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A new report from the Forum for a Better Housing Market NI has revealed that nearly two- thirds of homes across Northern Ireland need to be upgraded to reduce their emissions in a bid to meet net zero targets.

The research, carried out by Ulster University and sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, found that 60% of homes will need improving in order to meet the country’s 2030 net zero targets —roughly 50,000 buildings a year.

These targets, set out in the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy, aim for a 56% reduction in energy-related carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 1990 levels.

The Forum’s report, New Foundations: The route to low carbon homes, sets out recommendations to support the process of decarbonisation across Northern Ireland’s housing sector, which currently contributes to 14% of the country’s total greenhouse emissions.

Most notable is the recommendation to develop a single policy vision that focuses on incentivising developers, construction firms, social housing providers and homeowners to create more energy-efficient homes.

Other suggestions include using a range of retrofitting solutions such as fabric-based interventions and low-carbon heating systems, embracing the role of technology, collaborating with experts and developing a more diverse range of incentive-based green mortgage products.

David Little, Chair of the Forum for a Better Housing Market NI, explained: “Northern Ireland is lagging behind other UK regions and the Republic of Ireland in the decarbonisation of its housing stock. Homes here are recording the lowest energy performance scores compared with our neighbouring countries so we need to act now.

“One of the main reasons for this is, undoubtedly, the lack of a clear and coordinated policy response. To be able to meet our net zero targets we need to develop a decarbonisation strategy for housing in Northern Ireland and encourage stakeholders across the sector to take the challenge seriously and play their part. Our hope is that this report will lay the groundwork for making this vision a reality.”

Jim McCooe, Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for Northern Ireland and Forum member, added: “At the rate older homes are being upgraded with better insulation and energy efficient heating, Northern Ireland’s housing stock will not meet UK’s 2030 carbon reduction targets. But it’s not too late to change that, and this report provides some clear ideas about how to do that.

“At Lloyds Banking Group, we’re helping our customers make their homes more energy efficiency by committing to offer £10bn of green mortgages over the next three years but no single group or business can make change happen. That’s why we’re urging the Government and private sector to work together to develop a strategy to make our homes warmer, green, cheaper to run and help deliver the nation’s Net Zero goal.”

Professor Martin Haran, who led the research, presented the report’s findings and recommendations to those in attendance at an event at Stormont on Tuesday. This event was attended by around 80 decision-makers and influencers, MLAs, senior civil servants, developers, social housing providers and other leaders from across the housing sector.

He said: “There is currently no decarbonisation strategy for housing in Northern Ireland despite that sector accounting for around 14% of our total greenhouse gas emissions, which is much higher than our counterparts in Great Britain.

“A series of failed initiatives allied with a non-sitting Stormont Executive has ensured that NI significantly lags behind other UK regions and ROI.

“What this report does is expose where we sit in the UK and Ireland in terms of housing emissions and the framework, policies, incentives and modelling needed to get us not only up to speed with our peers but allow us to achieve net zero emission targets in a timely fashion for the greater good of householders and the environment.

“I firmly believe that by harnessing the collective efforts and employing the strategies detailed in our report, we can significantly elevate our performance in the housing sector regarding carbon emissions. Collaboration and determination are key to achieving this goal.” To download a copy of the report, click here.