North/south divide 'blocking' net-zero ambitions

North south divide-shutterstock-2217577647

The north-east has the longest road to decarbonising its high-emissions homes, with no change at all in the proportion of these environmentally taxing homes in the past 13 years

Simon Turek, Co-Founder at Powering Net Zero (PNZ) Group, says carbon-intensive homes in the north of England are blocking the UK’s net-zero ambitions.

Homes account for almost a quarter of the UK’s total carbon emissions and represent the biggest obstacle to reaching net zero by 2050 without retrofit intervention. Nearly 700,000 homes in England and Wales fall into the highest percentiles of domestic emissions, broadly equivalent to EPC ratings of F or G – the two lowest bands for energy efficiency. These high emissions homes emit more than 100kg of carbon dioxide per square metre annually compared with the average home’s 40kg, says PNZ Group.

The group has analysed recorded emissions data for homes across each local authority in England and Wales in 2010, 2015 and 2023 to identify the number and proportion of homes that emit the most carbon per square metre of flooring each year. It found a gaping north/south divide when it comes to tackling these high emissions dwellings.

In the north-east of England, the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber, 3.1% of homes in 2023 were recorded as high emissions homes. This number stands stubbornly high from 3.4% in 2010, showing a glacial pace of decarbonising the most carbon intensive houses.

Of all English and Welsh regions, the north-east has the longest road to decarbonising its high emissions homes, with no change at all in the proportion of these environmentally taxing homes in the past 13 years – from 2.37% of homes in 2010 to 2.37% in 2023.

The data reveals the north-west and Yorkshire as having made the second- and third-slowest progress on carbon intensive homes, with a less than 0.5% reduction in high emissions homes since 2010. Overall, nearly 220,000 high emissions homes remain in the north of England.

Rising emissions

Eden in the north-west is the local authority with the most energy intensive homes in England and Wales. In 2010, 11% of homes were considered energy intensive; however, Eden has a staggering 16% of energy intensive homes compared with the national average of 2.8%.

In fact, PNZ Group’s analysis of the data shows more than a tenth of local authorities in England and Wales have seen the number of high emissions homes climb since 2010. Of the 36 local authorities where high emissions homes are increasing in number, 25 are in the north of England.

In contrast, the number of high emissions homes in the south of England and in Wales is dropping steadily – the result of concerted interventions to make homes greener through heat pumps, double glazing and solar panel installation.

Despite having the highest proportion of emissions intensive homes of all regions in 2010 at 6.5%, the south-west has made the most progress on its domestic emissions, with that proportion dropping to 3.7% in 2023.

The data analysis tells the story of a huge regional divide in improving the UK’s housing stock, where northern England has been left behind. Making UK homes, particularly the most carbon intensive, more energy efficient is a huge hurdle to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Government retrofitting schemes cover some ground, but the scale of funding needed to improve homes means private sector investment is needed too – otherwise the UK’s climate targets will be left hanging in the balance.


Image credit | Shutterstock




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