover, the most poorly performing homes — with an EPC “G” rating — use three times as much energy as the best-performing houses.

Ms Jenkinson said: “Improving insulation really is the priority, providing a triple win.

“By insulating homes, we reduce national carbon emissions, keep people warm and healthy, and boost local jobs.

“To do this makes sense, would be popular and socially and environmentally proactive.”

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Ashden is also calling on the Government to introduce further incentives and finance for retrofits, including a variable stamp duty Land Tax for more efficient homes and confirming the £9.2billion committed to retrofit and low carbon heat in the 2019 Conservative manifesto and invest an additional £0.5billion for insulation measures by 2024.

Ms Jenkinson said: “The challenge of decarbonising homes can seem overwhelming.

“But examples of proven, practical innovation show that government and local authorities can accelerate action in this crucial area.”

She concluded: “The time to act is now.”

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