Most homes in Northern Ireland need to be upgraded to become more energy efficient if we are to meet net-zero targets by 2030, a report found.
It was found that, on average, homes do not retain heat as well as those in the rest of the UK and Ireland.
The research from Ulster University is part of a report by the Forum for Better Housing Market NI, a group that focuses on problems in the local housing market.
The forum said “we must act now” to reduce emissions from housing construction.
Overall, the report found that around 60% of homes need to improve their energy efficiency to help Northern Ireland meet its net zero target.
The report also indicated that around 50,000 buildings a year would need to be upgraded to meet the target of a 56% reduction in energy-related carbon emissions from the housing sector in Northern Ireland.
Using research from Ulster University, the forum’s report, called New Foundations: The route to low carbon homes, includes recommendations to support the process of decarbonisation in the housing sector, which currently contributes to 14% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. the country. emissions.
One of the recommendations is that there should be a single policy to reduce emissions in the housing sector, which focuses on encouraging developers, construction companies and homeowners to create more energy-efficient homes.
Other suggestions include retrofitting existing homes with low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps, better insulation and a range of “green” mortgage products.
According to David Little, chairman of the Forum for a Better Housing Market NI, Northern Ireland is lagging behind the rest of the UK and Ireland.
“Houses here have the lowest energy performance scores compared to our neighbors and we are not on track to meet the UK net zero targets,” he said.
The research at the University of Ulster was led by Prof Martin Haran, who highlighted that “a series of failed initiatives in conjunction with a non-incumbent Stormont Executive has left Northern Ireland lagging behind other British regions and the Republic of Ireland”.
The report also points to how other UK countries are tackling the problem, such as in England and Wales, with “the Heat and Buildings Strategy in 2023, pledging £3.9bn of new funding to decarbonise heat and buildings”.
In 2021, the Welsh Government announced it would build 20,000 low-carbon homes by 2026, while new rules were introduced in Scotland to ensure new homes use renewable or low-carbon heating.
According to the report, Northern Ireland’s 2022 Climate Change Act represented a major milestone “in terms of tackling climate change and decarbonisation” as Northern Ireland is aligned with other UK regions by mandating net zero targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050.
The UK has some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe – largely because much of the housing stock is so old.
Homes in Northern Ireland are among the least efficient in the UK, making them among the least efficient in Europe.
Homes are rated for energy efficiency through an energy performance certificate (EPC), which rates the home from class A – most efficient – to class G.
The government had previously set a target to upgrade as many homes as possible to Grade C “where practical, cost-effective and affordable” by 2035.
However, some campaigners have criticized progress towards this goal.
Many newer homes are still being built without basic insulation.
In 2022, Britain’s climate advisory group, UKCCC, warned the government: “We are still building new houses that do not meet minimum efficiency standards.”