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North of England’s carbon-intensive homes jeopardising UK’s net zero ambitions 

New analysis from the PNZ Group of the UK’s domestic carbon emissions reveals that the North East of England has made no progress on greening the highest-emissions homes in 13 years.

Meanwhile, the South West has made the most progress in tackling the highest domestic emissions.

Homes represent the single biggest barrier to reaching net zero, and a regional fracture in tackling emissions could leave the UK’s climate targets hanging in the balance. 

Carbon-intensive homes in the north of England may be holding the UK back from net zero progress, according to new research from the Powering Net Zero (PNZ) Group.

Domestic carbon emissions from the least green homes in the North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber have remained stubbornly high since 2010. Homes account for almost a quarter of the UK’s total carbon emissions, and represent the biggest barrier 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, which are broadly equivalent to EPC ratings of F or G, the two lowest bands for energy efficiency. These homes emit over 100kg of carbon dioxide per square metre, annually, compared with the average home’s 40kg.

But the PNZ Group’s analysis reveals a gaping North / South divide developing when it comes to tackling these high-emissions dwellings. 

In the North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber, 3.1% of homes in 2023 were recorded as ‘high-emissions homes’. This number stands barely unchanged from 3.4% of northern homes 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 (0pp decrease) in the proportion of these environmentally taxing homes in the last 13 years—from 2.37% of homes in 2010 to 2.37% in 2023. 

The PNZ Group’s 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, which will need to be reduced to 0 to meet the UK’s net zero target.

Southern homes enjoy green investment

In contrast to England’s North, 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, or even 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. 

A tenth of local authorities seeing more high-emissions homes

Eden in the North West is the local authority with the most energy intensive homes in England and Wales – a staggering 16% of homes emit over 100kg of carbon dioxide per square metre in 2023 compared to the national average of 2.8%.

This is an increase of the number of high-emissions homes on 2010, when 11% of homes were considered energy-intensive. 

In fact, over a tenth local authorities in England and Wales are seeing the number of high-emissions homes climb since 2010. Of the 36 local authorities where high-emissions homes are increasing in number, 25 are located in the North of England.

Simon Turek, co-Founder at the PNZ Group, said, of the findings: “Our 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 green our homes means we need private sector investment too. PNZ Group, as a North West-based business, is uniquely committed to bridge this yawning regional gap, and nearly 40% of our domestic retrofit projects are in the North of England to help deliver warmer, greener homes with urgency.”