Metro mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham called for widespread retrofitting of properties across the North West, as the region looks to capture positive lessons from the pandemic and create a springboard for change.
One way of doing this is to focus on green initiatives that can be accelerated during and after the crisis, Rotheram and Burnham, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester respectively, told a remote press briefing on Tuesday.
Both leaders rallied for building retrofits to begin as soon as possible, with Burnham saying that retraining staff to carry out this work could help combat redundancies made during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Why not retrain people in those skills?” he asked. “This could create thousands of jobs in cities and towns across the country. It is something we need to do so we should get on with it now.
“It is essential. How else can you be carbon neutral? The benefit of it is that individual households save money once they move to a more energy efficient system. This is an obvious thing to be prioritising at this moment in time.”
Rotheram agreed. “We need to retrofit,” he said. “We can work with Government to create a lot of really good jobs. And there are millions of different things we can do to address the problems we know we have had.
“Whenever there is a threat there is opportunity, and we think we are nimble enough to respond to these issues when they arise rather than wait for a central Government diktat to do these things.
“If we work in partnership we will get a bigger bang for the UK’s [buck] and that is how the Government needs to approach the [country’s economic] recovery.”
Reducing emissions from buildings is a key plank of Manchester City Council’s draft five-year action plan on climate change from 2020-2025. Up to 60,000 residential and commercial buildings in Greater Manchester need retrofitting every year for the city to reach its target of becoming zero carbon by 2038, according to a council report last year.
During the press briefing, the leaders urged ministers to give English regions a “seat at the table” when it comes to formulating an exit strategy from lockdown restrictions and making changes for the future.
“I never want to return to what we had before, it was broken,” Rotheram declared.
Burnham warned that a region-by-region approach to lifting lockdown restrictions was not the best option and expressed hope that the post-Covid society would be “better, cleaner and fairer”.